In what context and relationship wise to who can I safely say ご苦労様 (gokurousama)?

I often defer to using otsukaresama since I'm not sure if I'm talking down to someone by saying gokurousama. Please provide some example contexts where it would be appropriate. Thanks.


3 Answers 3


AFAIK, it means more or less the same thing as お疲れ様 (おつかれさま). But the nuance is to whom you say it. お疲れ様 is used for colleagues or superiours ("highers"), ご苦労様 I believe is only used from superiours to subordinates ("highers" to "lowers"). So you'd probably only say it if you have people "working" under you, such as direct subordinates at a job, if you're the leader of some type of group project, etc.

So you're probably safe most of the time to defer to お疲れ様 unless there's a very clear pecking-order of which you're at the top.

  • 3
    I've been playing it safe, but I'm preparing for my day in the sun as a venerable oyaji.
    – crunchyt
    Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 4:58
  • Adding some real world examples: The mayor here says ご苦労様 to everyone, where a few old men that seem the same age and chummy with him say ご苦労様 to him. Other than that only people rather high up on the ladder (such as my boss's boss's boss) say it to their subordinates, via my experience. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 0:16

As istraci points out, ご苦労様です is usually used to someone below you in position.

Here is what an alc article says:




お疲れ様です has two meanings:

  1. To say thanks for someone else finishing some work
  2. To thank someone you worked with on something for their work



ご苦労様です is to thank someone for completed work which directly or indirectly benefited you.



Both are words of thanks, but お疲れ様です is more neutral in regards to social position, while ご苦労様です has a nuance of someone serving you, so tends to be used more from someone in a higher position to someone below them. Especially in companies, ご苦労様です is typically not used to speak to someone above you in the hierarchy.

Although 疲れ and 苦労 are words with similar meanings, お疲れ様 and ご苦労様 are set phrases that have developed with everyday use and so their current use has different nuances from the original words.


I think another aspect or nuance of ご苦労様 is to express gratitude for (literal) labor, e.g. in a situation where someone has to physically exert themselves for your benefit - like to thank a carpenter or plumber. I'd think in daily white collar work life お疲れ様 is going to get used a lot more.

  • 1
    Not that simple. ご苦労様 is said all the time in the "white collar" world.
    – user4032
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 10:05

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