Difference between「得意」と「上手」


得意 and 上手 both can be used when we talk about someone else. However, it would NOT be appropriate to use 上手 when we talk about ourselves.

This difference of usage comes from the the meanings of the two words. Both are used talking about skills, capabilities, etc. 得意 denotes the “confidence” or the “competence” of the skills that the “oneself” has, while 上手 denotes the “characteristic” of the result of the action made by the oneself, or more saying about the “evaluation”, “assessment” of the things, the result of the “action” made by the oneself. Thus, we can conclude like this. 得意 denotes the “self awareness of his/her capability ( to do or make something ), whereas 上手 denotes the “evaluation” or the “assessment” of the things or result of the actions made by the aforementioned oneself’s capability. The peculiarity of the difference is whether either word is able to denote the “evaluation” or the “assessment”. Let us compare the below 2 speeches so that we can comprehend the difference more clearly.

( ○ This picture is drawn very nicely )

×この絵は得意に描けていますね。 ( ✕ )

The above picture is a “product” by the oneself. Thus it is appropriate to use the word 上手 in order to “assess” the properties of the product or the “skill” to produce the picture. But we can not use the word 得意 here since the word 得意 denotes the pure capability of the oneself. The antonym of the word 上手, “下手” can be used to assess something such as a speech “この絵は下手だ” ( This picture is not good. ), but the antonym of the word 得意, “苦手” can not used be here for the assessment of the picture. A speech like “この絵は苦手だ” ( I am bad at drawing this picture ) will not make sense here. The antonym, “苦手” can be used to express one’s likes and dislikes of things from the meaning of the word 苦手 ( one’s non-capability ). Therefore the word 得意, and its antonym 苦手 denote the “consciousness of one’s capability” rather than the “evaluation”, “assessment”.

Concluding from the above examples, we would like to say the reason why 上手 is not appropriate to be used when we talk about ourselves is basing on the fact that the “evaluation”, “assessment” should be done by the others not by ourselves. It is unnatural and could indicate one’s “arrogance”. 得意, denoting purely the “capability of oneself”, thus it will cause no problem to use it when we talk about ourselves. However, when we are so sure and aware of the “humbleness” of ourselves, we can use 上手 even when we talk ourselves. You can say something like「私は絵が下手です。 ( I am not good at drawing pictures. )」。

上手です」と「得意です」の意味の違いは? 他人のことを言うときには「得意」、「上手」ともに用いることが可能ですが、自分の技量について述べるときは「得意」は使えても「上手」は使いづらい印象があります。 この違いはやはり両者の意味的な違いに起因しているようです。どちらも技量を述べるのに用いられますが、「得意」は主体自身が己の技量に対して抱いている自信を表したり、また技量の度合いの高い様子をあらわしているのに対し、「上手」は主体の技量自体というよりは主体の行為から生じるありさま、たとえば何かを生み出す行為なら生み出された物の様、行為自体であればその行為の様子を評価していると思われます。つまり、「得意」は何かを生み出す能力(の自覚)を表し、「上手」はその能力によって生み出されたものへの評価を表しているということです。両者の違いでは特に「評価」を表し得るか否かという点が重要です。この違いは次のような例を見ると明らかになります。

この絵は上手に描けていますね。 ×この絵は得意に描けていますね。



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