As far as I understand, the following two sentences functionally mean the same thing, "It's not easy" and "It's hard"



My question is, do these statements have any subtle nuances? Do the Japanese have a preference for either negating an adjective or using its opposite adjective, or are both methods used indiscriminately?

Please reply using kana only. すこしかんじがわかります。

1 Answer 1


Those nuances exist in any language, not just Japanese. It's all about implication. If I tell you a number is not negative, mathematically that not does imply it is positive, because it could be 0, and 0 is neither positive nor negative. It's the same (at least it should be) with language. If I say something is not easy, that does not necessarily imply that it is difficult.

If someone asks you if something is むずかしい, answer with either むずかしい or むずかしくない. Changing to the "opposite" word is just awkward and confusing (in the sense of "what the heck just happened!?", not in understanding what they mean).

I wouldn't switch to another word without first negating what they are asking you and then following it up with some kind of explanation.

  • A: ギターはむずかしいですか? → Is (playing) guitar difficult?
    • B1: やさしくないです。 → It's not easy
      • A: (@-@) (なんでやねん、それ!) → NG!!
    • B2: むずかしくはないけど、やさしくもない。 → It's not difficult, but it's not easy either.
      • A: (^-^) → オッケー!
    • B3: むずかしいというより、うまくなるのは[時間]{じ・かん}がかかる → It's not so much difficult as it just requires a lot of time to get good.
      • A: (^-^) → オッケー!
  • +1 and accepted :). I don't understand how you're using the adjective when you write むずかしくはない and むずかしくもない. Are those the particles は and も? I've only recently learned about forming the negative for い adjs. by replacing い with くない, so it seems strange to have a particle in the middle of it.
    – Lou
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:03
  • 1
    Yes, those are the particles は and も. You use むずかしくはない when you're contrasting the negativity to something else. むずかしくない is just a neutral negation. I'm sure there's at least one topic on this site about the differences in when to add it and when not to, but I can't find it right now.
    – istrasci
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:20
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    BTW, as you can see by my [時間]{じ・かん} here and above, this site has a built-in furigana engine. This will be helpful to you if you don't know a lot of kanji yet. Check the Help page for more info on that.
    – istrasci
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:22

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