‘Ganbatte mimasu’ (頑張ってみます): What does this mean? – The correct usage of ‘Ganbatte miru’ (頑張ってみる) and ‘Ganbaru’ (頑張る)


Isn’t it often the case that there are many learners who sometimes use the expression ‘Ganbatte mimasu’? For example, look at a conversation between a Japanese (A) and a Frenchman learning Japanese (B):


A: Ganbatte kudasaine. (頑張ってくださいね。) [Try your very best.]

B: Hai, ganbatte mimasu. (はい、頑張ってみます。) [Yes, ???????????]


  Some Japanese insist that the expression ‘ganbatte mimasu’(頑張ってみます) is not really appropriate to use in this context. They say that B should have said ‘ganbarimasu’ (頑張ります [Try my very best.]) instead, which sounds more definite. They believe that ‘ganbatte mimasu’ suggests that the speaker is saying that he would ‘try doing the thing, whatever it is, to see what it is like’ and even if he is unsuccessful in his attempt, he will not really worried about the result. So they insist that instead of ‘ganbatte mimasu’, the speaker should say ‘ganbarimasu’ here as a better answer, responding more positively to A’s encouragement. They believe that the expression ‘ganbatte mimasu’ sounds more casual, whereas ‘ganbarimasu’ is more definite and expresses more eagerness and more determination to achieve one’s purpose. Their analysis is mostly true. However, the expression ‘ganbatte mimasu’ may possibly connote something slightly different from just ‘try doing something’. It can be used in a sense which is between ‘just try doing whatever it is’ and ‘try to do one’s best’. This possible sense is slightly less enthusiastic, often accompanied by the speaker’s half-hearted tone and facial expression, than saying in a more definite and positive way, ‘ganbarimasu’.


  It may be true that many learners mistakenly believe that ‘ganbatte mimasu’ ALWAYS and SIMPLY means ‘I’ll try to do my very best.’ However, it is not the case; ‘ganbatte mimasu’ has not such a clear-cut positive meaning.


  So here is the point of today’s lesson: the expression ‘ganbatte mimasu’ CAN be used in TWO senses. That is to say, it can be used and understood either as ‘just try doing the thing to see what it is like’ [MEANING 1] or as ‘try, at least, to do the thing anyway because it is what I want after all; I shall indeed make an effort, in fact a rather modest effort, to achieve it and I know I may not succeed in my attempt.’ [MEANING 2] Thus the expression ‘ganbatte mimasu’ is usually tinged with some degree of half-heartedness.


So the speaker’s commitment is seen to be the strongest in ‘ganbarimasu’, less strong and half-hearted in ‘ganbatte mimasu’ [MEANING 2], and weak in ‘ganbatte mimasu’ [MEANING 1]. 


To recap:

  1. The expression ‘ganbatte mimasu’ does not really mean ‘try to do one’s very best’, whereas ‘ganbarimasu’ often does and it sounds definite.
  2. ‘Ganbatte mimasu’ has two possible connotations, depending on the speaker’s tone and facial expression: one is ‘just try doing something to see what it is like’; the other is ‘try, at least, to do it anyway; make a limited amount of effort to achieve it and I know I may not succeed in my attempt.’
  3. We cannot deny that ‘ganbatte mimasu’ is usually tinged with some degree of half-heartedness.



Thank you! See you soon with a different topic. All the best!