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Does the phrase "good effort" imply failure? Like, even though you failed, it's good that you gave it your best shot?

I'm looking for a phrase like "good effort" that does not imply failure. It would be nice if I could find a similar phrase that implies success. This kind of phrase exists in Japanese, but does it exist in English? When someone tries hard and wins, we seem to concentrate on the win, and see the effort as secondary. But the Japanese seem to value hard work over easy wins.

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7 Answers

I would say "Good job" best fits this idea; it definitely implies success (if we're not using it sarcastically) and half-implies that the person put in a lot of effort.

If you want to be a bit more explicit and verbose, go with "You sure earned that victory!", which means that it was only due to the person's great effort that success occurred.

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"Good effort" is normally a complimentary phrase. However, it is also used sarcastically, such as when an athlete makes very little effort in a point or play.

"Nice try" has a similar meaning, but is not usually used in a sarcastic manner.

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In my experience, "nice try" is used only for failure, though - for example, when speaking to a child who's tried hard but whose solution to a problem isn't correct or who has missed a target each time when throwing a ball. The "try" would be a failed attempt. The OP mentioned looking for a phrase that compliments the effort but doesn't imply failure. –  aedia λ Sep 28 '11 at 14:35
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A little less formal: Attaboy!

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The meaning of 'good effort' varies according to context. 'Well done' is usually, if not invariably, unambiguous.

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Good work and nice work both emphasize the effort someone exerted.

Though typically used for successes, both phrases can be used after failed attempts, as well.

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While good effort might be vague as to the chances of success, best effort is stronger without necessarily being completely assured of success.

If someone puts in an almost super-human effort, it can be called Herculean effort. This implies success.

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You can try:

  • Excellent work!
  • You solved that problem and it was brilliant!
  • The workmanship is high quality (referring to hand-crafted items)
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