Grammar Info

N3 Lesson 1: 10/22


Very, Quite, Considerably


なかなか + Adjective
なかなか + + Noun


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About なかなか

なかなか (or 中々(なかなか) in kanji) is an adverb in Japanese that is frequently translated as 'very', or 'considerably'. It is regularly paired directly with other adjectives, or before nouns (with の coming between なかなか and the noun).
  • ここラーメンは中々(なかなか)美味(おい)しいね。
    This ramen shop is pretty good.
  • ミムラさんなかなか可愛(かわい)よ。
    Mimura-san is very cute.
  • あのシェフ(つく)るパスタはなかなか(もの)
    The pasta that the chef makes is very good.
  • (もと)カノはなかなか美人(びじん)でした性格(せいかく)(わる)かったので(わか)れました。
    My ex-girlfriend was considerably beautiful, but her personality was bad, so I broke up with her.
なかなか can also sometimes have the nuance of being something that is 軽視(けいし)がたい. This basically translates as 'difficult to dismiss', but is a bit closer to English expressions like 'nothing to scoff at', or 'not to be taken lightly'.
  • なかなか(こと)してくれた。こんな(こと)(きゃく)さんどう説明(せつめい)たらいい
    You have done something that is difficult to dismiss, haven't you? How am I supposed to explain this to our client? (What you did cannot be taken lightly. How am I supposed to explain what has happened to our client?)
Fun Fact
なかなか highlights that something is 'considerably/extremely (A)', or 'far more (A) than expected'. If we imagine a dartboard, where the whole board shows the intensity level of a specific word, and なかなか represents the bullseye, this is basically the nuance. '(A) is the middle (bullseye) example of (B)'.
  • 先月(せんげつ)(はじ)たばかりなのなかなか上手(じょうず)じゃないか
    You just started last month? You are quite a lot better than I expected!
Fun Fact
なかなか, coming from the kanji (なか) meaning 'within', can be thought to mean the 'middle' or 'most' (A).


  • ここ会員(かいいん)になるのはなかなか(むずか)しい

    Becoming a member here is considerably difficult.

  • 富士(ふじ)登山(とざん)なかなか大変(たいへん)です。

    Reaching the top of Mt. Fuji is quite grueling.

  • この()()()なかなかのものです。

    The paintings that this child paints are quite (extraordinary).

  • それなかなか(きび)しい注文(ちゅうもん)ですね。

    That is quite a harsh request.

  • この作品(さくひん)なかなか出来栄(できば)えです

    This piece (of art) is quite good.

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    • みんなの日本語 I

      Page 116 [CH 18]

    • Tobira

      Page 146

    • [AIAIJ] An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese

      Page 36

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なかなか – Grammar Discussion

Most Recent Replies (5 in total)

  • Ambo100


    The reference to the AIAIJ resource only describes the negative use of the grammar (なかなか~ない) meaning ‘not easily’ so I think it should be moved here instead.

  • hungryghost


    The “fun fact” section describes this word as having a nuance of “bulls-eye example” or “middle example” originally deriving from the kanji 中, meaning “middle”:

    Coming from the kanji , meaning ‘middle’, なかなか highlights that something is ‘a prime example of (A)’, or ‘far more (A) than expected’. If we imagine a dartboard, where the whole board shows the intensity level of a specific word, and なかなか represents the bullseye, this is basically the nuance. ‘(A) is the middle (bullseye) example of (B)’.

    I wasn’t able to find this nuance in my dictionary (旺文社国語辞典 第十一版) however and the etymology seems to be different:

    🈩 (副)
    ① ずいぶん。かなり。相当に。「―上手だ」
    ② 容易には。とうてい。「―うまくできない」
    ③ ⦅古⦆なまじっか。
    ④ ⦅古⦆かえって。むしろ。
    🈔 (形動ナリ)⦅古⦆
    ① 中途はんぱなさま。どっちつかずだ。
    ② なまじ…しても無益だ。ばからしい。
    🈪 (感)⦅古⦆

  • Asher


    Hi there, and thanks for getting in touch!

    Sorry for the confusion with the fun fact. Our goal was just to mention that it comes from the kanji 中, being that it is frequently written in hiragana. We try not to include any etymological information in the beginner level writeups.

    I can see how the way it was written would make it seem like we were talking about the “far more (A) than expected” section in a way that made them seem related to the previous “coming from …” clause.

    As the primary nuance that this particular point expresses is high intensity “ずいぶん。かなり。相当に。「―上手だ」” (either positive or negative), that is why the ‘middle’ example was given (with the bulls-eye indicating the highest level of intensity). As a ruler doesn’t imply any kind of ‘middle’, that is why we didn’t originally go with that type of explanation. Upon reflection though, we can definitely see how the dart-board analogy may also be a bit confusing, so will change it a spectrum analogy that i...

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