Naka-naka yokatta yo.

(It was quite good.)


Situation 1: Section chief Mr. Okubo talks to a member of staff, Ms. Gray, at the office.

大久保: グレイさん、先日出してくれた企画書、なかなか良かったよ。

グレイ: ありがとうございます。採用されることを期待しております。

Okubo: Gurei-san, senjitsu dashite-kureta kikakusho, naka-naka yokatta yo.

Gurei: Arigatō gozaimasu. Saiyō-sareru koto o kitai shite-orimasu.

Okubo: Ms. Gray, that proposal you submitted the other day was quite good.

Gray: Thank you very much. I am hoping that it will be adopted.


The adverb なかなか can be used with an adjective in its affirmative form to convey a feeling of being impressed, as in Mr. Okubo’s remark of “なかなか良(よ)かった” (“It was quite good”) in Situation 1. It can be translated in English as “quite” or “considerably,” which is similar to the adverb かなり. While かなり has the nuance of being beyond the speaker’s expectation, なかなか has the nuance of evaluation and therefore shouldn’t be used when speaking to a superior.


(This picture is drawn quite well.)


(Ms. Lee, you are remarkably good at Japanese.)

When なかなか is used with a noun, the particle の will sometimes accompany it. The noun that it modifies also contains the idea of a positive adjective:


(Mr. Tan’s daughter is quite the scholar.)


Situation 2: Two colleagues are talking to each other.

セレ: P社との交渉、なかなか大変だそうだね。

三田: うん。オンラインだとなかなかわかってもらえなくて…。やっぱり対面で話したいよ。

Sere: Pī-sha to no kōshō, naka-naka taihen sō da ne.

Mita: Un. Onrain da to naka-naka wakatte-moraenakute…. Yappari taimen de hanashitai yo.

Sere: The negotiations with Company P, they seem to be quite tough, right?

Mita: Yeah. (Done) online, I can’t seem to make them understand…. In any case, I’d rather speak face-to-face.

When なかなか is used in a negative way, it expresses the idea of being annoyed at how difficult or slowly something is progressing. In Situation 2, Mr. Sere’s “なかなか大変(たいへん)だ” (quite tough) is a negative sentiment but the adjective is used with だ, an affirmative verb. Therefore it follows the rules of the なかなか used in Situation 1. Mr. Mita, on the other hand, uses the negative form of a verb just after なかなか, and this expresses annoyance. In this type of construction, なかなか should only be paired with negative verbs:


(I’ve been waiting for a while, but the taxis aren’t coming.)


Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Okubo is talking with his boss.

ヤマニ: 新製品(しんせいひん)の売(う)り上(あ)げはどうですか。

大久保(おおくぼ): それが、なかなか伸(の)びなくて…。申(もう)し訳(わけ)ありません。

ヤマニ: こんな社会(しゃかい)状況(じょうきょう)ですからね。でも、それだからこそ、新(あたら)しいアイデアを出(だ)して、この状況を打破(だは)したいものですね。

大久保: はい、スタッフ一同(いちどう)がんばっているのですが、なかなかいいアイデアが出(で)なくて…。

ヤマニ: ああ、そういえば、先日(せんじつ)そちらから提出(ていしゅつ)された企画書(きかくしょ)、悪(わる)くなかったですよ。

大久保: ありがとうございます。ただ、クリアすべきことが多(おお)くて、なかなか実現(じつげん)までたどり着(つ)けないかと…。

ヤマニ: アイデアを出すまでが大変なんです。そこを超(こ)えるための方法(ほうほう)は、案外(あんがい)難(むずか)しくないかもしれませんよ。来週(らいしゅう)早々(そうそう)、会議(かいぎ)を開(ひら)いてブレインストーミングをやりましょう。

大久保: はい、ありがとうございます。早速(さっそく)スタッフに伝(つた)えます。

Yamani: How are the sales of the new products?

Okubo: Well, the thing is, sales aren’t great. My apologies.

Yamani: It’s because of the (current) societal situation. But, especially because of that, we should come up with new ideas and break through this situation.

Okubo: Yes, and while the entire staff is doing their best, we just can’t come up with any good ideas….

Yamani: Ah, speaking of which, the proposal submitted by your section the other day, it wasn’t bad at all.

Okubo: Thank you very much. However, I am not sure if we can follow it through to realization since there are so many things that need to be cleared.

Yamani: It is coming up with an idea that’s difficult. The methods to overcome that, may not be as difficult as expected. Early next week, let’s have a meeting and do some brainstorming.

Okubo: Yes, thank you. I will inform the staff at once.

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