How ... alive is your toilet? Difference in usage between 元気 and どう

Can someone help me understand which is more correct? I know it is a bit weird haha. The first what I came up with and the second is the reverse translation from Google.




What are you trying to say? Both sound like nonsense :wink: “How’s your toilet doing”?

Edit: maybe you mistook どこ for 元気?


Why are you trying to ask how someone’s toilet is?


Toilet is just an example haha. You could replace it with dog if you want. I’m just trying to figure out the difference between using 元気 and どう when asking how something is.

If I understand correctly (which I find that I get corrected often while learning Japanese) then どう is a general “how.”

元気 refers to health/liveliness/whatnot.

I’ve personally never heard anyone use 元気 in reference to an inanimate object before, because inanimate objects don’t have 気 to begin with. (At least that how it seems to me)

Also keep in mind that pronouns are much less commonly used in Japanese. It’s more common to either use the person’s name, or to drop it if it’s obvious who you’re talking about. Be careful about using Google translate to “check” your sentences - it often produces awkward translations.

I most often hear OOはどうですか? used in contexts where someone is asking what the other person wants to do or get, etc.
What should we eat?
How about yakitori?


In case you are wondering why Google Translate might have come up with a different reverse translation: 元気 can only be applied to stuff that can actually act lively, and GT doesn’t work word by word but also uses the context and how often words are used together, which is probably zero for トイレ–元気. It tries to remake sentences towards sentences/sentence constructions that were used before.

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This doesn’t work. トイレはどうですか means, “how about the toilet?”. It would be interpreted as “how about we/you use the toilet?”


If you’re coming at this from the point of こんにちは!お元気ですか? meaning “Hello! How are you?”, there really isn’t a correlation between 元気 and “how”, it’s just “are you healthy/lively?” but you wouldn’t say that in English so it’s usually translated as “how are you?”.

Adding to what people have already said, I think I read somewhere that 元気 in the “How are you” situation is used when you haven’t talked with that person for a long time. More like 「Long time no see! How have you been going?/久しぶりですね !元気ですか。」

Not sure where I got this info though… or if it’s even correct.

EDIT: Forget about trying to say “How are you” in Japanese. At least in my experience of talking with people on HelloTalk, I think I never got asked this.

I personally have never heard or read of this before.
I usually just default to 調子はどう (how are you doing)

久しぶり is used when you haven’t seen someone in a long time. From what I understand, 元気 doesn’t have that kind of connotation, but rather it sounds somewhat stiff or old fashioned. It’s basically “textbook Japanese” that you wouldn’t hear in a real situation too often.

EDIT: In terms of being used as a greeting, at least.

To add on to what has already been said, it’s important to know that even あなたはどう? would not be interpreted as a greeting. It would be interpreted more like “what are you about to do?” or “how do you do it?”. If you want to use どう as a greeting you need to use 調子はどう?. Also, 調子はどう? still wouldn’t work for referring to a toilet. It would sound like you are asking what condition the toilet is in. It’s probably in your best interest to stop trying to ask how inanimate objects are dong anyway. I guess it could be interpreted as a joke? But most likely it will be interpreted as a psychotic, scary, weird, or poor Japanese language ability.

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I don’t think it’s a long time, per se, but more like something you don’t say to someone you see regularly. Since it is more like “are you healthy” than “how are you”, it’s a bit odd to ask someone if they’re healthy every day. Gives the impression of “Yes, of course I’m healthy, I just told you that yesterday.” If that makes sense?

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But what about the 天気?! Can the 天気 be 元気?! :laughing:

Like I said, I don’t remember where I got this as it was a few months ago. I think I saw it in a HelloTalk moment. A 日本人 was complaining about how no one uses 「元気ですか。」but that every Japanese learner seems to use it. I decided to share it precisely to make sure it wasn’t just a wrong idea that I had.

Yeah, maybe. Idk. I added the 久しぶり precisely to give the idea of the “long time” :thinking:

天気 cannot be 元気 as far as I know :wink:
I’d use 晴れ、悪い etc.

Sorry if this was not a serious question…

All of this is correct. The only times I have ever been asked 元気ですか is if I’m showing symptoms of illness or after an occasion requiring physical duress (a long cycling run, a 陸上大会, etc). AKA, it’s referring directly to the physical health of the person at a current time. If you were to ask that to someone as a greeting, they’d probably question if something’s strange about their behavior or appearance to make you question that.

I see it like this:
調子はどう is a standard way of asking how someone is without implying anything.
元気ですか is a way of asking how someone is when something could be wrong.
大丈夫ですか is a way of asking how someone is while implying something should be or seems wrong.

I’ll use an example I encountered recently after a time of physical exertion.

Other Person: 疲れましたか?
Me: いいえ。
Other Person: そうですか?元気ですか?
Me: 元気です。

I was asked 元気ですか because I indicated that I was not tired when it was a strong possibility that I could have been considering my circumstances. 元気 was used in contrast to 疲れます because 元気 has a strong usage of “energy” in addition to its usual meaning of healthy. A person of high tension will often be referred to as a 元気 individual not because they don’t get sick, but because they have high spirits regardless of the situation (whether that be pouring rain, physical fatigue, an encounter with rude people, etc).

I see 元気ですか and 大丈夫ですか as closer phrases than 調子はどう because both imply to some degree that you may or shouldn’t be okay. 調子はどう can be used in either situation. It works to a degree in English as well if you use connotation-based translations. Which of the following sounds the most natural if you were to greet someone in English?

Are you healthy? Are you energetic? (元気)
Are you okay? Is everything alright?(大丈夫)
What is your condition? (調子)

“What is your condition” may sound a bit unnatural in its phrasing, but its meaning is the most natural. Of course, “How (in what way) are you (is your condition)” is effectively just a casual way of asking that to begin with, so it’s going to correlate the best. The whole textbook 元気ですか is just an unfortunate decision by language education makers to translate English to Japanese without taking into consideration cultural differences. よろしくお願いします is often another victim of that, as its Japanese applications far outstretch any one meaning we can give it in English.

EDIT: Another example I thought of that helps to illustrate this: imagine getting into an accident or medical emergency that requires hospitalization. At the time of the accident or implication of severe medical symptoms, you’d obviously ask 大丈夫ですか. After you’ve received medical attention and are resting in your room, 調子はどう would be more appropriate since you SHOULD be better now that you’ve had medical attention. In the case where you’ve been hospitalized for a while (major surgery, for example), 元気ですか could be appropriate upon your release from the hospital, as many patients have trouble getting moving again after a long time in a hospital bed. It is now known that you are in a position for stable recovery from your prior ill state, but unknown whether you have recovered from the ill condition that results from staying the in hospital (stiff muscles, low energy, etc), so 元気ですか is appropriate. Rather than asking how you are doing at that particular time, you are asking more if they are feeling back up to par compared to when they were recovering.


Just because Japanese people don’t often say お元気ですか doesn’t mean it actually means something different from how it’s being taught to Japanese learners. It is sometimes used, but it’s not an automatic every time greeting, simply because sometimes that’s how real world usage shakes out.

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For people wondering how to translate “How are you?” to Japanese - there are two main ways:

In summer: 「暑いですね」

In winter: 「寒いですね」

Edit: Small usage note - these phrases are perfectly acceptable even when it’s not actually particularly hot or cold. Also, the only acceptable response is to agree - usually emphatically - and under no circumstances should you say something like: actually I don’t think it’s that hot. A response like that may lead to you being deported.