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When we first studied adjective conjugation in my Japanese class, I kept making the same mistake habitually; I would conjugate the past tense of い-adjectives with でした at the end instead of dropping the い and adding かったです. My teacher would correct me, and now I've more or less started doing かったです, but I still wonder about how "wrong" adjective-でした is.

○ あのテストは難しかったです。

×? あのテストは難しいでした。

Is the second sentence straight out wrong and/or extremely unnatural-sounding? Would anybody in Japan conjugate adjectives like this? Or does it possibly introduce a slightly different meaning?

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Anyone would understand its meaning. It is difficult to distinguish between “straight out wrong” and “extremely unnatural-sounding.” – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 22 '11 at 19:34
up vote 3 down vote accepted

あのテストは難しいでした to me sounds strange. If you search Google for テストは難しいでした, you get about 10 results, many of them written by foreign speakers. テストは難しかったです however gets far more results.

I wouldn't right out say that it's wrong to use 難しいでした as you can find many instances of it when you search for it. However, I think it's overwhelmingly used by females when you look through the results. It's just a speculation of mine, but it may sound slightly "cuter" or "younger" to use 難しいでした as in 確かに難しいでしたけれどーー字の雰囲気で何となく解りましたから――ー大丈夫でした and similar examples.

That said, I think people learning Japanese should use 難しかったです rather than 難しいでした.

Disclaimer: I'm not a native speaker, just my thoughts.

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It is ungrammatical. No one will conjugate like that.

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If “anybody in Japan” in the question is interpreted as “educated speakers of the standard dialect of Japanese,” then I agree with you that no one will use that form. However, “anybody in Japan” is too broad to say anything about them collectively. – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 23 '11 at 16:22

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