The best way to say “good” in Japanese is いい (ii). The word いい (ii) is an i-adjective that is very common in colloquial speech.
Simply saying いい (ii) by itself can have a multitude of meanings. Depending on the context, it can mean “good”, “that’s good” or even “I’m good”. This is because when speaking Japanese, you drop the pronouns and other parts of the sentence when it’s already obvious from the context what exactly it is you’re saying.
いい (ii) can be paired with many Japanese words to create entire different meanings. For example, pairing the word for “head” in Japanese with the word for “good” in Japanese creates the meaning “smart” or “intelligent”. You can get pretty creative with word pairings, and it’s so much fun to discover new ways to say things.
Furthermore, you conjugate いい (ii) a little differently from regular i-adjectives. This makes some word pairings a little tricky to conjugate at times.
This ultimate guide is tailored for beginners and advanced learners alike. Entries cover the many circumstances in which may want to say “good”, and how you can say it naturally.
As such, all entries are accompanied by examples, explanations and audio for your pronunciation reference!
Table of Contents
Good in Japanese
The word いい (ii) is an i-adjective and the best way to say “good” in Japanese. There are two types of adjectives in Japanese; i-adjectives and na-adjectives. The difference is that you conjugate i-adjectives a little differently than na-adjectives.
Although the overarching meaning of いい (ii) is “good”, it can also mean “fine”, “nice”, “well” or “sufficient”. Despite the many meanings, the concept is the same.
Examples of いい (ii)
ii kangae da!
We could also interpret the above example as “nice idea”, which ultimately shares the same meaning as the original. Therefore, during these occasions, “good” and “nice” are interchangeable.
It goes without saying that there are times where the “nice” may be a more natural interpretation of いい (ii). For example,
ii egao da!
In this instance, the word “nice” fits much better than “good”. The meaning of the smile being “good” is still present, we just deliver it slightly differently in the English interpretation.
Suggested: How to say Happy in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
I’m Good (no thanks) in Japanese
Just like in English, when we say something is “good” we’re not always directing it as a compliment. Let’s say a family member has asked you if you’d like some cake. You may reply:
watashi ha ii, arigatou.
I’m good, thanks.
During these circumstances, we’re using いい (ii) to decline an offer or request. The connotations here are the same in both Japanese and English.
Note that you can also just say いい (ii) by itself to decline something. However, this is a very casual way of speaking and would be considered rude if you were to say it to people who are not your close friends or family.
That’s Good in Japanese
Sometimes we say “that’s good” when something is sufficient enough in English. Imagine that someone is pouring you a glass of your favourite beverage, and ask you to let them know when to stop pouring. You can say:
We frequently omit pronouns and other parts of a sentence or phrase when the context is understood. This also applies to the above case, as it’s obvious from the context you’re referring to the fact that there is a sufficient amount of drink that’s been poured. This is why simply saying いい (ii) by itself can have a multitude of meanings!
If the person to whom you’re speaking is not a family member or friend, you’re going to need to speak politely. To do this, you can say いいです (ii desu), which is the formal way to say “good” in Japanese.
Suggested: How to say Stop in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
Attaching and emphasising ね (ne) after saying いい (ii) will also render the meaning “that’s good”. However, unlike the example above, this variation can be interpreted as a way to compliment someone or something, with nuances similar to the phrase “that’s good, isn’t it?” in English.
You can also insert a subject into this expression. For instance:
sono fuku ii ne!
Your clothes are good!
When you include the addition of ね (ne) you’re seeking agreement or confirmation from the person you’re communicating with. Hence, after expressing a phrase that ends with ね (ne) you would typically expect some kind of response.
The Kanji for Good
In Japanese hiragana “good” is いい (ii). However, it also has a kanji.
Unlike other Japanese words, when you put いい (ii) into kanji, the reading changes. The kanji for “good” in Japanese is 良い (yoi).
