Grammar Info
N5 Lesson 10: 6/12

To be good at, Proficient

Verb + + + 上手
Part of Speech Expression
Word Type Adjectival Noun
Register Standard
品詞 表現
単語の種類 形容動詞
使用域 一般
~のが上手(じょうず) is a phrase that behaves in almost exactly the same way as ~のが好(す)き, but rather than meaning ‘to like’ something, it means ‘to be good at’ something. This particular expression is used with the plain (dictionary) form of verbs only.
  • 彼女(かのじょ)漢字(かんじ)覚(おぼ)えのが上手(じょうず)です
    She is good at memorizing kanji.
  • 彼(かれ)歌(うた)うのが上手(じょうず)です
    He is good at singing.
In these examples, we can see that there is no difference between Ichidan verbs and Godan verbs. Both will appear in their plain form. In this expression, のが is performing the same function as in the regular のは・のが construction. This function is nominalization (turning a phrase into a noun). However, のは cannot be used with this phrase, as is always required with adjectives.
If you want to express that you were good at something (in the past), the verb will still remain in the plain form, but 上手(じょうず) will change to the past tense.
  • お母(かあ)さん若(わか)い頃(ころ)、踊(おど)のが上手(じょうず)だった
    When my mother was young, she was good at dancing.
This grammar point can sound a little bit arrogant if you are referring to your own skills, so the word 得意(とくい) may also be used if you want to sound a bit more humble.
  • 歌(うた)のが上手(じょうず)です
    I am good at singing. (Like, how am I not famous)
  • 歌(うた)のが得意(とくい)です
    I am good at singing. (I have confidence in my singing)
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Tom is good at playing soccer.
(He) is good at remembering Kanji.
Tanaka-san is good at studying grammar.
みんなの日本語 II
Page 12 [CH 26]
みんなの日本語 II
Page 84 [CH 38]
みんなの日本語 I
Page 62 [CH 9]
Genki I 2nd Edition
Page 194