にくい (nikui) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Difficult To

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'にくい (nikui) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Difficult To'

Anna Baffa Volpe

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にくい (nikui) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Difficult To

The adjective にくい (nikui) means difficult, hard.

It is an い adjective and in this post we'll see its use combined with the verb base used to create the polite form ます.

The meaning it takes on is difficult to do, hard to do.

In this post we learn more about the meaning of にくい, how it is formed and when にくい is used through real example sentences.

How and when to use にくい

The structure we will go through in this post is formed by:

  • the Verb Base
  • and by the adjective にくい.

It expresses something that is difficult to do, hard to do.

The antonym expression has the same structure, but uses the adjective やすい and is translated easy to do.


This machine is difficult to use.

How にくい is formed

にくい is generally transcribed in hiragana, but it has its own kanji and is (にく)い one of the kun readings along with (むずか)しい difficult, hard.

In this post, we see the use of にくい with the verb base used in the polite form in ます.

The Ichidan Verbs have an unique base obtained removing the kana る.

For the Godan verbs we use the base B2 ending with the kana in い in the syllabic series かきくけこ.

B2 or Base in い+にくい

Ichidan verb: ()べる eat



Inedible fruit

Hard-to-eat fruit ⇨ inedible or unpalatable

Godan verb: ()say



Words that are difficult to say

Words hard to say

The previous examples use にくい in its attributive function and are joined with the noun.

In the predicative function the expression is put after the noun it modifies, at the end of the sentence.


These chopsticks are a bit difficult to use.


It is difficult to answer this question.

Polite form にくいです

The polite form is obtained by adding the copula です to the adjective にくい.


The windows in the house are old and difficult to open.


This kanji has many strokes and is difficult to remember.

にくい and がたい: differences

The kanji we have seen is read (むずか)しい and (にく)い, it also has the kun reading (がた)い and is used with the same structure as にくい and やすい. (ある)きにくい or (ある)きがたい ? We cannot use がたい when referring to things and situations of a physical, material kind or it cannot be used if the person is unable to do something due to difficult abilities or circumstances. For example, in the following sentence:


Panasonic computers are less likely to break.

We can't say: (こわ)れがたい がたい has a limited use compared to にくい がたい is used for example with the following verbs:

  • ()(かい)する understand
  • (わす)れる forget
  • (ゆる)forgive
  • ()える bear
  • (みと)める admit
  • (しん)じる believe
  • ()()れる accept
  • (そう)(ぞう)する imagine


It's hard to believe.


This is really an unacceptable behaviour.


The moment he won the Olympic gold medal is still unforgettable.

Examples of にくい


I have always had a body constitution that prevents me from gaining weight.


It's a fire-resistant building material.


These shoes are difficult to walk in.

From a blog about health and wellness:

Iron easy to absorb and iron that is difficult to absorb.
(てつ)(きゅう)(しゅう): absorption of iron


Iron easy to absorb and iron that is difficult to absorb.

In this post we find the Passive Form of the Verb: する becomes される

  • (きゅう)(しゅう)する absorb
  • (きゅう)(しゅう)される be absorbed