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 do to do x, but then I realized y."
Adverbial Structure with 才
Sentences using 好不容易 are often followed by 才, emphasizing the action has been completed later than expected. Strange as it might seem, 好容易 has the same meaning as 好不容易, and can be used interchangeably.
Subj. + 好容易 / 好不容易 + 才 + Verb，[Result Sentence]
- 我们 好不容易 才做完这个项目，结果 合同 取消 了。With great difficulty, we finally finished this project. As a result, the contract is up.
- 我 好不容易 才 到 市 中心， 却 发现 没 带 手机，只好 回去 拿。It took me a long time to reach the city center, 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 finding a job. Now he's resigning.
- 我 好不容易 才 打通 了 银行 的 服务 热线。It was so hard for me to get my call through to the bank service hotline.
- 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. Then it started raining heavily.
Adjectival Structure (without 才)
Verb / [Verb Phrase] + 好容易 / 好不容易
In this structure one can only use “好(不)容易” to express “with great difficulty”. At the end of the sentence particles such as “啊” or “哦” will also often be used to emphasize 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) [ →buy]
- 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 (pp. 77-8) [ →buy]