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Is 「目が高い」 a set phrase that a native speaker would ever use in daily conversation? (I memorized that phrase from a book long ago). If this phrase is not used, then I don't care. I will basically understand it, but never use it.

If 「目が高い」 is used, then I think it means "you have good / refined tastes." and would sound natural in these scenarios:

  • Imagine that I an acknowledged expert on wines and discussing wines during dinner with a group of people. Were one fellow to make several good observations about the best wines for the least amount of money. I could say 「やはり、目が高い。」
  • Compared to a fellow wearing a Nordstrom suit and Nordstrom tie, would a guy wearing a Zegna suit and Brooks Brothers tie be 「目が高い」?
  • If a fellow were shown 2 computer programs that essentially do the same thing, but the source code for one program is clearly very well written, while the other is poorly written. If that fellow were able to quickly / confidently select the one program that is well written, would he be 「目が高い」?

thank you.

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I'd say that it means "you have a discerning eye", that is typically used when someone makes a right choice, or otherwise proves their ability distinguishing the most valuable one from others.

I think your first example sounds just right, and the third okay-ish (as a joke), but the second is a little off. The problem with the second one is that you don't see the scene he actually chose out that Zegna suit; maybe he is so rich that a Zegna salesperson comes around to take orders :) As for the third one, I don't know the context, but unless it is a code review task, it is felt more natural for this phrase when someone tests out a product to know it is well built rather than looking at the source code, which makes no secret of its quality.

While it is not something used on the "daily" basis, definitely not an uncommon saying either, which I'd expect a young adult or above would know and have a chance to use.

Lastly, as this expression is mostly used as compliment, the form お目が高い with honorific prefix is much commoner to hear.

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