Although colloquially you pronounce it the same as its hiragana form いい (ii), you can also write いい (ii) in casual situations, such as when messaging a friend. In other words, you do not need to use the kanji in casual writing. It’s optional.
With that said, there is a much stronger formal connotation attached to 良い (yoi). Therefore, you’ll mostly see the kanji version written in newspapers, articles, and emails etc.
Very rarely is 良い (yoi) used in speech, however, it can be heard occasionally in very formal situations when Japanese Keigo is necessary.
On the other hand, 良い (yoi) is used as the base when conjugating tenses or forms, such as the past tense. Therefore, when conjugating the word for “good” into “was good” for instance, we first have to take the word for “good” with its kanji.
Was Good in Japanese
- Was good.
To express how something or someone “was good” in Japanese, you use 良かった (yokatta).
The word 良かった (yokatta) is essentially いい (ii), the word for “good” in Japanese in the past tense.
As stated above, to conjugate いい (ii), it’s necessary to put it into kanji, which makes it 良い (yoi). The act of rendering it into its kanji also changes its reading from (ii) to (yoi).
Once that process is complete, we can then conjugate 良い (yoi) into any tense as we would any other i-adjective.
To transform an i-adjective into the past tense, simply remove the ending い (i), and attach かった (katta).
Therefore, removing the い (i) from 良い (yoi) makes it よ (yo), then by attaching かった (katta), we get 良かった (yokatta), meaning “was good”.
Note that including the kanji is optional.
You can express that something “was good” with かった (yokatta).
matsuri ha yokatta!
The festival was good!
It’s important to know that when you are speaking with a teacher, manager or stranger you will need to speak formally. To do this with the above sentence structure, simply attach です (desu) to 良かった (yokatta). This makes it 良かったです (yokatta desu).
The past form for “good” in Japanese is not
いいでした (ii deshita).
tenki ha yokatta no ni.
(it’s a shame as) The weather was good.
Those of you who are lower-intermediate or higher will probably be aware of the のに (no ni) grammar.
The のに (no ni) grammar is a way to say “even though” in Japanese. It usually connects two phrases or sentences to form a complete sentence following the structure: Even though X, Y.
However, you do not always need to connect のに (no ni) with another sentence. Finishing the sentence with のに (no ni) connotates that the subject of the sentence was unfortunate or regrettable.
In the above example, we can use のに (no ni) to express how it’s a shame that that something didn’t happen, as the weather happened to be good.
I’m Glad in Japanese
Simply saying 良かった (yokatta) by itself emphasises a feeling of relief, similar to the feeling felt when expressing “I’m glad” in English.
As mentioned, you do not need to always specific pronouns in Japanese when the context is understood. Furthermore, 良かった (yokatta) is frequently used to express “I’m glad” in Japanese, so you needn’t worry about clarity in communication.
Perhaps, you’re worried about someone, so you ask them if they are okay. This could be because they were sick, an accident, or any event that would cause you to be concerned.
They tell you everything is fine, to which point you can respond:
You can even express your satisfaction in how something turned out directly by saying:
yokatta! annshin shita.
I’m glad! I’m relieved.
To clarify, you do not need to specify that it is you, the speaker who is feeling relieved. This information is already inferred.
Not Good in Japanese
- Not good.
To describe something as bad or undesirable in Japanese, you can use 良くない (yokunai).
sono doresu ha yokunai.
That dress is not good.
As explained above, the word 良い (yoi) is いい (ii), the Japanese word for “good” put into kanji. Regardless of whether or not it’s in kanji, 良い (yoi) and いい (ii) are both i-adjectives.
To make i-adjectives negative you replace the ending い (i) of the affirmative with くない (kunai). Therefore 良い inflects to 良くない (yokunai) which forms the negative.
sore ha yokunai taido da to omou.
I think that’s not a good attitude.
Note that it’s most natural to use 良くない (yokunai) when not referring to the skill or ability of someone or something. This is because there is a separate word for this in Japanese.
