Language | WELL SAID

Expressing a sense of degree with 'kurai'

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing writers

Namida ga deru kurai itakatta yo. (It hurt so much I thought I was gonna cry.)

Situation 1: Mr. Mita notices a bump on Mr. Sere’s forehead.

三田: おでこ、どうしたの?赤くなっている。

セレ: ドアに頭をぶつけてしまったんだ。涙が出るくらい痛かったよ。

Mita: Odeko, dō shita no? Akaku natte-iru.

Sere: Doa ni atama o butsukete-shimatta-n-da. Namida ga deru kurai itakatta yo.

Mita: (Your) forehead, what happened? It’s getting red.

Sere: I totally banged my head on the door. It hurt so much I thought I was gonna cry.

The particle くらい (which is sometimes read ぐらい) is often translated as “about” or “approximately”:

駅(えき)から会社(かいしゃ)まで5分(ごふん)くらいです。(It takes about five minutes from the station to our company.)

However, くらい can also be used to express the degree of something in the pattern “XくらいY.” In Situation 1, Sere hit his head and it hurt (Y) to the degree that he almost started crying (X). Note that he didn’t actually cry, for which the sentence would be 痛(いた)くて涙(なみだ)が出(で)た (It hurt and I cried). Other examples include:

彼(かれ)がパーティに来(く)ると聞(き)いて、飛(と)び上(あ)がりたいくらい嬉(うれ)しかった。(I heard he was coming to the party and I wanted to jump for joy, I was so happy.)

昨日(きのう)、家具(かぐ)が揺(ゆ)れるぐらいの地震(じしん)が起(お)きた。(An earthquake strong enough to shake the furniture struck yesterday.)

あの店(みせ)のカレーは口(くち)から火(ひ)が出るくらい辛(から)かった。(That shop’s curry was so spicy that it felt like fire would come out of my mouth.)

Situation 2: Continued from Situation 1.

三田: 医務室に行かなくて大丈夫?

セレ: いやいや、ちょっとぶつけたくらい、すぐに治るよ。

Mita: Imushitsu ni ikanakute daijōbu?

Sere: Iya iya, chotto butsuketa kurai, sugu ni naoru yo.

Mita: Are you OK not going to the doctor’s office?

Sere: No no, it was just a little bump, it’ll heal soon.

The Xくらい pattern can be used when the speaker thinks “X” is a trivial matter, or it can emphasize the minimum degree of something:

エクセルでグラフを作(つく)るくらい、簡単(かんたん)にできます。(I can easily create a graph using Excel.)

二人(ふたり)と食事(しょくじ)に行(い)く時間(じかん)はないけど、コーヒーくらいなら、付(つ)き合(あ)いますよ。(I don’t have time to go for a meal with the two of you, but if it’s coffee then I’ll tag along.)

小学生(しょうがくせい)でも首相(しゅしょう)の名前(なまえ)くらい知(し)っているよ。(Even an elementary school student would know the name of the prime minister.)

Bonus Dialogue: Teenage Takako asks her father about the housework.

たか子(こ):お父(とう)さんは、料理(りょうり)の作(つく)り方(かた)を学校(がっこう)で習(なら)った?

父(ちち):うーん、ぼくが高校生(こうこうせい)のころ、男子(だんし)には家庭科(かていか)の授業(じゅぎょう)がなかったんだ。2年(にねん)くらい後(あと)の生徒(せいと)は、習うようになったけど。それでも、簡単な料理くらいはできるよ。

たか子:じゃ、洗濯(せんたく)は?掃除(そうじ)は?これからは男(おとこ)の人(ひと)も自分(じぶん)のことくらいできなければならないって、先生(せんせい)が言(い)っていた。

父:うちはお母(かあ)さんが家事(かじ)をちゃんとしてくれるから、任(まか)せているなあ。

たか子:そういう人は、年(とし)とって一人(ひとり)になったら、困(こま)るんだって。お父さんもやった方(ほう)がいいよ。[立(た)ち去(さ)る]

父の独り言(ひとりごと):うーん、そのとおりだ。ぼくもしなくちゃいけないな。…でも、光男(みつお)は大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)だ。あの子は食(た)べることには、熱心(ねっしん)で、みんながびっくりするくらい上手(じょうず)に作(つく)ることもあるから。勉強(べんきょう)は好(す)きじゃなくても、一(ひと)つぐらいはいいところがあるもんだ。

Takako: Dad, did you learn how to cook at school?

Father: Well, when I was at high school, there weren’t home economics lessons for boys. The students about two years after me came to start learning it though. Even so, I’m able to cook simple dishes.

Takako: OK then, how about laundry? How about sweeping? My teacher was saying, from now on, men must at least be able to take care of themselves.

Father: In our house, Mom does the housework properly, so I leave it to her.

Takako: People like that, when they get older, will be in trouble. I think you’d better do it yourself, Dad. [Leaves]

Father to himself: Well, I do agree. I’ve got to do it too. … But, Mitsuo is OK. That kid is so into eating that he can cook well enough to surprise us all. He may not like studying, but he’s got that one good thing at least.

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