‘Sugoi すごい’ is another killer Japanese word which is used in everyday conversation. Its meaning can be quite varied, and it could be good or bad. Japanese people say ‘Sugoi すごい’ when they are surprised or impressed, just like a “Wow!” ‘Sugoi すごい’ is an adjective which can be used alone or with other adjectives meaning ‘very’.
The Pronunciation of ‘Sugoi’
‘Sugoi すごい’ is sometimes pronounced ‘Suge-e すげえ’ more likely by younger men.
Incredible! Great! Nice!…just Wow! or very
Meaning of ‘Sugoi すごい’
The origin of ‘Sugoi すごい’ is not clear. There are some possible stories behind it. In the Japanese dictionary, it says that it initially meant ‘horrible’ or ‘very creepy’, although it is used more often in a positive way rather than a negative way nowadays.
Also, some people say that it came from the verb ‘過ぐ（すぐ）Sugu’, which means ‘too much’ or ‘to exceed’. Maybe it is easier to remember that ‘Sugoi すごい’ means ‘extreme’ or ‘excessive.’
You can say it alone as “Wow!” Or, you can use it to describe a person/people or things. When people say this word, they are surprised or impressed by something, but it could be nice or bad. Sometimes you can tell whether they mean “Wow! It’s great!” or “Oh, no. It’s horrible.”
‘Sugoi すごい’ + a noun
‘Sugoi すごい’ can be put in front of a noun, meaning that something is incredible. Depending on the context, it could be ‘great’ or ‘awful’.
An unbelievable person!
An awful face!
‘人 hito’ is a noun which often means ‘a person’, but sometimes it can mean ‘a crowd’ as well. So, Japanese people could say ‘すごい人 Sugoi hito’, when they mean “It is (was) awfully crowded!”
‘Sugoku(i) すごく(い)’ + an adjective = ‘very’
You can put ‘Sugoi すごい’ in front of an adjective, showing the degree of the adjective is excessive. It is just like ‘very’.
Grammatically, you should conjugate it when you put it with another adjective into ‘Sugokuすごく’, but ‘Sugoiすごい’ + an adjective (without conjugation) is also spoken in the conversation.
Sugo-ku kawaii/Sugo-i kawaii
Sugo-ku oishii/Sugo-i oishii
Sugo-ku kirei/Sugo-i kirei
To show your admiration
When you are impressed by someone or something, you can just say ‘Sugoi すごい’ itself. You can show your admiration to someone, for example, when your child painted a beautiful picture or when someone passed their exam, got promoted and so on. You can indicate that you are happy for them and proud of their achievement.
‘Sugoi すごい’ is overused
People use ‘Sugoi すごい’ every day. It is overused. Because you can describe almost everything with this word. Some people criticise it because it helps create a lack of vocabulary.
As a Japanese learner, it is a very handy word. However, do not use it excessively because people might think that you are always exaggerating, otherwise.
A tiny piece of grammar:
Conjugation for ‘すごい Sugoi’— i-adjective — in plain style (a casual way):
すごい Sugo-i (positive)
すごくない Sugo-kunai (negative)
すごかった Sugo-katta (positive, past-tense)
すごくなかった Sugo-kunakatta (negative, past-tense)