Easy I: ~やすい

第116課: Easy I: ~やすい

It would be easy enough to learn how to say “easy” if it weren’t for the fact that Japanese has multiple ways of saying “easy” as well as distinguishing “it’s easy to do…” from a simple “X is easy” statement. Although a dozen things to think about to say “easy” isn’t easy at all, let’s get started!

※Some content once in this lesson has been removed while it is being remastered into separate lessons. In the meantime, content for ~がたい and ~づらい will not be available. Thank you for your understanding. 

“Easy” Adjectives 「Easy」を意味する表現

1. 口にするのは簡単だが、実行するのは難しい。
Saying is easy, but doing is hard.

In this example, we see the adjectival noun 簡単な meaning “easy.” As “easy” as that may seem, this word alone presents us with the trouble that most individual words have, which is that 簡単 has more than one nuance, and when it comes down to using it correctly in comparison to other options, or when trying to translate it into English, “easy” may just be one of several options. In the case of 簡単な, its other nuance is “brief/quick,” unlike this explanation. 

2. 簡単なことだよ。
It’s really (quick and) easy/simple.

3. 簡単なことから始めるのがコツだ。
Starting with the easy things is the trick.

4. お皿に料理を載せるだけの簡単な仕事じゃないですか。
The work is so easy, isn’t it just putting plating food?

5. 簡単な単語だけしかないのに難しい。
All there is are simple words, but it’s still difficult.

The other words for “easy” are pretty straightforward, but they each exhibit their unique nuances, and it is not the case that they’re entirely interchangeable with each other. The words that we’ll look at now are those which any beginner or intermediate learner will come across.

単語 定義
たやすいThis word describes things that can easily be carried out. It also has the secondary meaning of “to be light on,” which itself is an extension of taking something as not causing too much trouble. It’s spelled in Kanji as 容易い.
 やさしいTechnically the same word as 優しい meaning “kind,” it refers to ease. It describes things that are simple, readily comprehensible, and easy to learn. It’s frequently used with words like 問題 (problem), 言葉 (word/language), 人 (person), etc. Its Kanji spelling is 易しい.
 容易(な)The Sino-Japanese version of たやすい, it is identical in meaning. Due to it being Sino-Japanese, it is not as common in the spoken language, but using it in conversation is done on occasion in precise contexts. 
 イージー(な)Taken from the English “easy,” it is used more so in the same sense as たやすい, and it has also gained the nuance of “quick (to do)” and “handy.”
 楽(な)  This adjectival noun refers to “ease” and “comfort.” It is used in a range of contexts from peace of mind to doing something without trouble. So, unlike some of these words like やさしい, the focus is not on something that’s just easily comprehendable, but rather, the situation is done with ease. Thus, it would not be a good substitute for たやすい or 容易な if the “plain/straightforward” situation doesn’t solve the problem. With 楽な, there are no problems. It’s that simple
 簡単(な)Although it can still refer to things that don’t take much time or effort, its mostly used to mean “simple and straightforward,” and in other words, “easy to maneuver/understanding.” Despite being Sino-Japanese, it is heavily used in both the spoken and written languages. This word is thought to be an abbreviation of 簡易で手短だ (simple and brief), indicating that the mean of “simple/brief” is its literal meaning. To stress this nuance, the spelling 簡短 is allowed but rather rare. 

Before delving into a lot of example sentences, there are a few specific comparisons that ought to be made first.


i. Though both 簡単な and やさしい overlap in describing things that may be easy to comprehend, the former simply indicates the simplicity of something whereas the latter suggests that the situation is still easily comprehensible even if carrying the situation out may still pose a challenge.

6. 日本語がやさしいというのは噓だよね。

Saying that Japanese is easy is a lie.

Even if it were relatively easy for someone to learn Japanese, and even if the person weren’t struggling to comprehend the grammar and how to use words, learning a language itself is still a major undertaking. In that sense, Japanese would certainly not be 簡単.

ii. Where たやすい and 容易な differ from the others is that though they refer to “easy” situations, the plain and simple they reference may not actually cut it. 

7. 【たやすい・容易な】ことではとても到達できない。

There’s no way one will attain it through [simple/[plain] means. 

iii. Loanwords from English abound in Japanese, and many speakers have this rather unfounded fear that these words are slowly eating away at existing words for the same things. However, in the case of イージーな, it has already adapted its unique Japanese-made nuances which at first glance bear resemblance to “easy” but could just as easily or more naturally be worded as something else in English proper. 

8. スローでイージーなルーティンで過ごしている。
I have a slow and easy/carefree routine.

