Language | WELL SAID

People won't throw you under the bus if you're able to use 'kuse ni' correctly

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Gakusei no kuse ni, sugoi supōtsu kā de shukkin shite-iru yo. (Despite being a student he’s been coming to work in a really nice sports car.)

Situation 1: Two work colleagues are gossiping about a new part-time worker.

三田: 先週入ったバイトの石田くん、学生のくせに、すごいスポーツカーで出勤しているよ。

グレイ: うん、知っている。会社の向かいのデパートに駐車しているそうだけど、すごくお金がかかるよね。

Mita: Senshū haitta baito no Ishida-kun, gakusei no kuse ni, sugoi supōtsu kā de shukkin shite-iru yo.

Gurei: Un, shitte-iru. Kaisha no mukai no depāto ni chūsha shite-iru sō da kedo, sugoku o-kane ga kakaru yo ne.

Mita: Ishida, the part-timer who joined (our company) last week, despite being a student he’s been coming to work in a really nice sports car.

Gray: Yeah, I know. I heard he parks it at the department store parking lot across the street from our company, it must cost a lot of money.

The pattern Xくせに、Y (despite X, Y) consists of the noun くせ, which can mean “bad habit,” and the particle に. In this structure, “X” is the noun-modifying form of a noun, adjective or verb, and “Y” is a phrase or clause that is contradictory to “X.” The pattern expresses the speaker’s sense of reproach or blame toward someone, or for when they speak ill of someone. The key pattern in Situation 1 indicates that Mr. Mita feels the part-timer, Ishida, who is a student, shouldn’t be driving such an expensive car. くせに can be translated as “despite,” “even though” or “yet.”

元気(げんき)なくせに、病気(びょうき)のふりをしている。 (He feels well and yet he’s pretending to be sick.)

暇(ひま)なくせに忙(いそが)しいふりをしている。 (Although she has free time, she’s pretending to be busy.)

くせに can be replaced by のに, but くせに contains a stronger implication of reproach.

知(し)っているのに知らないふりをしている。 (She pretends she doesn’t know even though she does.)

Situation 2: Mrs. Okubo’s niece, Rina, visits her with her small children and complains about her husband.

里奈: うちの夫は、何も手伝わないくせに、文句ばかり言うの。ご飯がかたいとか、部屋が汚いとか…。

大久保: あら、若いのにめずらしいわね。私たちの時代は、みんなそんなものだったけど。

Rina: Uchi no otto wa, nani mo tetsudawanai kuse ni, monku bakari iu no. Gohan ga katai toka, heya ga kitanai toka ….

Okubo: Ara, wakai noni mezurashii wa ne. Watashi-tachi no jidai wa, minna sonna mono datta kedo.

Rina: My husband, he complains all the time even though he does nothing to help. The rice is hard, our place is dirty and so on….

Okubo: What, he’s young though, that’s rare. In our era, everyone was like that.

In Situation 2, Rina is complaining about her husband, using the Xくせに、Y pattern. Here, “X” (何も手伝わない) is a verb-phrase that uses the negative form of the verb 手伝(てつだ)う (to help).

何(なに)もしないくせに人(ひと)の批判(ひはん)ばかりする。 (He complains a lot about others even though he does nothing about it.)

Bonus Dialogue: When Takako passes by her elder brother, Mitsuo’s, room, she spots him playing video games.

たか子(こ): お兄(にい)ちゃん、またゲーム?先(さき)に勉強(べんきょう)しないと、またお母(かあ)さんが怒(おこ)るよ。

光男(みつお): うるさいな。たか子、妹(いもうと)のくせに生意気(なまいき)だ。

たか子: だって、お兄ちゃんがゲームばっかりしていると、お母さんがイライラして、私(わたし)にいろいろ手伝わせるんだもの。迷惑(めいわく)だよ。

光男: 母さんの手伝いをすることも、人生(じんせい)の大事(だいじ)な時間(じかん)だよ。がんばれ。

たか子: お兄ちゃんは、自分(じぶん)は全然(ぜんぜん)手伝わないくせに、いつもそんなことばかり言(い)う。

光男: 母さんの手伝いなら、よくやっているよ。

たか子: え?何を?

光男: 母さんはパソコンで困(こま)ったことがあると、急(きゅう)に優(やさ)しい声(こえ)で助(たす)けを求(もと)めてくるんだ。

たか子: あ、やっぱりパソコンなんだ…。

Takako: Oh, you’re playing video games again, brother? If you don’t study first, Mom will get angry again.

Mitsuo: Shut up. Takako, you are cheeky even though you’re my younger sister.

Takako: But when you’re just playing games, Mom gets irritated and makes me help her instead. It’s annoying.

Mitsuo: Helping Mom is also an important part of your life. Do your best!

Takako: You always say those kinds of things, even though you don’t help Mom at all.

Mitsuo: I help Mom quite often.

Takako: Huh? How?

Mitsuo: When Mom has a problem with her computer, she’ll suddenly ask me for help in that gentle voice of hers.

Takako: Oh, I knew it. Always with the computer…

Coronavirus banner