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teklisJapanese NoviceThu, 20 May 2010 19:39:34 +0000
みんなさん こんにちは!

So I have another question that has been nagging at me. The words じょうず と うまく both mean skillful, and にがて と へた mean bad at something. I keep trying to find differences in the pairs but I guess the dictionary im using isnt much help cause I get pretty much the same translation. Is there a difference in these words (ie adjective/adverb or nuances in meaning) or are they fairly interchangeable? They've all been used in the lessons, and Im not sure what im missing.

Thanks for the help

Sayaka MatsuuraJapanese CertifiedSun, 23 May 2010 22:59:10 +0000
Konnichiwa! Thank you for your post.

:arrow: じょうず is the adjectival noun of the adverb form じょうずに (jyozu-ni) which means "skillfully". じょうずです (Jyozu-desu) typically means "is skillful."

:arrow: うまい is an adjective for "is skillful/good at" and depending on the context, the particle が (ga) which often precedes うまい (i.e. きのぼり が うまい - Kinobori ga umai - "[He/she] is skillful at tree-climbing" can mark either the skill that the person in question is good at, or the person who is good at the skill in question.

In addition to these, there is one more useful phrase for describing skills and talents:
:arrow: とくい which means "skilled at" or "good at".

When you are talking about yourself being skilled at something, that is, for speaking one's own skills, use とくい (tokui) rather than うまい (umai) or じょうず (jouzu).

When you are talking about somebody else being good at something you can use the words じょうず (jouzu) and うまい (umai). However, じょうず (jouzu) is preferred for politeness.

Here are some examples:

わたし は ゴルフ が とくい です。(Watashi wa gorufu ga tokui desu.) "I'm good at gold."
ケン は うた が うまい!(Ken-san wa uta umai!) "Ken's good at singing!"
たなかさん は スキー が じょうず です。(Yamada-san wa sukii ga jouzu desu.) "Mr.Tanaka is good at skiing."

Always note that じょうず (jouzu) is used objectively, saying someone is "good at, excels at" something, whereas とくい (tokui) is more subjectively, and means to "feel confident/comfortable with" something.

For example, let's say you are watching someone play tennis and want to give compliments. You would say:
じょうすですね。 (Jouzu desu ne.) "He/she is good at it." / "He/she is skilled."

Similarly, へた (heta) is "not good at, bad at," while にがて (nigate) is used to say "I don't feel comfortable/confident with ~ (so, not good at it)".

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