9. イージーで履き心地のいいパンツを履くのが好きです。
I love wearing underpants that are simple/handy and feel good. 

iv. You may have noticed that 簡易 was in the chart with the meaning of “simple/convenient.” It is just one of still many other synonyms out there. However, because the remaining synonyms are more nuanced and advanced in nature, we’ll leave those words to our second instillation of this topic. 

v. We learned at the start of this section that 簡単な has more than one meaning and that words in general are guilty of this nuance game. English words are just as guilty. Think about the word “easy.” What is meant by, “he’s so easy”? Were you talking about the guy being “easily tricked” or about how he’s “promiscuous”? Either way, the Japanese ‘options’ and their implications would be just as varied. 

Even then, we still would just be touching the surface on the other numerous idioms and various other meanings of the word “easy” that cannot just be paraphrased with a synonym like “simple.” These nuances would, understandably, require different Japanese translations. So as not to totally detract from the conversation at hand in this lesson, the topic on how to go about saying these other “easy” expressions will be left for our second instillation.


10. 担当者さん、もうちょっとやさしい日本語で例文を書いてみたらいかがでしょうか。
Director, how about you try making example sentence with a little easier Japanese? 

11. ビザ取得と生活を営むことはたやすいことではないだろう。
Obtaining a visa and going about one’s life is likely no easy task. 

12. 簡単な食事で済ませたい。
I want to get through with a simple meal.

13. 楽な問題を選ばないで、難しい問題にチャレンジしてよかった。
I’m glad that I challenged myself with difficult problems by not choosing easy problems.

14. 私たちが抱えている大きな問題の解決は容易ではないと承知している。
We recognize that the solution to the major problem we carry is not easy. 

15. フリックするようにイージー!
(It’s) easy as flicking!

Word Note: Typing in Japanese on smart devices involves a form of swiping known as フリック入力. The user presses their finger lightly on four-directional character pads for each column of sounds depicted with Kana, and in doing so, any word is just a flick or two away. Although “flicking” would be the correct verb in English, for someone who has never typed in Japanese before on a phone, Ex. would not be so easy to understand. 

Adverb Forms 「Easy」を意味する単語の副詞形

As there is nothing irregular to these adjectives’ conjugation capabilities, the adverbial forms shown in the right-hand column below should be easily recognizable. 

形容(動詞)形 副詞形
簡単(な)   簡単に
容易(な)   容易に
たやすい   たやすく
やさしい   やさしく  
 楽(な)   楽に
 イージー(な)   イージーに

16. 先生はいつも内容をやさしくかみ砕いて説明してくださいます。
Sensei always explanations content by breaking it down.

Word Note: This is an example of a context in which やさしい can be interpreted as both 易しい and 優しい.

17. 犯罪がここで起こるのは容易に想像(が)できる。
I can easily imagine crime occurring here.

18. 世の中で、嘘をつく人間がたやすく成功することがある。
In this world, there are times when people who lie succeed with ease.

19. 基礎をしっかり固めておけば、大半の問題は楽に解けたのでしょう。

If [I/you] had gotten the basics down, [I/you] would’ve easily been able to solve most of the problems.

20. 難易度をイージーにした。
I changed the difficulty to easy.


At long last, it’s time to discuss ~やすい. First, let’s go down memory lane.

21. 言うはやすく行うは難し。
Saying is easy, but doing is hard.

We saw the Modern Japanese version of this same sentence as Ex. 1. Although this discussion is about how to say “easy,” you may be wondering how ~やすい connects with 安い (cheap). After all, native words with the same pronunciation but with different Kanji spellings are more or less the same word with layered nuances. 

In the past, the meaning of “cheap” was not the primary meaning of やすい. Instead, as the Kanji 安 suggests, it meant “calm/peaceful,” which has been taken over by 安らか in modern speech. When written with the Kanji 易, it had the meaning of “simple” and “easygoing.” However, even when 安 was used, it could still mean “carefree,” and by extension, people of no value due to their carefree nature, which led to the broad meaning of “cheap.” 

Nonetheless, its meaning of “easy” lives on in ~やすい, an ending that attaches to the 連用形 of verbs as follows.

Verb Class +~やすい
一段 Verbs着やすい (easy to wear) 食べやすい (easy to eat)
五段 Verbs 飼いやすい (easy to raise (animal))書きやすい (easy to write)泳ぎやすい (easy to swim)話しやすい (easy to talk)勝ちやすい (easy to win)死にやすい (to easily die)読みやすい (easy to read)売りやすい (easy to sell)
 する しやすい (easy to do)
 来る 来(き)やすい (easy to come)

22. お箸では食べやすいよ。
(It)’s easy to eat with chopsticks.

