I’ve seen よく used in a variety of contexts outside of the basic “often” and “well”.




Just a few examples. What are some different ways it can be used and the meanings/nuances they carry?

2 Answers 2


It has quite a lot of uses outside of "often" and "well".

In the form of 「よく食べる」 ~ "(They) eat a lot", it would translate to "much", "to a considerable degree" etc. This may sometimes be easy to confuse with the "often" and "frequently" definitions.

It can also be used (often in the form of「よくぞ」) when someone says/does something that the speaker finds extremely welcome, as a way to "praise them" for what they've done. E.g. 「よく来たね」 ~ "It's nice of you to come" or more literally "You did well to come (here)". Similarly「よくぞ言ってくれた」 ~ "Finally someone came out and said it." (liberal TL).

Somewhat similarly, in the form of「よくここへ来れた」 it may be used to denote that someone has achieved something impressive. In this example it could translate to something like "I'm impressed that you managed to come here" or more liberally "Well done; coming here is no small feat."

In「よく言うよ!」, corresponding to "You're one to talk!", it's used in the backwards sense compared to the above, essentially as a form of sarcasm. Here you could think of it as "You have some nerve (doing x)", although in the よく form it's mostly used in a more lighthearted sense (as a kind of tsukkomi). On the other hand,「よくも」is what someone might say when you're strongly critical of something another person has done.「よくも俺の女に手ェ出したなァ」 ~ "You've got some guts, laying your hands on my woman" (etc), 「よくもあの人をだましたわね!」would be like "How dare you deceive him!".「よくもまあ」 is used similarly, although here the speaker would tend to be less agitated.

Other forms:

「良{よ}くも悪{わる}くも」would denote "for better or worse", "in both the good way and the bad way", "no matter if it's good or if it's bad" etc.「良くも悪くも正義感の強い男だ」would mean "For better or worse, he is a man with a strong sense of justice."

「よくよく」is often just an empathetic version of 「よく」, but how you would interpret it depends on the context. 「よくよくのことがないと実家には帰らない」 would correspond to something to the effect of "They (he/she/etc) won't go visit (go/return to) their parents' home unless they really have to", where「よくよくのこと」refers to something that leaves a person no choice but to act (in some specific way). This is synonymous with「よっぽどのこと」.「よくよくの愚か者」would on the other hand denote "(He's) a real fool"; here the「よくよく」would simply be used for emphasis and again be synonymous with「よっぽど」.

「よくてよ」would be a very specific use case meaning "It's fine to (x)" or "It's better to (x)". E.g. 「行かないほうがよくてよ」would translate to something like "It's better if you don't go". This is just a high class lady -ish way to say「いい(よ)」. Another similar one is「よろしくてよ」, and this again makes me imagine the speaker to be a high class female person.

Another very specific use case would be 「能{よ}く」, which means "(to be) able to" (although in Japanese I've also seen it interpreted in the sense of "to be highly capable of (achieving something)"). This is a kun-yomi for「能」and in this sense unrelated to よく as it is normally used in Japanese. One context where you might see this used is as part of the (originally Chinese) proverb 「柔能く剛を制す」 , lit. "The soft can defeat the hard", which expresses the idea that a weak person can best a stronger opponent in battle (or that a seemingly "soft" approach to a problem may at times be more effective than an uncompromising one, etc). You could also see this used as a kun-yomi for「能」 ("to be able to") used to convert 漢文 to a relatively readable Japanese version.

As a side note, this よく should not be confused with 「欲{よく}」, which means "desire".


VVayfarer’s excellent answer covered many of the less obvious usages but I wanted to talk about the second example:


In fact, this sentence does use the normal meaning “well” although it might not appear such on first glance.

Literally, よく聞いたら could be translated as “when/if (I) asked well” but a more natural translation of the sentence is probably something along the lines of:

“After properly asking (the teacher)/after checking properly, it turned out that the exam is tomorrow.”

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