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My boss is a native Japanese speaker.

In English, when I have a question or an issue to bring up, I can ask "Do you have a minute?" to see if it is an appropriate time to interrupt them. In Japanese, when I tried the literal translation 一分【いっぷん】がありますか? I was told I sounded like an Instant Ramen commercial.

I've heard another Japanese student use ちょっといいですか? but they were also told that's not real Japanese.

I know the word 暇【ひま】but this doesn't seem like an appropriate context to use it, since my boss isn't free, I'm just interrupting him.

How do I politely ask him for his time?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 17 down vote accepted

ちょっといいですか is a casual expression. Depending on the relation between you and your boss, you may not want to use the phrase to your boss.

One of the formal and polite expressions is お時間をいただいてもよろしいですか (おじかんをいただいてもよろしいですか). If you want to state an estimate of the length (say five minutes), you can say something like 五分ほどお時間をいただいてもよろしいですか.

お時間をいただく literally means to be given someone’s time, and is a polite expression which means either to disturb/interrupt (e.g. for discussions) or to make someone wait (e.g. until the speaker finishes some work). Therefore the phrase お時間をいただいてもよろしいですか can be used both when the speaker wants to interrupt the listener and when the speaker wants the listener to wait for something.

一分がありますか does not make sense (I assume that your boss was joking). In Japanese 一分 (いっぷん) means the length of one minute and does not mean “a short period,” unlike the English expressions “a minute” and “one minute.”

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3  
If the boss is quite accessible, is 少しお邪魔してもいいですか acceptable as well? –  Nicolas Raoul Jun 13 '11 at 5:23
2  
@Nicolas: Yes. That phrase is also formal and polite. Maybe that should be an answer as well. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 13 '11 at 5:27
2  
I would personally say something like 4,5分よろしいですか? (Do you have 4 or 5 minutes), or something like @Nicolas Raoul said, お忙しいところをお邪魔してもいいですか? (May I bother you for a moment even though you're quite busy?) –  istrasci Jun 14 '11 at 2:46

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