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I would imagine that my friend is trying to say "My work is very difficult, but other than that I'm fine!",

But for me it feels like it's missing an adjective like 難しい.

仕事は大変だけど元気だよー

I imagine it should be

仕事は大変難しいだけど元気だよー

My friend is Japanese, so I would guess that either

  1. 仕事は大変 is assumed to mean "Work is very difficult", or
  2. She forgot to include an adjective

Am I wrong in understanding, or did she just forget an adjective?

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2 Answers 2

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Here 大変 is used as a na-adjective. It's definition #3 in 研究社新和英中辞典: たいへん = "〈労力を要すること〉 a hard task; a difficult job."

仕事は大変だけど元気だよー

She's saying her job is hard/tough and/or busy, but she's fine/healthy.

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    ... but 大変 can also be used as an adverb (which is not the case here).
    – Earthliŋ
    Apr 20, 2016 at 15:19
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仕事は大変だけど、元気だよ means "My job requires hard work, nevertheless (I can endure it) I'm fine." It's a self-completing statement.

I don't think you need to be redundant by adding "difficult" on top of "hard," which is already referred to, and you don't know if her job is really "difficult" work such as demanding high level of computing, designing, or negotiation work or not. It's can be a simple labor, but tough work because it lasts long hours.

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