Spot the Kanji for Good and Evil in Everyday Japanese

Source: Gaijin Pot
Study Japanese Kanji for good and evil

The two characters for good and evil (or bad), 良(よ)い and わる) respectfully, are really useful characters.

Give us the bad news first

The kanji, for example, can also be added as an adjective to the front of many words to mean an unpleasant version of that.

Take, for example, 悪口(わるぐち) which means “to talk badly of someone.” It can also be added as a suffix to make words like:

  • 気持(きも)ち悪い = A bad feeling
  • 具合(ぐあい)悪い = (Feeling) under the weather
  • 気分(きぶん)悪い = Feeling sick

良い/いい, on the other hand, has the opposite effect and describes a particularly pleasant or nice example of that thing. Generally, いい is more common in spoken Japanese with the exception of 良いお年(とし)を which is another way to wish someone a Happy New Year.

Positive perspective

The Japanese use いい a lot in their language.

  • いい人(ひと)です = Good guy/gal
  • いい匂(にお)い = Nice smell
  • 運(うん)がいい = Lucky
  • 頭(あたま)がいい = Smart
  • いいやつだ = A good dude/bloke
  • 仲(なか)がいい = Get on well with

Another example, いい夫婦(ふうふ) which we mentioned in our Japanese Words for Weddings article, uses Japanese number code to interesting effect, too.

So far, so simple, right? However, from here things get a little more interesting. Both 悪い and いい/ 良い have some fascinating grammatical usages that all learners should be familiar with.

MC Grammar

Readers growing up in the 90s will recognize the use of (僕(ぼく)) が悪い as similar to that old stalwart of 90s-ness: the saying ‘”My bad’… presumably with a “dude” not far behind. While this may sound a little dated in English, it’s still a beloved expression among Japanese people.

This phrase is mostly used to admit a mistake, but it can also be used alongside certain disrespectful pronouns, as in sentences like お前(まえ)が悪いよ (You are wrong!) and だれが悪いのか (Who is at fault?).

~が悪い is also used in some other forms to create descriptions of things.