“ikizurai” and (improperly) using the -づらい (-zurai) suffix in Japanese

By | March 27, 2014

There are several verb suffixes used in Japanese which are used to represent something is easy or difficult.

  • [verb in “pre-masu” form]  +  づらい    => hard to do “verb”
  • [verb in “pre-masu” form]  +  にくい    => hard to do “verb”
  • [verb in “pre-masu” form]  + やすい     => easy to do “verb”

To make the “pre-masu” form, simply conjugate the verb into the polite 〜ます form, and then remove the ます。For example:

  • 食べる => 食べます=> 食べ
  • 歩く => 歩きます=> 歩き
  • 話す => 話します=> 話し

Here are a few example uses of the above:

  • この肉、食べづらい
  • This meat is hard to eat.
  • この靴、歩きやすい!
  • These shoes are easy to walk in!
  • これはちょっと話しにくい話題ですけど。。。
  • This is a difficult topic to talk about.

When you have a noun that is used together with する, you need to make sure you use し as the correct pre-masu form of する。

  • 勉強しやすい授業だね。
  • This is an class that’s easy to study.

This is all setup for a funny story which happened to me recently where I wanted to say “Because of my allergies it’s hard to breathe”. How would you say this?

I ended up saying the following:

  • アレルギのせいでイキヅライ

Here I said ‘ikizurai’ in katakana to emphasize the sound of what I said, as opposed to my intentions. I meant 息 ( いき/breathe) + づらい, but if you followed the above example you’ll see that this would correctly be 息しづらい, since 息する means to breathe.

Normally a mistake like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but unfortunately イキヅライ means something very different, 生きづらい, which roughly translates to “hard to live”, and uses from the verb 生きる (いきる/to live)

My innocent mistake of omitting a し gave my utterance a much more extreme meaning such that my allergy was making it hard to continue living.

I think my confusion was because in some cases verb endings can have a similar meaning even without the し. One such case is -はじめる, which means to start doing an action.

  • 勉強(を)はじめる。
  • 勉強しはじめる。

Both of these sentences are grammatically correct and mean “I will start studying”.

But as a general rule this is not the case, so to avoid embarassment make sure you use the proper pre-masu form when using verb endings.




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