The word すごい (sugoi) is very popular, even among people who don’t know a lot of Japanese. Sugoi has two major definitions: amazing and terrible. That’s pretty sugoi itself, right?
Not only does sugoi have two very different meanings, but it’s also quite flexible within a sentence. Sugoi can be an adverb, adjective, or just an exclamation of delight. You can use it with your friends and your boss! Pretty cool, right? Let’s take a more in-depth look at the meaning of すごい and the many scenarios you can use it in.
When and How to Say Sugoi
Here are the major scenarios and ways in which you would find yourself wanting to say sugoi!
Sugoi as an Exclamation
The most familiar use of すごい to non-native speakers would be the shout of amazement or joy: すごいね！
- John: I found a new job! 「新しい仕事を見つけた！」(Atarashii shigoto o mitsuketa!)
Kimi: Great! When do you start?「すごいね！いつから始まるの？」 (Sugoi ne! Itsu kara hajimaru no?)
2. Mike: Sorry, I’m late. My mom yelled at me for 20 minutes.
「遅くなってごめん。お母さんに２０分ぐらい叱られた。」 (Osokunatte gomen. Okaa-san ni ni juppun gurai shikarareta.)
Ken: Wow…what did you do? 「うわっ、すげえな。何をした？」 (Uwa, sugee na. Nani o shita?)
3. Amazing! That guy ate three bowls of ramen!「すごい！あの人がラーメンを三つ食べた！」 (Sugoi! Ano hito ga raamen o mittsu tabeta!)
As you can see, sugoi will either stand on its own as an exclamation or fit smoothly into a sentence structure to express amazement.
One of these sentences has an alternative pronunciation “すげえ” (sugee). Bear in mind that this is an extremely casual way of saying sugoi and some Japanese people might find it rude. Unfortunately, this is more of a problem if a girl says sugee; it’s considered a pretty masculine use of sugoi.
Sugoi as an Adjective
You can use sugoi to compliment (or insult) a person, place, or thing. Sugoi can still definitely hold a negative and even sarcastic connotation, depending on your tone and the situation.
- My dad is an amazing person. He’s my hero. 「 お父さんはすごい人です。僕のヒーローです。」 (Otousan wa sugoi hito desu. Boku no hiiroo desu.)
2. Smartphones are an amazing technology, right? 「スマホはかなりすごいテクノロジーよね。」(Sumaho wa kanari sugoi tekunorojii yo ne.)
3. Is it even possible to get a zero on this easy test? You must be incredibly dumb. 「こんなに簡単なテストにゼロ点取るなんて、すごいバカだと思う。」 (Konna ni kantan na tesuto ni zero ten o toru nante, sugoi baka da to omou.)
Sugoi as an Adverb
Sugoi is often used to emphasize verbs in a sentence. This can be either a positive emphasis or a negative emphasis. When you use sugoi as an adverb, remove the “い” (i) and replace it with “く” (ku). すごい→すごく。
- My sister is super gorgeous. 「お姉さんはすごくきれいでしょう。」(Oneesan wa sugoku kirei deshou.)
2. This sushi is delicious! 「この寿司はすごく美味しい！」 (Kono sushi wa sugoku oishii!)
3. My head hurts terribly. 「頭がすごく痛い。」 (Atama ga sugoku itai.)
Many Japanese people make the colloquial mistake of leaving out the く(ku) in sugoku when they use it this way as an adverb. Technically, this is a grammatical error. Check out more on how not to say sugoi and sugoku at Japanese Ammo.
Using Sugoi in Formal Conversations
Sugoi is more of a casual phrase than something you would say to your boss, but it isn’t entirely out of place in business conversations. After all, amazing (or terrible) things happen in the workplace, too.
When you’re in the company of superiors or peers, be sure to add です (desu) or ます (masu) at the end of your sentences. This will ensure that your tone is 丁寧 (ていねい、teinei) or polite. For more on polite and formal Japanese, check out our article on the topic!
- Today’s meeting was incredibly long, wasn’t it? 「今日の会議は、すごく長かったですね。」 (Kyou no kaigi wa, sugoku nagakatta desu ne.)
2. Wow, you did this very well. 「すごい。これ良く出来ましたね。」 (Sugoi. Kore yoku dekimashita ne.)
The History of Sugoi
The commonly held belief is that the original nuance of すごい was a negative one. This is because the radicals in 凄い (sugoi) are more negative than positive. Specifically, the leftmost radical 冫 (hyou) means “water, ice, cold” and is often used to depict a cold shoulder/attitude or a chilling event. For an even more detailed look at 凄い and its radicals, check out Bond Lingo’s take on the kanji.
These days, すごい is often written in hiragana, and people tend to use it positively. Young people especially will use the word when something awesome or surprising happens. Adults and even business workers will use the adverbial conjugation (すごく – sugoku) to emphasize something they enjoyed—or disliked. No matter what shape it takes, すごいis rampant in 21st century Japanese.
The word sugoi is pretty impressive, right? You can use it in a ton of different situations, and it works in both polite and casual conversations.
What’s something you discovered recently that you thought was すごい？Let us know in the comment! Thank you for reading this article. You are also sugoi!