What’s the difference between “umai” and “oishii” in Japanese ?

Japanese people often use “umai”/「うまい」or “oishii”/「おいしい」in daily life. If you stay in Japan, you would need to use them in some situations. These words have various meanings. I will introduce what the difference is and when you can use them.

1. The most important difference

The most important difference is “umai”/「うまい」 has a little casual impression and I think especially men often use it in some situations and “oishii”/「おいしい」is a more polite expression although they have different meanings depending on the situations.

2. umai/うまい

I will introduce the detail about “umai”/「うまい」. As I wrote this has a little casual expression, but you wouldn’t give people an impolite impression even if you say it to someone whom you don’t know well or elderly people.

(1) tasty, delicious

You can say it when you eat tasty dishes or drink something you like. I will introduce the example.

Ex) at a restaurant

A: (You are drinking beer) Tastes great !/うまい!

B:Definitely. It’s sunny today, awesome !/そうだね。晴れてるし、最高!

(2) breathe the fresh air

You can say it also when you breathe the fresh air although of course you can’t actually eat the air. I will introduce the example.

Ex) in forest

I breathe the fresh air here./ここの空気はうまい。

(3) work, well

Japanese people say “umai”/「うまい」or “umaku”/「うまく」when something works. will introduce the example.

Ex)

I can’t speak Japanese well./私は日本語をうまく話すことができません。

(4) convenient, sweet

You can say it with the meaning of “convenient” or “sweet”. Originally Japanese people used it for foods or drinks, but now they can say it with the meaning of “work”, “well”, “convenient” or “sweet” metaphorically. I will introduce the example.

Ex)

A:Look ! You can make 500 EURO for only 10 minutes with this job./見て!この仕事、たった10分で500 EURO稼げるよ。

B:I think there shouldn’t be such a sweet deal./そんなうまい話あるわけないと思うよ。

3. oishii/おいしい

I will introduce the detail about “oishii”/「おいしい」. As I wrote it’s a more polite expression. I think more women use it than “umai”/「うまい」.

(1) tasty, delicious

You can use it when you eat tasty foods and drink something delicious for you. The way of using it is the same as “umai”/「うまい」. I will introduce another example.

Ex) at a restaurant

(You are eating steak) Delicious !/おいしい!

(2) breathe the fresh air

You can use it when you breathe the fresh air. The way of using it is the same as “umai”/「うまい」.

(3) work, well

Japanese people don’t use “oishii”/「おいしい」 as the meaning of “work” or “well”. Normally they use “jyouzuni”/「上手に」as a polite expression instead of “umaku”/「うまく」. I will introduce the example.

Ex)

I can cook well./私は上手に料理をできます。

(4) convenient, sweet

You can say it with the meaning of “convenient” or “sweet”. The way of using it is the same as “umai”/「うまい」.

4. Summary

You can say “umai/「うまい」 when you eat or drink something tasty for you, when you breathe the fresh air, when you do something well or when something is too convenient or sweet for you. “oishii”/「おいしい」is a more polite expression which you can use in the almost same situations as “umai/「うまい」, but Japanese people don’t use “oishii”/「おいしい」when you do  something well.

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