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Introducing よく, the adverbial form of よい and いい

by and

Special To The Japan Times

Kono uma-no e, totemo yoku kakete-ru nē. (This drawing you did of a horse is really good.)

Situation 1: At home, Mrs. Okubo sees a picture her little daughter Mariko drew.

母: まり子の、この馬の絵、とてもよく描けてるねえ。

まり子: お母さんたら! 馬じゃなくてキリン描いたんだよ。

Haha: Mariko-no, kono uma-no e, totemo yoku kakete-ru-nē.

Mariko: O-kāsan-tara! Uma-ja nakute, kirin kaita-n-dayo.

Mother: Mariko, this drawing you did of a horse is really good.

Mariko: No, Mom! I drew a giraffe, not a horse.

Today we’ll introduce the usage of the adverbial form of the adjective いい/よい (good), which basically indicates when something is done well, enough, carefully or elaborately, as in: 外(そと) から帰 (かえ)ったら、よく手(て)を洗(あら)いなさい (When you get home, wash your hands properly). よく is used to express the speaker’s sense of praise, surprise or admiration toward someone’s behavior. Example: 遠(とお)い所(ところ)を、よく来 (き)てくださいました (Thank you for coming all this way). This use of よく often goes with a passive or potential verb, as in the mother’s remark in Situation 1. More examples: このキッチンは、よく設計 (せっけい)されていますね (The kitchen is well-designed); よくここがわかったね (I’m impressed you found this place).

Situation 2: Mr. Shiba is at home with his wife discussing his friend Mr. Tanaka, who has asked him to be his co-signer.

夫: 連帯保証人になってくれなんて、よく頼めたもんだ。前の借金も返してくれていないのに。

妻: 気の毒だけど、連帯保証人だけは、引き受けては だめよ。

Otto: Rentai-hoshōnin-ni natte-kure-nante, yoku tanometa-mon-da. Mae-no shakkin-mo kaeshite-kurete-inai-noni.

Tsuma: Kinodoku-da-kedo, rentai-hoshōnin-dake-wa, hikiukete-wa dame-yo.

Husband: How does he have the nerve to ask me to be his guarantor? He hasn’t even paid me back the last debt.

Wife: I do feel sorry for him, but don’t ever agree to be his co-signer.

In Situation 2, よく is used ironically to criticize someone’s thoughtless behavior. Example: よく平気(へいき)であんなうそがつけるよなあ (How can he tell such a shameless lie?). よく言(い)うよ is an idiomatic expression to brush off what someone says.

Bonus Dialogue: After the meeting, Section Chief Okubo, Mr. Mita and Ms. Gray wait behind in the room and talk.

大久保: 三田(みた)くん、さっきは、よく言(い)ってくれた。私(わたし)もけっこうしっかり意見(いけん)を言うほうだが、今日(きょう)は若手(わかて)の意見を聞(き)くための会(かい)なので、ひかえていたんだ。これからもその調子(ちょうし)でがんばりなさい。(たちさる)

三田: (ひとりごと)よく言うよ。部長(ぶちょう)に反対 (はんたい)意見なんか言ったことないのに。

グレイ: 三田さんの意見はすばらしかった。部長の説明を とてもよく聞いて、その問題(もんだい)の一(ひと)つ一つに反論(はんろん)して。部長があんなに熱心 (ねっしん)に進(すす)めようとしているプロジェクトに、よく真正面(ましょうめん)から反対できたね。

三田: だって、部長が「今日(きょう)は若手(わかて)社員(しゃいん)からフランクな意見を出(だ)してほしいので、このミーティングを開(ひら)きました」って言ったから、何(なに)も言わないと申(もう)し訳(わけ)ないじゃない? ぼくは、特(とく)に反対だったわけじゃないんだけど。

グレイ: えっ、そうなの…? それなのに、あんなにはっきり反対意見を言ったわけ? (ひとりごと) 三田さんって、大物(おおもの)なのか単(たん)にいいかげんな人(ひと)なのか、判断(はんだん)に苦(くる)しむなあ。

Okubo: Mita, well done for speaking your mind like that. I tend to express my opinions strongly, too, but I held back as today’s meeting was about listening to younger staff. Keep it up. (Leaves the room.)

Mita: (To himself) Yeah, right. He’s never said anything against the division head.

Gray: Mr. Mita, your opinion was really great! You listened carefully to the chief’s explanation and argued against each issue. It’s a pretty bold move to oppose a project she’s so keen to carry out.

Mita: But she said, “We held this meeting in order to hear the young staff’s frank opinions,” so I’d feel bad if I hadn’t said anything. You know, I wasn’t particularly against the project.

Gray: What, you weren’t? And you still expressed all those opposing opinions? (To herself) I can’t work out if Mr. Mita is bold or simply irresponsible.