How to use “Good” and “Nice” in English

Posted on June 14, 2016

When you think of the words “good” and “nice”, what springs to mind for each? Do you see them as different?

The words “good” and “nice” can be tricky to get right and there is a lot of overlap in the meaning. Students in our company English classes say things like “We had a nice meeting”. This sounds rather strange.

How to use good and nice: an overview

“Nice” is more from the heart. Food, people and holidays can be “nice” if you just want to say that you had a pleasant experience. “Good” has more substance and sounds like it rates well according to a particular standard. “Good food” is more like food with quality ingredients that is prepared to a high standard, not just food that you enjoyed eating. Junk food can be “nice” to eat but it’s not “good” for our bodies!

Likewise a “good” person is a moral person, whereas a “nice” person is someone who is pleasant to be around.

Using good and nice: natural English

“Did you have a nice English class?” is alright but “Did you have a good English class?” is slightly more natural. What’s the difference? The main reason you take English classes is to improve your English, right? A “nice” class sounds like you have a good relationship with your teacher, and that you and your classmates found the subjects covered interesting or fun. Maybe you didn’t learn much, though! A “good” class sounds like it was useful, the subjects were relevant to your professional development and so on.

So in the example at the beginning, we should say “we had a good meeting” because meetings are for a particular function rather than enjoyment.

Now you know how to use good and nice in English! Get in touch today for fantastic private or group English classes at your company in London.

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