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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…When it’s difficult to do something, which expression should I use? ~にくい(~nikui), ~がたい(~gatai) or ~づらい(~zurai)?
There are many ways to express that something is difficult in Japanese, so how do you know which expression to use and when?
~にくい(~nikui), ~がたい(~gatai) and ~づらい(~zurai) all have slightly different meanings. Let’s go over them together.
~にくい(~nikui) means that something is difficult to do or it takes great effort to do it. For example, if I say, 言いにくい(ii nikui), it means that it’s difficult for me to say something. It could be because it’s a sensitive matter or it’s hard to put into words.
~がたい(~gatai) means doing something that’s almost impossible. For example, if we use a similar example as the one we used previously, 言いがたい(ii gatai) means you are almost not able to put something into words. It’s seemingly impossible.
~づらい(~zurai) means that you don’t feel comfortable doing something. If we use a similar example to the two used previously, 言いづらい(ii zurai) would mean that there’s something I want to say, but I don’t feel comfortable saying it and that’s why it’s difficult.
Let’s go through some examples so you can learn how to use ~にくい(~nikui), ~がたい(~gatai) and ~づらい(~zurai).
First, let’s do an example with ~にくい(~nikui)--
この料理は、とても見た目がいいけど、食べにくい。(Kono ryōri wa, totemo mita-me ga ii kedo, tabe nikui.)
This phrase means, “This dish is very well presented, but it’s difficult to eat.” Imagine you are served a Japanese dinner that looks too beautiful or intricate to eat. The meaning implies the activity is difficult to do, so we need to use ~にくい(~nikui).
Now, let’s do an example with ~がたい(~gatai)--
信じがたいことだけど、本当です。(Shinji gatai koto da kedo, hontō desu.)
This phrase means, “(I know) It’s difficult to believe, but it’s true.” In this situation, it means that the information you received seems so far-fetched or out there, that it’s almost impossible to believe. That’s why we need to use ~がたい(~gatai).
Lastly, let’s do an example with ~づらい(~zurai)--
泣いている母を置いて出発しづらい。(Naite iru haha o oite shuppatsu shi zurai.)
This phrase means, “It’s difficult for me to depart, leaving (my) crying mother behind.” Imagine if you have to leave your mother when she’s really upset or in tears. That can be an uncomfortable situation that you can’t shake. That’s why you would use ~づらい(~zurai).
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
またね![mata ne!] See you!


Please to leave a comment.
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JapanesePod101.com Verified
April 25th, 2017 at 06:30 PM
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 11th, 2017 at 11:57 AM
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Do you mean when you talk about science or engineering, you should use formal languages?

I think you need to use technical words.

If the contexts include prominent scholars, you should use honorific expressions to them.

However, listeners are your close friends, you can use colloquial expression in the same conversations.

Maria san,


Thank you for your question.

さ indicates objective and degree.

み shows subjective and a real feeling.

For example, when you use 悲しさ, you can show how much it is. 私の悲しさは海底よりも深い。

On the other hand 悲しみdoesn’t show the degree of your sadness but tells us your feeling.


I hope it could be helpful for you.


Yuki 由紀

Team JapanesePod101.com

May 10th, 2017 at 01:44 PM
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ーさ と -み は、どう違いますか?

What is the difference between these two suffixes when they nominalize adjectives such as 悲しみ、悲しさ。強み、強さ?


May 5th, 2017 at 04:03 PM
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Hello! Is there also a difference tied to the context? More colloquial or more formal, or it doesn't matter?

Thank you.