Cool Phrase – いいぞ (Update)

I’ve got another article on the Japan Times Bilingual Page. Longtime readers will recognize the topic, as well as the little girl who hates bugs, from the contest I ran back in April 2008.

So, yes, いい is often used to say “no, thank you” and imply that something is not fine and not good, but it does also get used in the standard definition of good, fine, great. One way to differentiate between the meanings is applying a particle to the end. よ will grant permission to someone else, ね will express your pleasure with something and/or seek confirmation, よね seeks to confirm okay-ness, and ぞ is a useful way to cheer someone on.

When I was on JET, we coached the speech contest kids, and I have vivid memories of one of the Japanese English teachers saying いいぞ、いいぞ in a slightly gruff voice when the kids did a particularly good job. It was kind of like “attaboy, attaboy” or “now you’re cookin’ with gas” – that type of thing. Definitely a nice little phrase to keep in your wallet for the right situation.

Quick TOP SECRET breakdown of possible English tone equivalents (as usual, getting used to it is far superior to translation):

いいよ – “Sure, go ahead”
いいね – “That’s nice!” “That sounds good!”
いいよね – “Not a problem, right?”
いいぞ – “That’s the stuff!”


Dammit, I missed a bunch of particles, as noted in the comments by Leonardo. They are:

いいな – “Lucky! (a la Napoleon Dynamite)” “That’s nice!”
いいわ – “Sure thing.”
いいわよ – “Sure thing, hot stuff.”
いいけど – “I guess…”
いいけどね – “T’were it only true…”

6 thoughts on “Cool Phrase – いいぞ (Update)

  1. I’ve only ever really heard the ぞ ending used by men. Do you suppose it’s distasteful for women to use it? I guess among friends it’s not really a problem, but I’ve heard some harsh criticism by Japanese men of women who use “male-only” Japanese (this applies to both Japanese women and Japanese-speaking foreign females).

  2. Ah, good point – it’s definitely a rough way to end a sentence. I don’t think it’s necessarily distasteful, but you should be aware of the company you’re in (i.e. maybe avoid using it at work; men, too). Some words that used to be dude words, like うまい for example, are now considered “cute” when women use them, so who knows. Use it strategically and note the reaction when you do use it.

  3. Also いいな〜。 And いいわ、 and いいわよ。 And いいけど、 and けどね、 and also いいさ。Particles are fun!

  4. Ah, true – post updated. What would you do for a tone equivalent of いいさ? Couldn’t think of one.

    Amusing aside – my recaptcha for this entry is “which praces” – Engrish much?

  5. I’m sure the teachers at my school would have had a fit if I had said “いいぞ”! I could definitely see the “rougher” PE teacher or 教頭先生 using it though. (The PE teacher used “やかましい!” in an assembly and the female teachers were startled that I knew what it meant.)

    Apart from “良くできました!” for the speech contest situation, I’d probably go for “いいよ” (that was good!) or “いいわ” (although I don’t tend to use わ very much). Or possibly just plain “いい”!

    I’ve always been a bit wary of the male/female divide though. Apart from it being suspiciously obvious, I’ve met many painfully polite men and many women who (especially when “off-duty”) can be just as coarse and bawdy as their male counterparts.

    As for the men criticising women for “male-only speech”… I’d have to wonder what they’re looking for in a woman. -_-; But that’s a very old subject indeed, especially for Japan.

  6. Not sure about the “sure thing, hot stuff” lol but it’s funny :) As for いいわ, for me that’s something that Kansai people say, roughly to mean “yeah it’s good” or “wow it’s good.” But I guess for particles, just like in English, it really depends on the tone in which it’s said. Great post as always!