JOUZU AND HETA (上手 / 下手)

JOUZU (上手) and HETA (下手) are used respectively to express one’s strengths and weaknesses in a certain field. 上手 means “skillful,” and makes it possible to say “to be good at/gifted at…”下手 means “clumsy” and is used to translate “ to be bad at…”

Those two adjectives are preceded by the particle GA (が), that is used to identify the subject. Therefore, the final structure is:



Kanojo wa igo ga jouzu na n desu.
She is gifted at playing the game of Go.

Ani wa kendou ga jouzu da yo.
My brother is good at kendo.

It’s also possible to good at doing something. We have two solutions to deal with verbs in that structure:

  1. We can nominalize a verb (transform a verb into a noun) by adding the particle こと or の after its plain form (dictionary form)
  2. Transform the adjective 上手 into an adverb by adding the particle に

Mariko san wa eigo o hanasu no ga jouzu desu.
Mariko is gifted at speaking English.

Literally: As far as Mariko is concerned, the fact of speaking the English language is skillful.

Mariko san wa eigo o jouzu ni hanasu.
Mariko speaks English well.

Literally: As far as Mariko is concerned, she speaks English skillfully.


The construction with a noun is done the same way as with 上手.

Watashi wa roshiago ga heta na n da.
I am not good at Russian.

Chichi wa ryouri ga heta desu.
My father is not good at cooking.

For verbs, they are turned into a noun by adding the particle こと or の after their plain form (dictionary form). But the form 下手に (adverb) is less natural.

Hideki san wa uso o tsuku no ga heta da.
Hideki is not good at lying.

Literally: As far as Hideki is concerned, the fact of lying is clumsy.

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