Wednesday, May 15

Taste Words

Everybody eats. Who doesn’t like delicious food? Some people like it more than others, and we have what we call “food geeks.”

Food geeks” have many other different kinds, such as “meat geek,” “ramen (instant noodles) geek,” “cheese geek,” etc.

There is also a very popular saying: “You are what you eat.” This means that you need to eat good food to stay healthy.

Eating is a very basic and essential part of life. We can’t last a month without eating, and with some people, they can’t even last a day!

Of course not a day passes that we also need to talk about food and eating. It’s a common, everyday activity that we should know how to put into words.

This is why, today, we’re going to learn expressions to talk about tastes.

The Sense Verb

The first thing you need to learn is the Sense Verbtaste.” Naturally. Because this is the first word you will use if you want to talk about food. It’s one of the 5 senses of us humans after all.

(If you’d like to have a quick review of the Sense Verbs in English, just click this link:

As one of the Sense Verbs, the word “taste” is a bit strange. It’s different from the Action Verbs and it doesn’t follow the way they act.

Take a look. All Action Verbs in English are used this way:

Verb + Adverb

This is a very common and basic pattern in English.

For example,

They ate quickly.

He walks slowly.

She speaks English well. (don't say "good")

But Sense Verbs including “taste” are strange because they don’t follow this. Instead:

Sense Verb + Adjective

That’s right. That’s why we always say:

You smell nice. = Ok

It tastes delicious. = Ok

It looks beautiful. = Ok

But we don’t say:

You smell nicely. = X

It tastes deliciously. = X

It looks beautifully. = X

Some non-native speakers add the ending +ly too much, at the end of many Adjectives. They “feel”  that this is correct. 

For example,

It tastes sweetly. = X

She looks kindly. = X

Anyway, the Sense Verbs (including “taste”) are easy to use as long as you remember and practice this pattern:

Sense Verb + Adjective

You can make 4 different phrases:

It + tastes + ______

==> sweet

==> sour

==> salty

==> bitter


By the way, did you know that there are between 2, 000 and 5, 000 taste buds on the front and back of your tongue?

all images courtesy of stock.xchng

But there are only 4 basic tastes known to man. It is commonly accepted that the 4 Adjectives that I mentioned above are all (sweet, sour, salty, bitter).

Now experts debate whether there may be an extra new taste that we call “umami.”

The word “umami” is the fifth, more newly found taste. It’s a word borrowed from Japanese. It means “good flavor” or “good taste.”

Some people say that umami is a kind of meaty taste. It can be experienced in cheese, soy sauce, tomatoes, grains, beans, and some fermented foods. 

Anyway, for our lesson today, we will concentrate on only the 4 first basic taste Adjectives.

Taste + Noun

Sometimes, we don’t want to use any of the 4 taste words that we have (sweet, sour, salty, bitter). Sometimes, it’s better to use a more exact word, not an Adjective.

If you wish, you can also use a Noun. Just follow this:

It + tastes + like + Noun


It tastes like chicken.

It tastes like roast beef.

It tastes like candy.

It tastes like garbage!

Easy and convenient, right?

By the way, do you know why people always say “It tastes like chicken” for every unusual food that they eat? Whether it's rabbit meat, or snake meat, or frog meat, or pigeon meat, we feel that it tastes like chicken. 

Many explanations have been given by different people. But nobody knows the exact answer.

Other Taste Expressions

If our expressions are not enough, you can also try using the phrases below in your conversation.

*Note: I have added the Japanese translation of each expression. Sorry but I don’t know the translation in other languages.

English expression

Japanese translation
(That) looks delicious / tasty.
(Are) oishisō.

It smells good.
Ii kaori.

Does this taste good?
Kore oishii?

It tastes good.
Oishii (!)

It’s an unusual taste.
Fushigi-na aji-dane.

It’s okay / So-so.

It’s not good.

It doesn’t taste good.

It’s awful / disgusting.
Mazui. / Hidoi.

It’s hot / spicy.

(tastes like chili pepper)
It’s bland.

(this means boring and no taste)
It’s not to my taste.
(I don’t like it)

Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !


  1. For the sake of comportment,

    It's hot/spicy; karai (辛い)

    it's bland; aji-ga-nai (味が無い)

    it's not to my taste; watashi no konomi janai (私の好みじゃない)

  2. WoW! Thanks for this, Tetsuhiro :-)

    Actually, I really wanted to ask a Japanese friend about those. It was nice of you to volunteer / share your knowledge.

  3. Oops! that was ″completement″ not ″comportment″!

  4. Oh, you mean "completion" ?

    Got it!


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