There are few words more common and useful than よかった when speaking or listening to Japanese. What does yokatta mean?
I’m going to answer this exact question in the sections below. The secret to understanding this word is knowing that there are multiple grammar patterns that it can appear in, and each one will mean something different.
Let’s start with the simplest explanation first and gradually progress to the more complex ones as we go through the details.
The Normal Way To Understand Yokatta
The first thing to understand is that the root word is いい (ii) which means “good” in Japanese.
Keep in mind that this is the dictionary form of the word, which means that it is being used in the present-tense, and also in a positive way (i.e. “it is good).
Back in day, this word was actually pronounced and written as よい (yoi) which is why the past-tense version is よかった (yokatta), our word of the day.
Over time people naturally began to shorten よい to just いい and nowadays they are both considered correct, although いい is a lot more common and natural sounding for most situations.
So now we can conclude this first section and say that よかった means “was good” in Japanese.
By the way, there is a kanji that sometimes gets used so it would be a good idea to go over it now. It is 良かった.
One example sentence could be when you come back from a trip and your friend asks you how it was. You could simply respond to them with よかったです (yokatta desu) to tell them that you enjoyed it.
Another way that I see it a lot is as an expression of relief. Let’s say that you got the results in for an important test that you took and you see that you successfully passed. That’s a time where you can say よかった for “thank goodness!”
People will also use this phrase as a way to congratulate others. If you tell your buddy that you got the job that you really wanted, he might use this word to say “that’s great!”
When It Is Combined With A Te-Verb
There are a lot of verb forms in Japanese, but one of the most common, useful, and versatile is the te-form.
I won’t go into too much detail on how it works right now, but instead I’ll talk about how it works with our topic for today.
The basic pattern is that the verb is in its te-form followed immediately by yokatta. The meaning of it is that you (or someone) did the verb and you are happy because of it.
Let’s say that you are running late and you are afraid that you will miss your train. When you get to the station, you barely make it on before departure. This is a time where you might say to yourself something like the following.
- maniatte yokatta!
- Yes, I made it!
The verb is understood to be in the past-tense due to よかった being in the past-tense. So whatever action that verb represents, it is something that has already been done.
This phrase is similar to saying “I’m glad that…” or “It’s good that … happened” in English and can be used to express your appreciation for something.
- itte yokatta
- I’m glad I went (to the park, movies, etc.)
This can also be used when you want to say that you are happy that you didn’t take an action. You would simply put the verb into its negative te-form for that.
The Ba-Pattern And What It Means
In Japanese there is a ba-pattern which is called the “conditional” form, but what it really translates to is the English word “if” and lets you know that the person it talking about a hypothetical situation.
For example, if you were thinking about buying a car, you might wonder if you could afford the payments.
- kuruma o kaeba…
- If I buy a car…
How this comes into play with our new grammar pattern is that our word of the day gets attached to the end of the ba-form and it expresses the regret of the speaker for an action that they did not take.
- kaeba yokatta
- I wish I had bought it
What you are literally saying is “If I had bought (the car), it would have been good” which lets you know that the speaker did not actually commit the action in the sentence (but they considered doing it) and now they feel like their life would be better if they would have gone ahead and done it.
This pattern can be a little tricky to understand at first (at least it was for me) because you hear that final “yokatta” and you initially think that the speaker is happy at the situation, but that’s not the case.
You really have to pay attention to the whole sentence and catch the verb in its ba-form to get the full meaning.
When It Appears With Noni
The Japanese language has a lot of different particles and one of them is のに (noni) which has a couple of meanings.
The one that we want to talk about in today’s conversation is “if only; I wish” which is another way of expressing regret or your sadness that a particular situation is different from how you would like it to be.
This is very similar to what we saw above with the ba-pattern.
- ikebe yokatta noni
- if only I had gone
But I’ve separated them into two different sections because, as we saw before, the ba-pattern does not require that のに be added on to the end.
The second reason I make this additional section is because there is a のに pattern that does not use the ba-pattern, but instead uses a different pattern to accomplish the same thing.
I’m talking about the tara-pattern which is structured differently than the ba-pattern, but basically means the same thing. It is used to say “if” with the word that it is attached to.
- wakakattara yokatta noni
- I wish I were younger
The main thing to keep in mind is that these phrases are used when a person is a little upset. You can really hear it in the tone of their voice when they get to the のに at the end.
Also, something to keep in mind is that this tara-pattern is different from just the expression 良かったら (yokattara) which means “if you like” and is generally seen at the beginning of a sentence when someone is going to make a recommendation to do something.
Have You Seen Any Other Patterns?
Those are pretty much all of the common ways that I have seen and heard 良かった used, but it’s certainly possible that there are others out there.
My hope is that this lesson has given you enough examples and explanations so that you can fully understand it anytime you encounter the phrase or grammar pattern in your studies.
But if I missed anything, of if there was a part that wasn’t very clear, then let me know by leaving a comment down below and I will do my best to help you out.
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: