Language | WELL SAID

Finding amazing ways to use the word 'sugoi'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Badominton demo takkyū demo, saikin no wakai senshu wa sugoi desu ne. Whether it’s badminton or table tennis, recent young athletes are amazing.

Situation 1: Mr. Tien and Ms. Shiba are chatting about young athletes while on a break at work.

ティエン: バトミントンでも卓球でも、最近の若い選手はすごいですね。

芝: ほんとに。あんなに活躍するなんて、思っていなかったです。

Teien: Badominton demo takkyū demo, saikin no wakai senshu wa sugoi desu ne.

Shiba: Honto ni. Anna ni katsuyaku suru nante, omotte-inakatta desu.

Tien: Whether it’s badminton or table tennis, recent young athletes are amazing.

Shiba: That’s the truth. I did not think they would play such an active part.

If you’re in Japan, then you’ve probably heard the term すごい, or it’s adverbial form すごく, more times than you can count. The い-adjective すごい is used to emphasize the extraordinary standard or degree of something, positively or negatively.

Positively speaking, すごい can mean great, superb or fantastic, as in: あの歌手(かしゅ)は相変(あいか)わらずすごい人気 (にんき)があるね。 (That singer, as expected, is extraordinarily popular.)

However, すごい can also mean dreadful or horrible, as in: 一年前(いちねんまえ)にここですごい事故(じこ)が起(お)きた。 (One year ago, on this spot, there was a dreadful accident.)

すごい can also be used as an exclamation to express the speaker’s surprise or admiration, as in: すごい! 日本新記録(にほんしんきろく)だ! (Amazing! It’s a new Japanese record!)

Situation 2: Ms. Gray is chatting with Ms. Tamachi at work.

グレイ: すごくいい天気ね。日本の梅雨が毎日こうだといいんだけど。

田町: 私もそう思うけど、梅雨に雨が降らないと大変じゃない?

Gurei: Sugoku ii tenki ne. Nihon no tsuyu ga mainichi kō da to ii-n dakedo.

Tamachi: Watashi mo sō omou kedo, tsuyu ni ame ga furanai to taihen janai?

Gray: It’s really great weather, isn’t it. If only Japan’s rainy season could be like this every day.

Tamachi: I think so too, but won’t it be terrible if it doesn’t rain during rainy season?

As an adverb, すごく follows the pattern すごくX to exaggerate whatever X is — an adjective or a verb — and it translates as very, awfully or extremely. In casual conversations, すごい and すごく are often pronounced as すっごい (suggoi) and すっごく (suggoku) respectively for extra emphasis:

連休(れんきゅう)のとき、高速道路(こうそくどうろ)はすっごい渋滞(じゅうたい)だった。 (During the consecutive holidays, there were terrible traffic jams on the highways.)

朝(あさ)から何(なに)も食(た)べていないから、すごくお腹(なか)がすいちゃったよ。 (I haven’t eaten anything since this morning, so I’m super hungry.)

In casual language, すごい is preferred over すごく, as in: あのコンサート、すごい良かったよ。 (That concert was really good.) Note that both すごい and すごく are considered spoken language and should be avoided in formal settings.

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Sere is chatting with Mr. Mita at work.

セレ: きのうはすごく暑(あつ)かったね。それに、渋谷(しぶや)はすごい人(ひと)だったよ。あ、そういえば、渋谷で久(ひさ)しぶりに小川(おがわ)に会(あ)っちゃった。

三田(みた): 小川って、あの変(か)わり者(もの)のやつ?

セレ: そう。すごい美人(びじん)と歩(ある)いていたよ。

三田: え、どうやってそんな人とつきあうようになったのかな。すごく興味(きょうみ)がある。あいつは転職(てんしょく)してすごい給料(きゅうりょう)をもらっているのかな?

セレ: いや、そういうことじゃない。相変わらずふつうのサラリーマンだよ。

三田: じゃ、どうして?

セレ: あいつ、鉄道(てつどう)オタクで、その集(あつ)まりで彼女(かのじょ)と知(し)り合(あ)ったらしい。で、彼女は小川がすごくくわしく説明(せつめい)してくれたんで、感激(かんげき)して、それからつきあうようになったんだって。

三田: はあ、すごい! そういうことか。どんなことがいい結果(けっか)につながるか、わからないもんだなあ。

Sere: It was so hot yesterday. Also, there were so many people in Shibuya. Oh, speaking of Shibuya, it’s been a while but I ran into Ogawa there.

Mita: Ogawa, that oddball?

Sere: Yeah. He was walking with an amazing beauty.

Mita: What? How did he get to know such a person? I’m really interested. Did he change jobs and start earning an amazing salary?

Sere: No, that’s not it. He’s still a typical salaryman.

Mita: Then, why?

Sere: He’s a railway nerd, and he met her at a gathering. She was impressed because Ogawa explained trains in great detail to her, so they started dating.

Mita: Wow, impressive! So that’s how it is. You never know what’ll work (with the ladies).