How to use “すごい/sugoi”?

One of my students came across the question.

I often heard the word “すごい/sugoi” while watching Japanese programme or TV shows. What does sugoi mean? What situation do you use it in?

すごい has many meanings; amazing, wonderful and terrible. It can be used in positive and negative both ways as well as formal and informal.  Let’s look at four situations.

Situation 1 -すごい + Adjective –

ロバートさん「こないだ沖縄(おきなわ)にいった。すごいきれいな海(うみ)だった。」

あやな「そうなんだ。わたしもいってみたいな」

Robert : I went to Okinawa the other day. There is a very beautiful sea there. 

Ayana : oh I see. I want to go there. 

This case is すごい + Adjective and meaning is “very” “wonderful” “excellent” etc to emphasize the adjective. Here are some examples :

  • すごいおいしい very delicious
  • すごいあつい very hot
  • すごいうるさい ear splittingly loud

 

Situation 2 – すごい the word itself –

ロバートさん「このつくえをじぶんでつくりました。」

あやな「ほんとうですか!?すごい!」

Robert : I made/built this desk by myself.

Ayana : Really!? It’s a amazing (job)/wonderful/awesome/excellent!.

すごい can be used to praise when someone did a good/skillful job or achieved something.

 

Situation 3  -すごい + noun –

ロバートさん「だいがくのせんせいにショッピングモールであいました。せんせいはすごいふくをきていました」

あやな「へーいつですか?どんなふくでしたか?」

Robert : I saw University teacher at the shopping mall. The teacher was wearing terrible (or great)clothes. 

Ayana : Oh when was it? What kind of clothes (was he/she wearing)? 

In this situation, すごい can be terrible/wierd or wonderful in both way. To know what is the meaning is depending on the speaker’s tone or expression and the context. It is quite tricky.

 

Situation 4 すごい + verb 

ロバートさん「だいがくのしけんですごいいいせいせきをもらったよ!

あやな「よかったね。ロバートさんすごいべんきょうしていたしね」

Robert : I received a great result at university exam. 

Ayana : that’s good. Because you had been studying a lot/extremely hard.

In this situation, すごい can be used with verb in casual way. Here are some examples :

  • すごいたべる eat a lot
  • すごいのむ drink a lot
  • すごいこむ terribly crowded

Grammatical point of view, すごく should be used. すごく is adverb so it used with verb. So if we change the above short dialogue changes to formal way, it will be like this ;

ロバートさん「だいがくのしけんですごくいいせいせきをもらいました!

あやな「よかったですね。ロバートさんすごくべんきょうしていたしね」

Here are other examples :

  • すごくたべます eat a lot
  • すごくのみます drink a lot
  • すごくこみます terribly crowded

I hope it helps to grasp the use of すごい in Japanese.

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