What is the difference between 大変{たいへん} and 難しい{むずかしい} which can both mean difficult.

In which context should i use one or the other?

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2


My understanding is that you'd use 難しい whenever speaking about the innate difficulty of a task, and 大変 whenever the task is difficult due to being burdensome. Oftentimes they are interchangeable but not always.

Consider the scenario in which you're talking about, say, a piano piece, which happens to be hard. If you're an unskilled player, the piece is both 難しい (innately difficult) and 大変 (difficult because it's tough to perform it for you). If you're a skilled player, the piece doesn't stop being 難しい, but it might not be 大変 especially if you like to play it.


Aside from the general meaning of "difficult", Japanese people also say 難しい when they actually mean "it cannot be done", "I can't" or "I don't want to". For example:

Boss: Can you come to work on Sunday? (日曜日に会社に来てくれないかな。)

Me: Sorry boss I can't. (いや~、それは難しいです。すみません。)

In the above example, 難しい can be used but not 大変. On the other hand, Japanese people also use 大変 to mean "very", "so" or "a lot" as in the following examples, but 難しい cannot be applied.

It was so hot in Okinawa! (沖縄は大変暑かった!)

This task will take a lot of time. (この作業は大変時間がかかります。)

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