There are many ways to say “good job” in Japanese and they all carry a slightly different connotation, formality, or basic meaning.
It’s a good idea to learn them all so that you know how to say good job in Japanese for yourself, and also so that you can understand it when you hear it used from others.
Let’s start off with a rather informal way to say it towards people who are close to you, and then progress to more formal situations.
Tell Your Friends Good Job in Japanese
In order to learn this first phrase, you only need to know two words.
The first one is よく which means “good; well; skillfully” and the like. The second word is やった which is the past tense form of the word やる which is a very casual way to say “do” in Japanese.
A literal translation of やった is “did” but since it’s common to leave out the topic in Japanese, it is generally understood to mean “you/he/she/I did” which is why you will often hear people yell the word triumphantly with their arms in the air yelling “I did it!” やった！やった！
So, the first way to tell someone “good job” is with the phrase よくやった, and you can throw on a ね ending particle for good measure to make it sounds more like “Hey, good job!” よくやったね！！
The only thing is that this phrase is pretty casual, so you’ll really only want to use it with the people who are close to you like friends, family, and so on.
If you wanted to say it to a co-worker or towards a boss, you would use a different phrase which we’ll go over next.
Saying Good Job in the Workplace
You may have noticed that there are two set phrases used when a person leaves work in Japan.
The first one is お先に失礼します which loosely translates as “Excuse me for leaving earlier than you” and is said to all of the people who are still working and can’t go home just yet.
- 先 (さき) = earlier
- 失礼 (しつれい) = excuse me
The second phrase is a response to this, and it goes お疲れ様でした which means “good job” or “you’ve done a good job” which is a very polite way of both praising the person for what they’ve done that day, and also thanking them for it.
- 疲れ (つか.れ) = fatigue
- 様 (よう) = appearing
What’s pretty interesting is the way this phrase sounds if you take it literally on a word by word basis. お疲れ様でした would mean something along the lines of “You have the appearance of being humbly tired.”
You catch that appearance part? Like, you just gotta act like you did work that day!
I’m just playing.
The phrase お疲れ様でした is very often used between people who work together in some capacity at an activity. So that means it could be used by one student talking to the other members who all helped on a group project together or something.
Think of this as a polite way to say “good job” to people who are equal or slightly above you in status.
You boss would actually use a different phrase in order to let you know that you’ve done well at your place of employment.
As a side note, I’ve also heard class presidents use this next phrase toward regular students in anime.
It is ご苦労様です and means the same thing, but it just has a different connotation since it’s only used for people whose position is below that of the speaker.
- 苦労 (くろう) = labor
Now something to note on both of these work phrases is that the です (present tense copula) and the でした (past tense copula) are really only added for politeness.
Remember when I said that students will often use お疲れ様でした with their classmates? Well they usually only say the first part of it お疲れ様 and leave です / でした off.
Sometimes they even belt out the final あ sound, as in お疲れ様ぁぁぁ!!!
This is a nice way to express some familiarity, some camaraderie since you don’t want to be too formal and stiff with your acquaintance who have to put up with the same daily crap as you do (whether that’s school or work, lol!).
You’ll all in it together after all!
Finally, they might shorten the phrase even further to just お疲れ as a way of saying “thanks.”
For example, I was watching some Japanese streamers on YouTube and all of the spectators used this phrase at the end of the stream:
On the flip side, your teacher will use a different word to tell you “good job” for the paper you turned in, or the test you passed.
Are you noticing a pattern here? The people above you get their own special version of the language!
When Talking to Students
I’ve talked about this next Japanese phrase in the past, but this article today wouldn’t be complete without it, so I’m going to repeat most of the same information here as well.
The phrase that teachers used to tell their students “good job” in Japanese is よくできました！
Now you already know the word よく from earlier, so we just need to go over できました. This word is in the polite mass-form (and past tense) of the word できる (the kanji is 出来る) and it means “can do” in English.
Even though the most common way to understand this word is “can” it also has the meaning of “to be able (in a position) to do; to be up to the task” so that when it is changed to the past tense version it means more like “you were able to do it (and we acknowledge you for that).”
That’s a lot of yakking on my part, but to make things easy you can just memorize よくできました to mean “good job” when it is said from a teacher, coach, parent, and so on towards their student, child, etc. when they complete something worthy of praise.
If they did really well at something, or it was an extremely difficult task, you can also add the word 大変 (たいへん) which means “very; greatly; terribly; awfully” in order to say 大変よくできました! for “Very well done!” or “Great job!”
There’s a little red stamp that teachers usually put on papers to let their students know this phrase. If you’ve got an iPhone, then there’s an emoji of it as well (I’m not sure about Android though…)
But don’t forget that Japanese has a ridiculous amount of loan words taken from English. And there is one you should learn right now.
The English Loan Word
You Read to The End, お疲れ様!
So now you know a lot of different ways to say “good job” in Japanese.
Some of them are pretty common, like お疲れ様でした, and others are only occasionally used by people.
But regardless, you should be able to recognize and start using these Japanese phrases right away.
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: