What is the difference between 良い and 上手い?

Or in other words, can sentence (1) become sentence (2)? If yes, is there any meaning change?

(1) 父は車の運転がとても上手い

(2) 父は車の運転がとても良い

1 Answer 1


The difference is that うまい (I'm using Hiragana intentionally here as that is how it is usually written and you'll only really find the Kanji form in literature) is used for skill, whereas 良い is usually used for the personal preference of the subject.

"運転がとても良い" sounds odd as とても is not usually used with 良い in this sense. A quick search of Google confirms that it is unidiomatic: there are only 2 hits. If we remove the とても and search for "運転が良い" we get 3,100,000 hits, but skimming through we can see that the ones about driving a car are about a preference, for example for one style of driving over another.

  1. 運転が良い,またはゲームとは違う楽しさがあると考えるのは The reason that people prefer driving, or think that they offer a different type of "fun" to games, is...

  2. では、どのような運転が良いのでしょうか。So, how should we drive?

  3. 下手な運転よりは上手な運転が良いに越したことはありません Good (skillful) driving is better than bad driving wherever possible.

On the other hand, the hits for "運転がうまい" are all about driving skill:

  1. 運転がうまい人ほど高く、苦手な人に足りない High in people that are good at driving, lacking in those that aren't

  2. 運転がうまい人と下手な人の見分け方 How to tell the difference between someone who's good at driving and someone who sucks at it.

Sentence (2) is not really idiomatic due to the presence of とても, but if we remove that the meaning of your two sentences would be:

父は車の運転がとても上手い My dad's really good at driving cars

父は車の運転が良い My dad prefers driving cars (e.g. to playing games, sports, driving tractors, or something else stated in the context)

Another example which may be clearer:

彼は日本語がうまい He's good at Japanese.

彼は日本語が良い He "prefers" Japanese (might be used e.g. if someone is telling you his English is not good so you should speak to him in Japanese)

A synonym for うまい is 上手(じょうず), which is a na-adjective.




  • So it means that in examples such as (1) "ここは良い所ですね。", (2) "それは良いアイデアです。" and even (3) "田中さんは良い人だと思う", there is very strong implication of subjectivity, so much that (1) and (2) could even be translated by "I like/prefer this place"; "I like/prefer this idea". And in fact that 良い and 上手い have very different meanings...
    – Starckman
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 12:42
  • 1
    良い doesn't have to be subjective and it doesn't have to be a preference, but it means "good" and not "good AT". I would still usually translate your sentences as: (1) This is a good/nice place (= pleasant) (2) That's a good idea (= well-founded/true) (3) Tanaka-san is a good person (= kind/morally upstanding) The key thing here is that none of these are about a person's skill at something. If talking about preference, which depends on context, が is usually used in place of は. E.g. ここが良い (I prefer this place to the other place we were just talking about)
    – ljdyer
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 6:04

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