Monday, January 9, 2017

Warui, ii and yokatta - Meaning in Japanese

Two very common, very basic words in Japanese are: warui 悪い and ii いい, or yoi 良い, which can become yokatta 良かった in past tense. The antonym of warui being ii, and the antonym of ii being warui. These words mean "bad" and "good," respectively, but the way they are used in Japanese is a little more complicated than that.

(part of common anime words)

Starting with the basics, ii 良い and warui 悪い are Japanese adjectives, so the normal way to use them is before a noun to describe it better.
  • warui hito 悪い人
    Bad person.
  • ii hito いい人
    Good person.
  • warui ko 悪い子
    Bad child.
  • ii ko いい子
    Good child.
  • ii koto いいこと
    Good thing.
  • warui koto 悪いこと
    Bad thing.

Like any other Japanese adjective ending with -i ~い, ii and warui can be conjugated to the past and to negative.
  • kore wa yokatta これは良かった
    This was good.
  • kore wa yokunai これ良くない
    This isn't good.
  • kore wa waruikatta これは悪かった
    This was bad.
  • kore wa warukunai これは悪くない
    This is not bad.
Conjugation of Japanese words warui, ii and yoi: warukatta, warukunai, ikatta, ikunai, yokatta, yokunai

Phrases and Expressions

Most of the time, the words ii and warui are used in phrases and expressions with some difficult to grasp meanings. Here are some examples.
  • kore de ii これでいい
    It's better this way. (when a way different than expected occurred)
    (literally: this way is good)
  • ii ne 良いね
    That looks good to me. That sounds good to me. (when shown something)
    (literally: good, isn't it?)
  • buji de yokatta! 無事でよかった!
    I'm glad you are safe! (and not injured)
    (literally: being unhurt was good)
  • yokatta ne, sasowareta 良かったね、誘われた
    That was a good thing, right? You were invited.
    (literally: it was good, you were invited)
  • watashi ga warui 私が悪い
    It is my fault. (when deciding the blame)
    (literally: I'm bad)
  • warui na 悪いな
    wari wari わりぃわりぃ
    I'm sorry for making you do this. Thanks for doing this to me.
    (literally: bad)
  • watashi ga warukatta 私が悪かった
    It was my fault. I'm sorry.
    (literally: I was bad)
  • warukatta 悪かった
    I'm sorry. (short of above)
    (literally: was bad)
  • are wa warukatta あれは悪かった
    I'm sorry for that.
    (literally: that was bad. This phrase can mean "that was bad," too.)

As you can see above, you should never trust literal translations in Japanese because it's always a little bit off. It's better to just get used to the way these phrases are used in Japanese.

Also do watch out for negative questions, since these are tricky to notice:
  • sore wa yokunai? それは良くない?
    Isn't that good?
    (literally: that is not good?)
  • sore wa warukunai? それは悪くない?
    Isn't that bad?
    (literally: that is not bad?)

Another common situation is "(something that was done) yokatta" and "(something that was done) warukatta." These often mean "it was a good thing that X" or "it was a bad thing that X," as in, they were good or bad choices.
  • kokuhaku shite yokatta 告白してよかった
    It was a good thing that I confessed my love.
  • yappari nigenakute yokatta やっぱり逃げなくて良かった
    As I thought it was a good thing that I didn't run way.
  • renraku shinakatta no wa warukatta 連絡しなかったのは悪かった
    It was a bad thing that I didn't make contact. (contacting would have been better)

This form is also often used with -nakereba ~なければ and -nakya ~なきゃ to express regret, "it would have been if I hadn't... (done something)."

Use of yokatta 良かった in the manga JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken ジョジョの奇妙な冒険: chikushoo soudan shinakya yokatta... チクショー相談しなきゃ良かった… "Damn it! It would've been better if I hadn't asked it."

ii vs yoi

There's a detail about the words ii and yoi that I think is important to note.

In Japanese, the words ii 良い and yoi 良い are synonyms. According to the way we conjugate adjectives, the past of ii is ikatta, and the negative is ikunai. The past of yoi is yokatta, and the negative is yokunai.

However, the words ikatta and ikunai are not used in common Japanese! They are technically correct words, and you might see them once in a while, but the natural way of saying things is: ii, yokatta and yokunai.

That is, for the non-past, prefer ii instead of yoi. Then for past and negative, yoi (yokatta, yokunai) instead of ii (ikatta, ikunai).

One more thing: yoi is sometimes used instead of ii. Sometimes. But the words ikatta and ikunai are almost never used.

Yes, it does sound weird, but that's just how it is.

ii vs iu

Another detail to take note of is that there's conjugation of the verb iu 言う, "to say," which has nothing to do with ii 良い, that sounds exactly like ii: ii 言い. Note the difference:
  • iikata 言い方
    Way of saying. (of speaking)
  • iiwake 言い訳
    Excuse. Pretense.
  • ii wake 良い訳
    Good reasoning.


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