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I wrote this on a test in a fill-in-the-blank question; I tried to keep it as simple as possible. My contribution is in bold:

給料が少ないのだから、会社がいいわけがない。

This was marked wrong, and instead this was written as a correction:

給料が少ないのだから、会社の業績がいいわけがない。

After some discussion, the teacher suggested that maybe this would convey what I intended, which is that the company couldn't possibly be good:

給料が少ないのだから、いい会社であるわけがない。

and that the "がいい" construction could only be used when describing a part of a whole... although she was not confident in her response and this doesn't seem like much of an explanation.

What principle is at work here? I thought that an adjective is an adjective; it's something used to describe a noun, regardless of whether it's prefixed to a word or coming after が or は. Clearly the concept of a company being good or bad is expressible in Japanese.

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  • I fell the company is good is much less common than a good company, isn't it?
    – sundowner
    May 18, 2023 at 22:32
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    @sundowner on the other hand, "the company couldn't possibly be good" and "it can't possibly be a good company" are both fairly normal, although "a good one" might be slightly less awkward in the first example. May 18, 2023 at 23:52

2 Answers 2

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会社がいいわけがない denies 会社いい, which answers the question "What (do you think) is good?" It's saying it's the company that is good, not something else.

いい会社であるわけがない denies いい会社である. This concerns whether the subject, which is omitted but assumed to be already known to the listener, is a good company or not. As a stand-alone sentence (i.e. taken out of the subordinate clause) it would be something like this.

(この会社)いい会社である。

When the adjective いい is used predicatively, the sentence usually follows this pattern.

(Aは)Bいい。

This means that it is B that is good about A. You assess several aspects of A and determine that B is good. A and B thus form the whole-part relationship your teacher tried to explain to you. 業績がいい sounds natural (even without 会社の) because 業績 can be understood as one of multiple aspects of a company. 会社がいい doesn't because there is no whole of which 会社 is a part in this context.

When the subject is turned into a topic with が replaced with は, it is felt to be contrasted to something else.

いい。

This implies B is good unlike something else that is not good. (That's of course when いい means "good.")

Not all adjectives are like that, of course. Let's take the following sentence as an example.

地球が丸いわけがない。

Before it was put into the subordinate clause, the statement it denies was 地球丸い. Here the adjective describes a characteristic of something that is assumed to be known to the listener (and therefore topicalized). The sentence doesn't necessarily feel contrastive despite は.

いい is not this kind of adjective. It's about your judgment or feelings. What you think is good (i.e. the subject) is part of the new information conveyed to the listener and this makes が neutral and は particularly contrastive when いい is used predicatively. You should accept the difference in usage from other adjectives as it is.

By the way, いい会社であるわけがない sounds a bit stiff. いい会社なわけがない (from いい会社だ) may sound more natural in conversation.

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For the meaning you want, you need to add そんな/そのような ("such a") or その ("the") to determine what company you're talking about. The corrected version would be:

給料が少ないのだから、そんな会社がいいわけがない。
Since the salary is low, there is no way such a company can be good.


いい has many usages (it can even mean "enough" or "no thanks"), and ~がいい has a strong tendency to carry a sense of exhaustive-listing and preference (i.e., "~ is the way to go", "~ is the thing I want/choose"). 会社がいいわけがない (without そんな/etc) is used like so:

  • NPOを作ろう、会社がいいわけがない。
    Let's found an NPO, (choosing to found) a company is not a good idea at all.
  • 家にいるのがいいです、会社がいいわけがない。
    I prefer to stay at home, there's no reason to prefer a company.

So even "給料が少ないのだから、そんな会社がいいわけがない" is likely to be taken like "No one would prefer such a company". To describe the objective well-being of a company, いい会社なわけがない is safer.

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