LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Actions that are easy or hard to do

Posted by Tae Kim

Vocabulary

  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  2. しゃべる (u-verb) - to talk
  3. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  4. 字 【じ】 - character; hand-writing
  5. 読む 【よ・む】 (u-verb) - to read
  6. カクテル - cocktail
  7. ビール - beer
  8. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  9. 部屋 【へ・や】 - room
  10. 暗い 【くら・い】 (i-adj) - dark
  11. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to see
  12. 難しい 【むずか・しい】 (i-adj) - difficult
  13. 易しい 【やさ・しい】 (i-adj) - easy
  14. 簡単 【かん・たん】 (na-adj) - simple
  15. 容易 【よう・い】 (na-adj) - simple
  16. その - that (abbr. of それの)
  17. 肉 【にく】 - meat

This is a short easy lesson on how to transform verbs into adjectives describing whether that action is easy or difficult to do. Basically, it consists of changing the verb into the stem and adding 「やすい」 for easy and 「にくい」 for hard. The result then becomes a regular i-adjective. Pretty easy, huh?

Using 「~やすい、~にくい」 to describe easy and difficult actions
  • To describe an action as being easy, change the verb to the stem and add 「やすい」. To describe an action as being difficult, attach 「にくい」 to the stem.
    Examples
    1. 食べ食べやすい
    2. しゃべしゃべしゃべりにくい

The result becomes a regular i-adjective.
Positive Negative
Non-Past 食べにく 食べにくくない
Past 食べにくかった 食べにくくなかった

Examples

  1. この読みにくい
    This hand-writing is hard to read.
  2. カクテルビールより飲みやすい
    Cocktails are easier to drink than beer.
  3. 部屋暗かったので、にくかった
    Since the room was dark, it was hard to see.

As an aside: Be careful with 「にくい」 because 「醜い」 is a rarely used adjective meaning, "ugly". I wonder if it's just coincidence that "difficult to see" and "ugly" sound exactly the same?

Of course, you can always use some other grammatical structure that we have already learned to express the same thing using appropriate adjectives such as 「難しい」、「易しい」、 「簡単」、「容易」、etc. The following two sentences are essentially identical in meaning.

  1. その食べにくい
    That meat is hard to eat.
  2. その食べるのは難しい
    The thing of eating that meat is difficult.

Variations of 「~にくい」 with 「~がたい」 and 「~づらい」

Vocabulary

  1. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  2. 忘れる 【わす・れる】 (ru-verb) - to forget
  3. 思い出 【おも・い・で】 - memories
  4. 大切 【たい・せつ】 (na-adj) - important
  5. する (exception) - to do
  6. とても - very
  7. 信じる 【しん・じる】 (ru-verb) - to believe
  8. 話 【はなし】 - story
  9. 本当 【ほん・とう】 - real
  10. 起こる 【おこ・る】 (u-verb) - to happen
  11. 辛い【1) から・い; 2) つら・い】 (i-adj) - 1) spicy; 2) painful
  12. 日本語 【に・ほん・ご】 - Japanese (language)
  13. 読む 【よ・む】 (u-verb) - to read
  14. 待ち合わせ 【ま・ち・あわ・せ】 - meeting arrangement
  15. 分かる 【わ・かる】 (u-verb) - to understand
  16. 場所 【ば・しょ】 - location

The kanji for 「にくい」 actually comes from 「難い」 which can also be read as 「かたい」. As a result, you can also add a voiced version 「~がたい」 as a verb suffix to express the same thing as 「にくい」. 「にくい」 is more common for speaking while 「がたい」 is more suited for the written medium. 「にくい」 tends to be used for physical actions while 「がたい」 is usually reserved for less physical actions that don't actually require movement. However, there seems to be no hard rule on which is more appropriate for a given verb so I suggest searching for both versions in google to ascertain the popularity of a given combination. You should also always write the suffix in hiragana to prevent ambiguities in the reading.

Examples

  1. との忘れがたい思い出大切している
    I am treating importantly the hard to forget memories of and with him.
  2. とても信じがたいだが、本当起こったらしい。
    It's a very difficult to believe story but it seems (from hearsay) that it really happened.

Yet another, more coarse variation of stem + 「にくい」 is to use 「づらい」 instead which is a slightly transformed version of 「辛い」(つらい). This is not to be confused with the same 「辛い」(からい), which means spicy!

Examples

  1. 日本語読みづらいな。
    Man, Japanese is hard to read.
  2. 待ち合わせは、分かりづらい場所しないでね。
    Please don't pick a difficult to understand location for the meeting arrangement.