Not Good (ability) in Japanese
To express how your or someone else’s ability at something is poor, you can use the word 下手 (heta).
It’s important to know that this word is considerably strong. When you use 下手 (heta), you’re directly saying that someone’s ability is terrible.
nihon go ga heta desu.
My Japanese is terrible.
In the above example, the pronouns have been omitted because it’s more natural to speak without them in Japanese.
下手 (heta) with Nouns
To form a sentence using 下手 (heta) with nouns, follow the structure:
- Noun+が下手 (です)。
Noun + ga heta (desu).
The です (desu) is required if you are speaking formally to a manager, teacher or stranger. With friends feel free to omit it! With this sentence structure, you can express how anything has a poor skill level. For example:
ge-mu ga heta.
I’m awful at games.
下手 (heta) with Verbs
To use 下手 (heta) with verbs, use the following sentence structure:
- Verb (dictionary form)+のが下手 (です)。
Verb (dictionary form) + no ga heta (desu).
The dictionary form is a grammatical term used to refer to the base form of a verb, which is how you’ll find it in dictionaries. As a quick example, the dictionary form of します (shimasu), meaning “to do”, is する (suru).
You then take のが下手 (です) and attach it to the end of the dictionary form verb. This allows you to form sentences such as:
ge-mu suru no ga heta.
I’m awful at playing games.
You may be wondering why there is an inclusion of the の (no) particle. The purpose of this の (no) is to transform the preceding dictionary form verb into a noun. This allows us to apply all kinds of grammar to verbs (which typically appear at the end of the sentence) as they now function as nouns!
Wasn’t Good in Japanese
- Wasn’t good.
To express how something that happened was disappointing or bad, you can use 良くなかった (yokunakatta).
For instance, perhaps you’ve just finished watching a movie with a friend and you feel as if it wasn’t great. You could express this by saying:
eiga ha yokunakatta.
The movie wasn’t good.
良くなかった (yokunatta) is also inflected from 良い (yoi), the Japanese word for “good”. Firstly, 良い (yoi) becomes 良くない (yokunai), meaning not good. Then, as we covered, to make an i-adjective past tense, replace the ending い (i) with かった (katta). This transforms 良くない (yoknai) into 良くなかった (yokunakatta).
Gotten Good in Japanese
- Gotten good.
You can use 良くなった (yokunatta) to express that someone or something has gotten good, or better compared to previously. For instance:
I/It suddenly got good/better.
The word 良くなった (yokunatta) is formed from applying the なる (naru) grammar to the word 良い (yoi).
You can even use 良くなった (yokunatta) to talk about getting better after an illness.
yokunatta to omou.
I think I’ve gotten better.
I’ve composed an ultimate guide that covers how to express your concern about someone in Japanese, and how to wish them to feel better soon.
Very Good in Japanese
For all the ways on how to compliment someone on a good job in Japanese, have a glance at this ultimate guide.
- Very Good.
To express your thoughts and opinions on something directly, you can use とてもいい (totemo ii).
We’ve covered the latter part of this phrase at the beginning of this guide. いい (ii) is the adjective for “good” in Japanese.
The former word is one of the many ways to say “very” in Japanese. It’s slightly formal, but you can use it to describe your thoughts on a topic. For instance,
totemo ii kuruma desu ne.
Very nice car.
As いい (ii) also has the meanings of “nice” or “fine”, its usage becomes very flexible.
You can also use this expression for people:
kare ha totemo ii hito desu yo.
He is a very good person.
Great in Japanese
Depending on the subject, the Japanese word for “great” will be different.
Here are examples of the many different ways of expressing “great” in Japanese.
- Great Grandfather.
- Great Grandmother.
Just like in English, you can repeat ひい (hii) to increase the number of “greats”.
- Great Achievement.
- Great Power.
ookii na chikra
Note that 大きい (ookii) is also commonly understood as “big”.
