5 Useful Expressions For Beginners To Compliment The Appearance Of Someone / Something

Want to compliment Japanese people about their appearance, fashion, hairstyle, etc….? Today we will introduce 5 useful expressions you can use in such a situation. All of them are short, quick phrases that you can use to make someone’s day!
Let’s get started.

1. かわいいですね。(Polite version) Kawaii desune.
かわいい!(Casual version) Kawaii!

Originally a Japanese term, ‘Kawaii’ is also used in English nowadays to mean cute. It has a similar meaning in Japanese and is generally used to express that something or someone is ‘adorable’, ‘cute’, ‘little’, ‘lovely’ or ‘pretty’. It is often used for women, children, animals and fashion. 「かわいいですね (kawaii desune)」would be used when speaking to someone who you are not too close with, or to those who want to leave an elegant impression on the other person. On the other hand,「かわいい! (kawaii!)」is a casual expression used with close friends or family.

Column: 「敬語(けいご) – Keigo(honorifics)」is important

「敬語(けいご) – keigo」is a linguistic expression that is used to show respect for others. It is mainly divided into 「尊敬語(そんけいご) – sonkeigo」「謙譲語(けんじょうご) – kenjogo」「丁寧語(ていねいご) -teineigo」. Japanese people decide which form of 「敬語(けいご) (keigo)」to use, according to the social position and age of the opponent, the affinity (how close a relationship is) and the scene (formal scene, casual scene) etc. Although 「敬語(keigo)」is one of the most difficult topic to master for Japanese language learners, if you can master 「敬語(けいご) (keigo)」, it greatly helps when building social and business relationships in Japan.

Although 「敬語(けいご) (keigo)」is complicated, there is a quick tip for beginners. End your sentence with 「です (desu)」or「ます」. For example, 「かわいい (kawaii)」 is a casual expression but 「かわいいです (kawaii desu)」is polite expression.

2.きれいですね。(Polite Version) Kiree desune.
きれい!(Casual Version) Kiree!

「きれい (kirei)」means ‘beautiful’. It is commonly used to compliment someone’s appearance, but is also used to mean ‘clean’ and ‘clear’. (Japanese soap manufacturer, LION’s 「キレイキレイハンドソープ – kirei kirei hand soap」 means “Let’s wash your hands clean.”

3. かっこいいですね。(Polite version) Kakkoii desune.
かっこいい!(Casual Version) Kakkoii!

「かっこう – kakko」means ‘appearance’ in Japanese. The direct translation for the expression is “appearance is good”. It means ‘Good-looking’, ‘stylish’, ‘attractive’ etc in English. 「かっこいい – kakkoii」is used when you want to compliment the appearance of a male. Fans of male artists often cry out 「かっこいい – kakkoii」. Some examples using 「かっこいい – kakkoii」include:

「そのスーツ、かっこいいですね – sono suit, kakkoii desune (That suit is stylish)」「その髪型(かみがた)、かっこいいですね – sono kamigata, kakkoii desune (That hairstyle is stylish )」

4. いいですね。 (Polite Version) Ii desune.
いいね! (Casual Version) Iine!

「いい (ii)」means ‘good’ in English. Some examples of this phrase are:
「その髪型(かみがた)、いいですね。- sono kamigata, iidesune (That hairstyle looks good )」
「その色(いろ)、いいですね。- sono iro, iidesune (That color looks good )」
「そのネイル、いいね。- sono nail, iidesune (That nail looks good )」
Qucik fact: The Like button on Facebook is translated as an「いいね! – iine」 button in Japanese.

5. すてきですね。 (Polite Version) Suteki desune.
すてき(だ)ね!(Casual Version) Suteki(da)ne!

「すてき」means ‘great’, ‘lovely’ in English. Some examples using 「すてき (suteki)」include:
「その色(いろ)、すてきですね。- sono iro, suteki desune (That color is great )」
「そのゆびわ、すてきですね。- sono yubiwa, suteki desune (That ring looks lovely )」
You may also use it to compliment a person such as:
「○○さんは、すてきですね- ○○san wa, suteki desune (Mr./Ms. ○○ is a great person)」
Those of you who are male need to be a little careful as 「すてきね – sutekine (this is lovely)」is only used by woman. When a man uses it, insert 「だ (da)」in between 「すてき (suteki)」and「ね (ne)」and say 「すてきだね – suteki dane (this is lovely)」

That’s all for today!
In order to build good relationships with people, it helps to know how to make compliments. Even though there may be a language barrier at first, complimenting people helps put a smile and break the barrier between different cultures.