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I've been doing some research on おかげさまで and, not content with just memorising sayings, am wondering why おかげさまで is used as a standalone/response.

Does it mean 'thanks to you', 'thanks to God and society and everything', or does it just have the nuance of 'thank you'?. I'm mainly wondering, therefore, who exactly is being thanked when this saying is used as a standalone. The classic example is obviously

「元気ですか。」

「ええ、おかげさまで。」

This then translates as: 'Are you well?'. 'Yes, thank you'.

Is the listener being thanked? Because surely that would imply 'Yes, thanks to your shadow (offering of some kind of support)'. And in the original example it is unlikely the listener has actually provided any support to the speaker meaning it is incorrect/insincere.

Also, in the opening of 「ハリーポッターと賢者の石」you see the line:

「おかげさまで、私どもはどこから見てもまともな人間です。」

"However you look at us, we are upstanding people, thank you very much."

But, literally, this would surely translate as 'With the support of X/by the grace of X, however you look at us, we are upstanding people.'

Again, whose かげ is being referred to that has provided the support the speaker is referring to? The reader's かげ? The かげ of society and their circumstances? God? Or does that saying just act as a standalone meaning 'thank you'?

  • I hear おかげさまで is much, much more common in JFL classes and translations than natural native Japanese. – Aeon Akechi Mar 31 at 19:51
  • @AeonAkechi So do you think that, in the case of the Harry Potter translation, おかげさまで is just the best possible translation of 'thank you very much' rather than actually having some kind of significant meaning? – sambeaz6 Mar 31 at 19:54
  • @sambeaz6 I think I heard a lot of people saying this kind of "thank you" in England last month. – broccoli forest Apr 2 at 17:34
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As you are aware, the かげ in おかげさまで means "shadow." Indeed, the original meaning of おかげさまで was, "Due to the shadow of the deities." The idea is that although the deities may not actively be trying to help you, simply by standing in their shadow you are protected. By extension, the person you are thanking may not have actively helped you, but you are thankful anyways.

Looking at the definition of おかげさまで in 大辞林 第三版, we find

特に恩恵を受けていなくても、漠然とした感謝の気持ちを表す語。

Translation: A word that expresses a vague sense of gratitude, even without really being helped.

Examples sentences from the same source are

「 -で無事に帰って参りました」

「『御両親は御健在ですか』 『はい、-で』」

As for the question, "whose おかげ is it?," another interpretation is given in a Huffington Post article. Here, the shadow is invisible. The idea here is that the speaker does not know who caused the shadow; the shadow is some mysterious object that the speaker cannot perceive.

  • 1
    Thanks a lot for your response. In the last two example sentences you gave is the speaker vaguely thanking the listener or thanking the circumstances that have allowed them to make that statement? In the definition you gave it seems as though the saying is directed at the listener, however you mentioned that the original saying was referring to the gods. Therefore, 「はい、おかげさまで」= "Yes, thanks to your support (even if you didn't actually give any)". And 「おかげさまで無事に帰って参りました」 is like "Thanks to your consideration of me, as well as the circumstances, I was able to return home safely" Is this correct? – sambeaz6 Mar 31 at 20:56
  • (1) It depends on the context. One thing to remember is that おかげさまで is respectful language, so both "the listener" and "the gods" are similar because they are "above" the speaker. (2) That's right. – user156213 Apr 1 at 1:20
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おかげさまで O-kage-sama de is just a modest and sophisticated way of saying "Thank you." It means that your well-being and health are due to God and other people, including the person you are talking to.

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