- Great Scientist.
erai kagaku sha.
偉い (erai) is a word that refers to a person who has reached a significant professional level in their career.
- Great War/World War.
大, the kanji for “large” or “big” can also be used to refer to events of significant importance.
Sometimes we want to compliment someone or something and refer to them/it as great. This is different to the nuances implied with 偉い (erai). I highly recommend watching this wonderful short and sweet video that explains the nuances and implications very clearly.
A natural way to express your appreciation of something in Japanese is to use 素晴らしい (subarashii).
The adjective 素晴らしい (subarashii) is commonly understood to mean “wonderful” and can be used when you want to express how great something was.
sensei no jyugyou ha subarashii.
The teachers/your lessons are wonderful.
I’ve used this exact phrase to my Japanese teachers in the past when I wanted to express my appreciation of their lessons. In Japanese, it’s natural to refer to your teacher as 先生 (sensei), regardless if you’re talking with them directly, or talking about them to someone else.
Complimenting Someone (Pairing いい)
Pairing the Japanese word for “good” with other words combines them into single words which you can use to compliment someone or something.
You’re Cool in Japanese
For instance, the word 恰好 (kakko) meaning “appearance”, “figure” or “shape” can be paired with いい (ii), the word for “good” in Japanese.
Combining them together makes the adjective 恰好いい (kakkoii), which means “cool” or “stylish”.
It’s a pretty creative part of the Japanese language that’s super fun to explore!
kanojo ha majide kakkoii.
She is seriously so cool.
You can even use this adjective and other similar words to describe someone as “dreamy” in Japanese too.
You’re smart/intelligent in Japanese
Another example of one of these pairings involves the way you can describe someone as being smart or intelligent in Japanese.
To do this, we first have to take the word for “head” in Japanese. This word is 頭 (atama). Usually, 頭 (atama) will then be followed by the が (ga) particle, however, this can be omitted in casual speech.
Lastly, attach いい (ii) to the end of the phrase and you get:
atama ga ii.
The word for smart/intelligent in Japanese quite literally translates to “good head” in English. Can’t argue with that logic! Again, the が (ga) particle is optional in casual speech.
By attaching the ね (ne) particle to the end of this expression and emphasising it in conversation renders the meaning to “you’re smart”.
atama ga ii ne.
The reason the meaning changes to “you’re” is because of two things. Firstly, pronouns are omitted frequently in Japanese as it is more natural to speak without them when the context is clear. Secondly, as the ね (ne) particle functions similar to “right?”, the meaning of the entire sentence connotates “You’re smart, right?”
Therefore it’s not necessary to use pronouns.
In circumstances where you do need to be more specific though, you should always use the person’s name to address them, even when speaking with them directly. This is more natural than any other way of saying “you” in Japanese.
- [name], 頭がいいね。
[name], atama ga ii ne.
[name], You’re smart.
If you’re speaking about someone to someone else, make sure to drop the final ね (ne).
Regardless if you include the ね, attach です (desu) after いい (ii) to make it formal. This makes it 頭がいいですね (atama ga ii desu ne), which is a formal way of saying “you’re smart”.
Good Boy/Good Girl For Pets in Japanese
In English, we praise pets by calling them a “good girl” or “good boy”. In Japanese, a more gender-neutral expression is used instead.
- Good boy/girl.
The expression いい子 (ii ko), quite literally translates as “good child”. You can use it when praising your pets the same way as you would say “good boy” or “good girl in English.
Likewise, you can also use いい子 (ii ko) to praise a child or someone (in a cute way).
Good/Likes on Social Media
In English, we would typically send a thumbs up or even a heart on social media to express that we like the content.
Whereas in Japanese, interestingly, the text いいね (ii ne) appears instead. You then click いいね (ii ne) which tells people you “liked” it.
This いいね (ii ne) is the same as what we covered earlier under the first entry, meaning “that’s good”.
