June 9, 2023

The Meaning of いい in Japanese – It’s not just Good

The Japanese word いい is an i-adjective, primarily translating to "good" in English. However, depending on the context, it can convey different meanings and have different uses.

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The Meaning of いい in Japanese

In this article, we’ll look at a few different usages for いい.

  1. Good: The most common use of いい is to express the quality of being good or fine. For example, in the sentence これはいい(ほん)です, it means "This is a good book".
  2. Envious praise: While maintaining the meaning of “good,” here いい is used when praising others or expressing mild envy. It is often followed by ね or なあ. For example, 彼女(かのじょ)(ふく)、いいなあ “Her clothes (are so nice). I’m envious.”
  3. Okay/Permitted: It can also express permission or acceptance.それはいいですか  "Is that okay?"
  4. Better: When used in the past tense, it can mean "better". The past tense form is よかった. That may seem like a radical change from the humble いい, but it is incredibly useful and good to learn. For example, よかったね "I’m glad to hear that".
  5. Enough/Sufficient: It can also imply adequacy and be used for refusing something. これでいい "That’s enough" or "This will do".
  6. Get someone’s attention: いい is also often used to get the listener’s attention or to make sure the listener is focused before saying something important. This is pronounced with a rising tone and often followed by か or ね. For example, いいか、よく()ててね “Listen up. Watch closely now.”

As you can see a single word like "いい" can have many different implications depending on how and where it's used.

Example Sentences using いい

Now, let’s go through a few example sentences. When learning a new grammar point or a word with multiple shades of meanings, examining, repeating, and memorizing example sentences or phrases can be an effective strategy to solidify our understanding.

1) Good


That was a good movie.


It's good weather, isn't it?

2) Envious praise


That person is fluent in English. I'm envious.


Her clothes, they're so nice. I'm envious.

3) Okay/Permitted


Is it okay if I go?


May I eat this bread?

4) Better


 I’m glad you got over your sickness.


 It would have been better to study at home.

5) Enough/Sufficient


That's enough.


Is this enough?

6) Get someone’s attention


Understand? Watch closely.


Listen up. Let’s go now.

Other Common Expressions Using いい


There is also the expression いいから which is used to brush off any potential objections and to insist on the command that follows.


“Never mind, just go quickly." or "Just go, don't argue.”


This can mean several things from “that’s reasonable” to “enough, cut it out!” We have a longer article just on this useful but confusing phrase. Click here for that.


This translates to "good feeling" or "good vibe". It's often used to express that something is going well or feels right.


This song has a good vide, doesn’t it?


This simply means "good weather". It can be used as a conversation starter or to express pleasure at nice weather.


Today has nice weather, don’t you think?

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