My interest comes from the fact that similar expressions in my native language have positive literal meaning, so it's impossible to express disapproval with them while being sincere.

Can this idiom have neutral or negative meaning and interpreted as a statement that the situation is good for a person but not necessarily anybody else?

A: He framed Roger and got a promotion.

B: Good for him.

A: Indeed. Poor Roger.

Does decomposing the idiom help to interpret its literal meaning?

B: That's good for him.

Can interpreting this idiom literally and not as a compliment be considered rude?

2 Answers 2


So here are a few things about your question: First of all, this is not an idiom; it's only an expression. Second, it does not necessarily have a neutral or negative meaning, but positive. This is how LDOCE defines it:

From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

good for somebody

used to say that you approve of something that someone has done

‘I’ve decided to accept the job.’ ‘Good for you.’

What you hear when it used in a negative context, is sarcasm, which means saying the opposite of what you really mean in order to mane an unkind joke or show your disapproval/annoyance, and that can be done with any other expression. For example, a mean teacher breaks their leg and can't attend their classes. A student might say: "Oh! I am so sad to hear that"; add the sarcastic tone and it's clear the student actually means the very opposite of what was expressed in that sentence that they are actually happy for the teacher to be away.


There's no idiomatic meaning of this phrase beyond the literal one.

Whether it's meant sincerely, sarcastically, or to imply that's good for him and bad for me (which is sort of sarcasm) depends on context and tone of voice.


"Look, Mom, that little boy cleared the table after dinner."
"Good for him!"

"Oh my God; he tied his shoes on the first try!"
"Wow, good for him."

Good for you - bad for me
"Did you hear that guy you hate got a big promotion?"
"Good for him."

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