Expressing difficulty with "hao (bu) rongyi"
好不容易 (hǎo bù róngyì) means "very difficult" or "really not easy." It is often used where the speaker wants to comment on the result of their hard work, something like "It was really hard for me to x, but then I realized y."
Adverbial Structure with 才
Sentences using 好不容易 are often followed by 才 (cái), emphasizing the action has been completed only with great difficulty.
Strange as it might seem, 好容易 has the same meaning as 好不容易, and can be used interchangeably. 好不容易 is more common.
Subj. + 好 (不) 容易 + 才 + [Result]
The "result" part can be a simple phrase or a whole clause.
- 她 好容易 才 减肥 成功。She had a hard time losing weight and succeeded..
- 我 好不容易 才 打通 了 银行 的 服务 热线 。It was no easy task to get through to the bank's customer service hotline.
- 我们 好不容易 才 做完 这 个 项目，结果 合同 取消 了。It was with great difficulty that we finally finished this project. But then the contract was canceled.
- 我 好不容易 才 到 市中心， 发现 没 带 手机，只好 回去 拿。It was a lot of trouble to get to the city center, but then I realized I had forgotten my cell phone and had to go back and get it.
- 金融 危机 之后 他 好不容易 才 找到 工作，现在 又 辞职 了 。After the financial crisis, he had a hard time finally finding a job. And now he's resigning.
- 他们 好不容易 才 爬 到 了 山顶，结果 下起 了 大雨 。With great difficulty, they finally climbed to the top of the mountain. And then it started raining heavily.
- 老师 好容易 才 让 学生 订正 了 错误 的 句子。The teacher had a difficult time making the students correct the wrong sentences.
Adjectival Structure (without 才)
Verb / [Verb Phrase] + 好容易 / 好不容易
In this simpler structure we use 好(不)容易 by itself to express “with great difficulty”. At the end of the sentence particles such as 啊 or 哦 will also often be used to add emotion.
- 要 完成 这 个 大 项目 好不容易 啊。Finishing this big project will not be an easy task.
- 养 大 一 个 孩子 好不容易。Raising a child is not an easy thing to do.
- 创办 一 个 公司 好不容易 啊。Starting a company isn't easy.
Sources and further reading
- Boya Chinese Lower Intermediate 2 (博雅汉语准中级加速篇) (pp. 100，110-11) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 (pp. 77-8) 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 →buy