Japanese Grammar Bank


Being able to compliment someone is a surefire way to make friends in any culture.

Japan is no different. In fact, complimenting people here is arguably an essential part of learning how to interact like a native in Japan.


Whilst in the West, a compliment is usually a very genuine expression of feeling, here in Japan I’d argue it’s often more about politeness.

Compliments in Japan are thrown around left, right, and centre, and for almost anything that is harder than the act of breathing. This is because of the politeness in Japanese society.

That’s not to say that Japanese compliments are always fake, but it’s worth noting that to come across as culturally aware in Japan you might need to throw a few compliments around more than you would usually.


上手ですね jyouzu desu ne

If you’ve ever been to Japan and spoken literally any Japanese, you’ll probably have heard:

nihon go jyouzu desu ne


You’re good at Japanese.

This one always makes me laugh because I feel like the more 上手 jyouzu skilled you actually become, the less you hear this meme of a compliment.


Phrase / Verb + 上手ですね

To compliment someone using 上手 you can just add it to a noun as in the above example. You can also add it using のが no ga to verbs as in:

Tanaka san wa sakka- wo suru no ga jyouzu desu ne.


Tanaka is good at playing soccer.

Phrase / Verb + のが + 上手ですね

NOTE || If you ever see the kanji 上手い then it’s not jyouzui, it’s umai.


なんでもできるね nan demo dekiru ne

This phrase directly translates to You can do anything. This one is often amusing for foreigners because people tend to say it about things that seemingly aren’t that crazy for us.

A big example is when older women hear a man can cook, they’ll be super impressed and give you a なんでもできるね nan demo dekiru ne.

Here are some examples where it might be appropriate to say this to a friend:

  • They passed a test.
  • They did something on the weekend they haven’t told you about before.
  • They are showing you a proposal for a plan at work.
  • They volunteer to help you with something on the weekend.
  • They need encouragement to go for a job.


カッコいいですね kakkoii desu ne

These are mainly used to describe appearance. They translate to You’re so cool and You’re so cute (often actually meaning beautiful) respectively.

Whilst both men and women can be cool or cute, カッコいいですね kakkoii desu ne is aimed at men more than women. Likewise, 可愛いですね kawaii desu ne is more often than not a women-aimed compliment.

Let’s have a more detailed look at カッコいいですね kakkoii desu ne.

This phrase originated from かっこがいい kakko ga ii which means You look great. In this way, カッコいいですね kakkoii desu ne can mean You look good/smart/handsome.

However, as the language has evolved カッコいいですね kakkoii desu ne is now used a lot more like the English cool.

For example, if someone told you they’re going skydiving on the weekend, you might respond with You’re so cool in English, right? The same applies for the Japanese.

One interesting point to note is that Japanese people often say someone is カッコいい kakkoii if they do something that sets them out from the crowd.

Here are some examples of situations you might say カッコいいですね kakkoii desu ne to someone:

  • A (male) coworker comes into the office wearing a new, slick suit.
  • A (male) coworker comes into the office with a new hairstyle.
  • You’re discussing a rock star with a coworker and you want to describe them.
  • A coworker has done something that exudes confidence (this one could be male or female).


可愛いですね kawaii desu ne

The expression 可愛いですね kawaii desu ne has become synonymous with beauty as well as the English idea of cute.

Japan associates cuteness with beauty, so if you say this to a woman, she’ll surely be happy. Here are some examples of situations you might say 可愛いですね kawaii desu ne to someone:

  • You want to compliment your friend’s girlfriend.
  • You meet a friend’s baby for the first time.
  • You think someone is very beautiful.
  • You’re talking about a female actor with someone at work.
  • A (female) coworker comes to work in a new dress.

NOTE || When using both of these, you don’t need to include the subject, rather using context to dictate whether you are referencing your conversation partner, or a third party, as being cool or cute.


Learning how to give compliments is one matter, but something foreigners don’t often think about is that how you respond to compliments changes across cultures.

Japan is a culture built on modesty and politeness. As such, many foreigners seem brash when they take a compliment as they would in their own country with a “thank you.”

The truth is that when you’re complimented in Japanese, you should do everything in your power to dodge it or send it back to the giver. Simply taking a compliment here makes you seem a bit full of yourself.

Dialogue #1 // The Modest Response

Sugoi ne, anata no nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!


Wow, your Japanese is really good!
A, ieie, madamada desu yo. Doryoku shiteimasu kedo.


Oh, no, not at all. I still have a long way to go. I’m putting in effort, though.

Dialogue #2 // The Grateful Response

Kyou no ryouri, oishikatta ne!


The food today was delicious!
Arigatou! Tsukuru no ga tanoshii nda yo ne.


Thank you! I enjoy cooking.

Dialogue #3 // The Humorous Response

Kono fuku, niatteru ne!


That outfit looks good on you!
E, kore? Tada no rakkiisa.


Oh, this? Just pure luck.


  • Japanese people probably compliment more than you’re used to in an English-speaking country.
  • 上手ですね jyouzu desu ne You’re good at that is a great way to compliment almost anything.
  • なんでもできるね nan demo dekiru ne You can do anything can be used to encourage someone, or to compliment them on an action that you weren’t aware they could do.
  • 可愛いですね kawaii desu ne You’re so cute/pretty is mostly used towards women.
  • カッコいいですね kakko ii desu ne You’re so cool/handsome is mostly used towards men and can mean.
  • You should be modest, humorous, or grateful when receiving a compliment in Japanese to not seem brash.

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Are compliments common in Japan?
How to respond to a compliment in Japan?
What is カッコいい in Japanese?
What is 可愛い in Japanese?
Where can I find more lessons like this?

Check out our Japanese Grammar Bank, where you’ll find lessons for levels A1, A2 and B2.

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We offer group and individual classes in Tokyo, for the duration of your choice.

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