Language | WELL SAID

Hay fever can make life hard enough to use the adjective 'tsurai'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Kataomoi-tte, tsurai nā. (How painful unrequited love is.)

Situation 1: Ms. Gray catches Ms. Tamachi sighing.

田町: ああ、片思いって、つらいなあ。

グレイ: そんなことばかり言ってないで、思い切って告白 したら?

Tamachi: Aa, kataomoi-tte, tsurai nā.

Gurei: Sonna koto bakari itte-naide, omoikitte kokuhaku-shitara?

Tamachi: Ah, how painful unrequited love is.

Grey: Don’t keep saying such things, why don’t you take the plunge and confess (your love)?

The adjective つらい can mean “painful” or “hard,” and expresses both physical and mental anguish. It can also be expressed as the noun つらさ:

給料(きゅうりょう)は安(やす)いし、毎日(まいにち)残業(ざんぎょう)ばかりでつらい。 (Things are tough as [I have to work] so much overtime every day and [I have a] low salary.)

不眠症(ふみんしょう)のつらさは、経験者(けいけんしゃ)でないと分(わ)からない。 (You can’t understand the agony of insomnia unless you’ve experienced it.)

つらい can be written using kanji, 辛い, but this kanji has another reading that is used more often — からい, meaning spicy or hot:

すしにワサビが付(つ)いていると、辛(から)くて食(た)べられない。 (When wasabi is put on sushi, I can’t eat it cause it’s too hot.)

Situation 2: Ms. Aoyama is chatting with her senior colleague Ms. Gray about her ex-boyfriend at a cafe.

青山: 彼はきっと、私のことが忘れられなくてつらいから、一人でインドに行ってしまったんだと思います。

グレイ: あの…。言いづらいんだけど、彼は自分のことしか考えていないと思うわよ。

Aoyama: Kare wa kitto, watashi no koto ga wasurerarenakute tsurai kara, hitori de Indo ni itte-shimatta-n da to omoimasu.

Gurei: Ano… iizurai-n dakedo, kare wa jibun no koto shika kangaete-inai to omou wa-yo.

Aoyama: I think that he totally went to India by himself because he couldn’t forget me and it was painful.

Gray: Well … it’s hard to say this but I think he thinks of nothing other than himself.

つらい can combine with a verb (X) in the pattern Xづらい, which is almost similar to Xにくい, to express that it is difficult to do X for some reason:

鼻(はな)が詰(つ)まって息(いき)がしづらい。 (My nose is plugged up so it’s hard to breathe.)

課長(かちょう)に聞(き)こえそうだから、ここではちょっと話(はな)しづらい。 (The section chief can probably hear us so it’s hard to talk here.)

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Sere greets his colleague Mr. Mita at the office in the morning.

セレ: おはよう!

三田(みた): おはよう、セレくん。

セレ: あ、何(なん)だかひどい声(こえ)だね。

三田: うん。昨日(きのう)カラオケで歌(うた)いすぎて、喉(のど)を痛(いた)めたらしい。声が出(だ)しづらいんだ。

セレ: 歌いすぎもあるけど、飲(の)みすぎもあるよね?昨日は千葉(ちば)くんと二人(ふたり)でやけ酒(ざけ)を飲んだんだって?

三田: うん。二人とも失恋(しつれん)して、つらくて、飲まずにはいられなかったんだ。

セレ: 千葉くんが3年(さんねん)つき合(あ)った彼女(かのじょ)に振(ふ)られたのは知(し)ってるけど、三田くんはいつの間(ま)に彼女ができて、いつの間に振られたの?

三田: 千葉くんが、失恋でつらいから一緒(いっしょ)に飲んでくれって言(い)うから、二人でバーに行(い)ったら、女性(じょせい)の二人づれがいて、その一人(ひとり)に一目(ひとめ)ぼれしたんだ。それで、一緒に飲もうって誘(さそ)ったら、簡単(かんたん)に断(ことわ)られちゃって… 。

セレ: それが失恋?ちょっと気(き)が早(はや)いんじゃないかなあ。

Sere: Good morning!

Mita: Good morning, Sere.

Sere: Oh, your voice sounds a bit rough.

Mita: Yeah. Seems I sang too much at karaoke yesterday and hurt my throat. So it hurts to speak.

Sere: You sang too much and also drank too much? I heard you and Chiba went a bit overboard with the drinking last night, yeah?

Mita: Yeah. Both of us were broken-hearted and in a rough place, we couldn’t help but drink.

Sere: I knew Chiba was dumped by his girlfriend of three years but Mita, how did you get a girlfriend and get dumped so fast?

Mita: Chiba was painfully broken-hearted so he asked me to go for a drink with him. So we went to a bar and there were two women there, and I fell in love at first sight with one of them. So, I invited her for a drink with me and, simply put, she totally turned me down.

Sere: You mean, that’s a “broken heart”? I think it’s a bit early (in the relationship), isn’t it?