You are Good (ability) in Japanese
You can use 上手 (jouzu) to compliment someone’s ability or skill at doing something. It is the opposite of 下手 (heta) which is used to express a lack of ability in something. I full explain 下手 (heta) above.
nihongo jouzu desu ne.
Your Japanese is good.
There is a little bit of a running joke in the Japanese language learning community that stems from Japanese people who are quick to compliment any foreigners’ Japanese.
Often you’ll hear the above phrase used by Japanese native speakers to compliment foreigners’ language ability, regardless if they are actually good or not. You can say a simple こんにちは (konnbichi ha), and you may get a 日本語上手 (nihongo jouzu) as a response.
Of course, native speakers who say this are not intending to be sarcastic or rude with their response. They are simply trying to encourage your learning and express their appreciation of you learning their language.
When the context is clear, you can use 上手 (jouzu) by itself to express “you’re good” in Japanese. For instance, perhaps a friend has painted a picture. They show it to you and you say:
This is good! (you did a fantastic job!)
When you use 上手 (jouzu) by itself like this, the meaning becomes very flexible. It expresses how “good,” you think someone’s ability is, as well as how well the painting came out.
It’s important to know that it would be considered rude to express your own skillfulness at something with 上手 (jouzu).
上手 (jouzu) with Nouns
Grammatically speaking, 上手 (jouzu) follows the same rules as 下手 (heta) during conjugation.
To form a sentence with 上手 (jouzu) using nouns, follow the structure below.
- Noun+が上手 (です)。
Noun + ga jouzu (desu).
Note that the inclusion of です (desu) is required if you are speaking formally. As an example of a sentence using the above structure:
ryouri ga jouzu!
You are good at cooking!
You may have noticed how in the very first example of “your Japanese is good” the が (ga) is absent. This is because が (ga) is sometimes dropped from the sentence in speech.
上手 (jouzu) with Verbs
上手 (jouzu) follows the same grammatical rules as 下手 (heta) with verbs too!
- Verb (dictionary form)+のが上手 (です)。
Verb (dictionary form) + no ga jouzu (desu).
To clarify, the dictionary form refers to verbs that are in a base form. This is how verbs generally appear when searched in the dictionary.
You cannot connect a verb to が上手 (ga jouzu). First, we have to make the entire preceding clause a noun. To do this, we place の (no) after the verb which then allows us to conjugate it the same as we would for nouns!
As an example,
e wo egaku no ga jouzu.
You are good at painting pictures.
Looks Good in Japanese
- Looks good.
It’s common to use 良さそう (yosasou) when referring to an object, event or an appearance to describe it as “looking good”. If something “seems” good to you, you can express it with 良さそう (yosasou).
However, to compliment someone more naturally on their appearance (or personality) in Japanese, refer to this guide:
How to say Beautiful in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
You can use 良さそう (yosasou) to express your overall positive opinion on an object.
ano ie ha yosasou.
That house looks good.
You can also use it to emphasise that a time looks good to you.
nichiyoubi no tenki ha yosasou.
Sunday’s weather looks good.
If someone’s state of health has seemed a little poor recently, but today they seem better, you can express this:
kanojo ha kyou no choushi ga yosasou.
She looks well recently.
Too Good in Japanese
- Too good.
You can use 良すぎる (yosugiru) to communicate that you feel something is “too good” in Japanese.
kore ha yosugiru.
This is too good.
The すぎる (sugiru) part of this expression is a grammar point that replaces the final い (i) on an i-adjective to emphasise excessiveness. We know that 良 (yo) is the kanji from いい (ii), the adjective for “good” in Japanese. Therefore, when combined with すぎる (sugiru), the meaning is quite literally “too good”.
un ga yosugiru.
Your luck is too good.
Related: How to say Good Luck in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
An interesting idiom that uses this expression is 虫が良すぎる (mushi ga yosugiru). As 虫 (mushi) means “insect” in Japanese, this phrase literally means “the insect is too good”. The meaning, however, is used to imply selfishness.