23. 人間は死にやすい動物だ。
Humans are animals that easily die.

24. この場所は埼玉から来やすいよ。
This place is easy to arrive at from Saitama.

25. 説明自体は長いかもしれないけど、「いまび」先生の説明は他の先生よりわかりやすいと思います。
Although the explanations themselves might be long, IMABI Sensei’s explanations are easier to understand than other those of other sensei. 

26. 「山」という字は実際の山と形が似ているので、覚えやすいですね。
The character “山” is easy to remember because its shape resembles an actual mountain, huh.

27. この問題は間違えやすいからよーく注意してください。
This problem is easy to mess up, so please pay very clo~se attention.

Particle Use

~やすい can be described as having two distinct nuances depending on the volition or lack thereof implied by the verb. When it’s used with volitional verbs, it shows “how easy” something can be done. When it’s used with non-volitional verbs, it shows tendency, and even for these verbs, the tendency ‘easily’ occurs. 

28. この薬は意外にも美味しくて飲みやすい。 Volitional Verb
This medicine is surprisingly delicious and easy to drink.

29. 白いシャツは汚れやすい。 Non-Volitional Verb
White shirts are easily dirtied. 

30. この靴は走りやすい。Volitional Verb
These shoes are easy to run in.

31. この季節は洗濯物が乾きやすくない。 Non-Volitional Verb

As for this season, laundry [doesn’t easily dry/tends not to dry well]. 

As for volitional verbs, at times, the ease of the action may be an emotional ease rather than a physical ease.

32. 夜中でも歩きやすい。

It’s easy to walk even at night.

What may be more confusing in a grammatical sense is how the particle を seems to show up with both volitional and nonvolitional verbs alike under predictable circumstances. 

The first such situation is when the verb phrase it attaches to can be viewed as a single word made of multiple parts, one of which incidentally being を.

33. 以前と比べて、風邪を引きやすくなった。
I now more easily catch colds compared to before.

34. 最近怪我をしやすくなった気がする。
I feel like I’ve become more easily injured as of late.

The second situation involves contexts with non-volitional verbs that still possess an object. Replacing を with が in either of the next two sentences would alter the meaning and make the sentences unnatural.

35. その菌を殺しやすい抗生物質ではないと効果がありません。(Volitional Verb)
There will be no effect if it isn’t an antibiotic that will easily kill that bacteria.

To use が naturally after 菌, you would need to use the potential form of 殺す, which 殺せる. The reason why a speaker would opt for 殺しやすい instead of the potential form would be to emphasize how ‘容易に’ the antibiotic needs to act. Antibiotics don’t have minds of their own, but if they don’t work with ease, the bacteria could gain the upper hand. By using the otherwise volitional verb 殺す, though, the speaker is personifying the antibiotic as an agent. The use of を here actually mimics how it’s used with the potential form, and although the morphology of ~やすい is adjectival, the phrase 殺しやすい in this sentence maintains a verbal quality. 

36. 整理整頓するのが苦手な人にはよく物を落としやすい傾向がある。
There is a tendency in people who are bad at organizing to easily drop things.

In this sentence, it is not the case that the items are easily dropped. Rather, the people drop things habitually. The habit, in turn, is what easily occurs. Thus, these instances can be rationalized no differently than Exs. 28-29. 


Having looked at the last few examples, it might strike you as odd that ~やすい would be combined with ~(ら)れる. Yet, there are plenty of examples of this. 

37. 人に顔を覚えられやすいです。
People easily remember my face.

In this sentence, the passive voice is used in the Japanese version, but it’s no different in meaning than the English active voice equivalent. When the passive voice is intended with ~やすい, the verb is non-volitional in nature, meaning that ~やすい is showing the ease in tendency. 

In ‘correct’ grammar, ~やすい should not be used with potential verbs as that would be redundant. Although examples of this can be heard, it is mostly frowned upon. The potential for confusion between whether the potential or passive sense is meant only occurs with 一段 verbs as examples of ~やすい with 五段 verbs simply don’t exist in natural, proper speech. This is indicative of ~(ら)れやすい being restricted to the passive sense.

Further proof of this is how 出来やすい is interpreted. Although 出来る can mean “can do,” it also has the broader meaning of “to be made,” which is how it is interpreted when used with ~やすい. 

38. 青痣が出来やすい。
I easily bruise.

39. 尿路結石が出来やすい。
I easily get kidney stones.

40. 口内炎が出来やすい。
I get mouth ulcers easily.