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What is the difference between 気をつけて, お大事に and お元気で. How and in which context are they used?

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I normally say 気をつけて when I part from someone going/traveling somewhere or going home, お大事に to someone sick/ill/injured etc., and お元気で when I part from someone who's older/superior to me, like my senpai, teacher, professor, boss... お元気でsounds more polite than 元気でね so I'd say 元気でね to my friends/coworkers/family/relatives.

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  • 気をつけて: "take care", "be careful" (is more generic than the other ones, for example it can be used in 足元に気をつけて "watch your step")
  • お大事に: "get well soon" (often said to people recovering from illness etc, literally something like "treat (yourself) with value/respect/care")
  • お元気で: "be well/healthy", "all the best", "take care of yourself"
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お元気で/達者で is used when you won't meet the person for a long time. You don't say it friday night if you meet them next week. You say it when someone is leaving for long terms.

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