In particular, using this idiom tells someone that they’re taking something for granted or are asking for a little too much.
Tastes Good in Japanese
Although the Japanese language gives plenty of flexibility and freedom with pronoun usage, there are occasions when being direct with some things is more natural.
For instance, to describe good food in Japanese, you don’t use the adjective いい (ii) at all. Instead, you use:
Tastes Too Good
Likewise, when expressing that something tastes too good, you use 美味しい (oishii) and pair it with the grammar すぎる (sugiru).
This makes it:
Tastes too good.
Remember that with i-adjectives, you have to replace the final い (i) with すぎる (sugiru) to be grammatically correct. It is not
美味しいすぎる (oishii sugiru)
I’m Doing Good
- I’m doing good.
元気 (genki) is the best way to express that you’re doing well after someone has asked you how you are. You can use it by itself if speaking casually, or pair it with です (desu), making 元気です (genki desu) to speak formally.
There are many nuances to 元気 (genki) as well as other alternatives that you can use.
I include a full explanation in these ultimate guides:
How to say How Are You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
How to say What’s up in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
No Good in Japanese
- No good.
You can use だめ (dame) to decline an invitation or to describe a situation that doesn’t work for you.
For instance, if a friend asks you if you’re available on Saturday and you’re not, you can tell them using だめ (dame).
douyoubi ha dame.
Saturday is no good.
Interestingly, you can also use だめ (dame) in regards to people. Although as you might expect from calling someone useless, it’s quite rude.
だめ (dame) is not just limited to these scenarios either. You can use だめ (dame) to describe objects that are no good.
This could be because either they’re broken, not the right tool for the task, or because they’ve gone off (because they are food).
tamago ha dame da.
The eggs are no good.
Amazing in Japanese
To describe something truly good, or amazing in Japanese, useすごい (sugoi).
Appropriate times to use すごい (sugoi) include those when you’re filled with excitement, left awestruck, or are overwhelmed by something.
In Japanese, すごい (sugoi) is mostly a casual word that can be used in situations that are good or bad.
Just like the word “amazing” in English, there are many scenarios where you could use すごい (sugoi).
To express happiness:
tesuto ni goukaku shita? sugoi!
So you passed the test? That’s amazing!
When you’re amazed by someone or something:
nihongo noyouryoku ha sugoi ne!
Your Japanese ability is amazing!
As an adverb:
keshiki ha sugoku kirei!
The view is incredibly beautiful!
To express something very bad:
kono joukyou ha sugoku mazui!
This situation is extremely bad!
- Crazy good.
やばい (yabai) is strictly a slang term that a very large number of uses.
Similar to the English word “crazy” or “sick”, やばい (yabai) can be used to describe things that are really great, or really terrible.
It can mean anything along the lines of:
Therefore, it’s possible to use やばい (yabai) to describe any number of these 9 situations.
You can really emphasise your opinion on something. For instance, you can say:
kono piza ha yabai. oishisugiru!
This pizza is insane. It’s too tasty!
It’s possible to completely flip the subject of the sentence to one where something is terrible.
kono keikaku ha yabai yo!
This plan is crazy/dangerous!
You can also use やばい (yabai) in regards to people.
Whether the meaning is やばい (yabai) is considered positive or not is up to interpretation and context.
kare ha yabai yatsu da.
He is a crazy person.
More Ways to Say Good in Japanese
- Come again if you’d like.
yokattara mata kite ne.
There are so many ways to conjugate the word for “good” in Japanese, いい (ii).
In the example above, 良かったら (yokattara) is another conjugation of いい (ii) that can be interpreted as “if you’d like” or “if it’s okay”. You use it when you want to invite someone to something, or request something from someone.
yokattara hoka ni kiji mo mite mte ne.
If you’d like, have a look at some other articles also.
I have composed a collection of Ultimate How-to Japanese guides. Take a look if you’d like more content!