Is there a natural Japanese phrase for “your heart’s in the right place”?

This phrase is used in situations where you mean well but your actions come across harsh or misguided.

For example, a strict parent may restrict their child from doing things like staying out late at night, drinking, etc. While they are strict they do these things because they love their child. In other words, their heart's in the right place.


  • 2
    Wouldn't the context for that be the third person defending the child to the parents? Unless this third person is tacitly criticizing the parents, I suppose.
    – Angelos
    Nov 4, 2018 at 9:10
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    Your heart's in the right place, but perhaps you could furnish the question with more details on the meaning of the phrase and the motivations for using such a phrase in these situations. Do realise that you have to explain because you may have to appeal to a person with incomplete knowledge of the meaning of the phrase in English and will be unable to provide you with a reasonable Japanese saying that matches the scenarios you have suggested.
    – Flaw
    Nov 4, 2018 at 10:02

1 Answer 1


I want to echo Aeon Akechi's comment that your example usage of "heart is in the right place" seems a little strange to me. I've seen it most commonly used in cases where the action produces a result out of line with the good intentions; maybe somebody beats up their sister's boyfriend because they think he treats her poorly. That obviously doesn't improve the situation, but perhaps their heart was in the right place. Staying out late and drinking is (presumably?) bad for children.

That said, I think I can help with your question. In English, I see two main usages for the phrase one's heart being in the right place. The first is the one you describe

This phrase is used in situations where you mean well but your actions come across harsh or misguided.

Although I primarily see this in past tense, for something like he did X, but his heart was in the right place. The closest thing I can think of in Japanese is 良かれと思う (more commonly as 良かれと思って). See also here and here. This is typically translated as doing something with good intentions or meaning well, but that's what heart in the right place means when applied to a specific action.

The other usage is to describe people in the general sense, referring to a pattern of poor action despite good intentions (somebody to whom the above case applies regularly). This is the translation you mostly find in dictionaries, like here and here. Something like 心が優しい is more a statement about the person than their motivations at any specific time, but so is his heart is in the right place in

My friend often gets in fights, but his heart is in the right place.

I can think of no perfectly corresponding idiomatic phrase that covers all uses of English's usages for one's heart being in the right place.

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    Thank you for elaboration on the English idiom so that I can understand :D I'd personally say 根はいい人だ for the second meaning. Nov 7, 2018 at 6:25

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