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I had always though “。。。〜てよかった” can both mean “I'm glad that ...” and “I wish it were that ...” depending on context but I've recently been told that my understanding is wrong and it can never mean the latter. Yet, I'm fairly certain I've encountered the form, and continue to encounter the form with clauses that are clearly counterfactual. The other way out I'm possibly seeing is that it's a literal past form of “〜ていい” and that it thus means “I could have ...” such as “ここに来なくてよかった。” also being able to mean “I didn't have to come here.” opposed to my initial interpretation of “I wish I didn't come here.”. Is that interpretation more correct or can it, in fact aso mean “I wish I didn't come here.”?

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  • I think you might be confusing it with 「たらよかった」
    – Angelos
    Oct 10, 2022 at 12:21

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“I didn't have to come here.” and “I wish I didn't come here.” are essentially the same interpretation for “ここに来なくてよかった。” You wish you didn't come because you didn't have to.


  • ここに来てよかった

always means I'm glad about my coming here.

  • ここに来なくてよかった

Since ここ suggests the speaker is already "here", s/he cannot be glad about not coming "here" now. So, either (1) the speaker did come and regrets on it ("I didn't have to come here") or (2) the speaker is glad about not having been "here" in the past ("I'm glad that I didn't come here").


Another example.

  • 新しいスマホを買わなくてよかった.

By default, it would be understood as I am glad that I didn't buy the new smartphone (e.g., because the model turned out to be bad in battery consumption). In this interpretation, the speaker didn't buy the phone.

In some contexts, it could mean I didn't have to buy a new smartphone/I wish I hadn't bought a new smartphone. In this case, the speaker did buy the phone. For example, you thought you needed a newer phone to play a new game, but actually the older model turned out to be enough for the game. 新しいスマホを買わなくてよかった should be more common (lit. It was fine as well if I didn't buy a new phone).


In general Xしてよかった tends to be "I am glad ..." whereas Xしなくてよかった is "I wish I didn't...".

Note that しなくてもよかった is unambiguously "I wish I didn't...".

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    It's not hard to imagine someone saying "I'm glad I didn't come here" referring to their past (no-)action, like (あの時)ここに来なくてよかった.
    – aguijonazo
    Oct 10, 2022 at 16:42
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    I don't really agree that “I wish I didn't ...” and “I didn't' have to ...” are the same in English. One implies regret and another simply that either is right. Now, as for the “〜ても” form, which I think is interesting. Does that always imply regret, or simply that it wasn't strictly necessary?
    – Zorf
    Oct 10, 2022 at 23:51
  • @Zorf That is a matter of translation. My point is that they are the same in that both interpretations imply that the speaker did 'come here'.
    – sundowner
    Oct 10, 2022 at 23:53
  • As for も, I'd say it is just not strictly necessary. Whether it expresses a lack of necessity neutrally or regrets (or irritations on doing something) depends more on contexts and tone.
    – sundowner
    Oct 11, 2022 at 0:06

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