Criticizing: くせに・くせして

第66課: Criticizing: くせに・くせして

Everyone has bad habits, tendencies, or mannerisms. On top of that, everyone in the world loves to complain and ridicule the bad qualities of others—sometimes themselves as well. In Japanese, one of the most effective ways of ridiculing others for something is done so by using the word 癖, which literally means “habit” in the negative sense.

In this lesson, we will learn how this word is used in the grammar expression くせに, which is seen in cruder contexts asくせして, to mean “even though/in spite of” when used to express annoyance, criticism, anger, etc. 


As mentioned in the introduction, 癖’s basic meaning is to describe habits, mainly bad ones although not limited to them. For instance, “biting one’s nails” would be つめくせ and “waking up early” can be expressed with 早起はやおきのくせ.

1. わるくせなおすには、どうしたらいいでしょうか。
What should I do to fix a bad habit?

2. このあじくせになりますね!
I’m going to get hooked to this taste!

In Ex. 2, you can see how X{が・は}くせになる is used to mean “to get hooked to X.” Interestingly, 癖 may also refer to kinks and curls in things like hair, rugs, etc. For instance, “to straighten out one’s hair” can be expressed with かみくせなおす and the word 癖毛くせげ means “frizzy/unruly hair.”

The pattern 癖に, usually written out as くせに, attaches to nouns, adjectives, adjectival nouns, and verbs as demonstrated in the chart below. Its meaning, as mentioned in the introduction, is “even though/in spite of” and is used when describing annoyance, criticism, anger, a complaint, etc. It is semantically synonymous with the particle のに with the only true difference being the extremely negative connotations implied by くせに.

 Nouns Noun + の・である + くせに 男おとこ{の・である}くせに
 Even though you’re a man… 
 Adjectives Adj. + くせに ふるいくせに
Even though it’s old…
 Adjectival Nouns Adj. Noun + な + くせに 簡単かんたんなくせに
Even though it’s easy…
 Verbs Verb + くせに うくせに
In spite of buying…

Grammar Note: Noun + であるくせに is not used in the spoken language and is seen in somewhat old-fashioned speech.

Below are example sentences of くせに following the various parts of speech as shown in the table above to show an array of negative critical connotations.

3. 彼女かのじょって大人おとなのくせに、まだ母親ははおや洗濯せんたくしてもらってるそうだ。
I hear that she still has her mom do her laundry even though she’s an adult.

4. 健太君けんたくん子供こどものくせに、全然外ぜんぜんそとあそびたがらないの。
Kenta doesn’t want to play outside all even though he’s a kid.

5. 田中たなかさんは、日本人にほんじんのくせに、日本語にほんごはなすのがきじゃないみたいですねえ。
Mr. Tanaka, despite being Japanese, doesn’t appear to like speaking Japanese, huh.

6. あのひと新卒者しんそつしゃのくせに、よくなんでもってるようにしゃべったりしますね。
Despite being a new graduate, that person sure often talks like he knows everything, huh.

7. 彼女かのじょ、コメディアンのくせに、全然面白ぜんぜんおもしろくないよ。
She isn’t funny at all despite being a comedian.

8. 「おとこのくせに」や、「おんなのくせに」などといったかたはセクハラになりるとえよう。
One could say that expressions like “even though you’re a man” or “even though you’re a woman” can be treated as forms of sexual harassment.

9. 野生動物やせいどうぶつのくせにうごきがにぶいな。
It’s slow moving despite being a wild animal, huh.

10. ワニのくせに海水かいすいもへっちゃらなんだぁ。
Huh, sea water isn’t even a big deal even though it’s an alligator.

Spelling Note: ワニ can seldom be seen spelled as 鰐.

11. 中国人ちゅうごくじんのくせに爆買ばくかいしないなんておかしい!
It’s so strange that he/she won’t spend like crazy despite being Chinese!

12. 猪原いはらあたまわるいくせに、人気にんきがあってうらやましい!
I’m so jealous that Ihara is popular even though he’s dumb!

13. 本当ほんとう元気げんきなくせになまけやがって!
How dare you slack off when you’re actually fine!

14. 自分じぶん馬鹿ばかなくせにひと馬鹿ばかにするひと大嫌だいきらい。
I hate people who make others out to be idiots even though they themselves are idiots.

15. かしこいくせに、おかしなことをかんがえるんだね。
You sure think a lot of crazy stuff for someone who’s wise.

16. 学歴がくれきがないくせにプライドだけたかおとこ、めっちゃきらいなの!
I really hate men who only have pride with no education!

17. あんた、戦争せんそう経験けいけんもないくせに戦争せんそうあこがれをつんじゃねーぞ。
You don’t yearn for war when you’ve never experienced war!

18. あたしの彼氏かれしね、ってるくせにおしえてくれないわ。
My boyfriend, you know, knows but he won’t tell/teach me.

19. やったくせにらんぷりするんじゃないぞ!
Don’t act like you don’t know when you’re the one who did it!

20. それだけの怪我けがしたくせに?
Even though that’s all you’re hurt?

21. 3さんかいずかしい失敗しっぱいをしちゃったくせに、今更何いまさらなにずかしいの?
What are you so embarrassed about now? You’ve already failed three times…

22. なんだ、自分じぶんがミスしたくせに・・・
What? Even though you yourself have messed up…


In far critical, often derogatory contexts, くせに can be seen as くせして. This implies slightly older grammar in which に and して share some degree of interchangeability with the latter being more emphatic, thus this form of the expression.

23. おれって、日本人にほんじんのくせして仏教ぶっきょうについてはとんと門外漢もんがいかんだよ。
Even though I’m Japanese, I’m a complete outsider about Buddhism.

24. 帰国子女きこくしじょくせしてそんなのもらないってわけか。
So you don’t even know stuff like that despite being a kikoku shijo, huh?

Word Note: 帰国子女 refers to children of Japanese expatriates who then return to Japan. 

25. 日本人にほんじんのくせして、日本語にほんご文法ぶんぽうがからっきしダメだ。
Even though I’m Japanese, my Japanese grammar is absolutely hopeless.