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Expressing "difficult" with "nan"

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难 (nán) is an adjective that means "difficult." When something is "hard to do" (as in difficult), the word 难 (nán) can be used before the verb.

难 (nán) with General Verbs

Just as 好 (hǎo) can be used to indicate that it's easy to do something, 难 (nán) can be attached to verbs (with a few special exceptions), to indicate that something is hard to do.

Structure

The structure is:

Subj. + (很) 难 + Verb

Examples

  • 这 句 话 很 难 懂Zhè jù huà hěn nán dǒng.This sentence is hard to understand.
  • 汉语 很 难 学Hànyǔ hěn nán xué.Mandarin is hard to learn.
  • 中国菜 很 难 做Zhōngguó cài hěn nán zuò.Chinese food is hard to make.
  • 这 个 东西 现在 很 难 买Zhège dōngxi xiànzài hěn nán mǎi. This thing is really difficult to purchase now.
  • 这 个 汉字 很 难 写Zhège Hànzì hěn nán xiě.This character is very difficult to write.

难 (nán) with Sense Verbs

难 (nán) can also be attached to "sense verbs" (e.g. look, taste, smell, etc.) to indicate that something offers a "bad sensory experience."

Structure

The structure is:

Subj. + (很) 难 + [Sense Verb]

Examples

  • 你 做 的 菜 很 难吃Nǐ zuò de cài hěn nánchī.The dishes you cook taste bad.
  • 这里 的 咖啡 很 难喝Zhè lǐ de kāfēi hěn nánhē.The coffee here tastes bad.
  • 这 首 歌 很 难听Zhè shǒu gē hěn nántīng.This song is terrible (hard to listen to).
  • 这 种 花 很 难闻Zhè zhǒng huā hěn nánwén.This kind of flower smells bad.
  • 这 件 衣服 很 难看吗?Zhè jiàn yīfu hěn nánkàn ma? Is this article of clothing ugly?

Warning! If you're trying to say that a particular dish is "difficult to eat," don't use 难吃 (nánchī)! The word 难吃 (nánchī) only means "bad-tasting" and not "difficult to eat."

See also

Sources and further reading

Books