すくない / わずか Japanese Grammar Lesson
Grammar Type: い-Adjective
Essential Meaning: Few / A small number of
- すくない (少ない in kanji) is an い-Adjective that means “Few” or “A small number of“. Unlike most い-Adjectives, 少ない is used as a predicate and can not directly precede a noun (except in cases when 少ない is the predicate of a relative clause and is therefore not modifying the noun that it precedes).
- E.g. 木が少ない町に住みたくありません。[I don’t want to live in a town that has few trees.] In this example 少ない modifies 木 rather than 町.
- In English, there is a difference between “Few” and “A few” depending on whether the noun being referred to is restrictive or non-restrictive, as in “Few Americans can speak Japanese” vs “There are a few Americans who can speak Japanese“. The same distinction can be made in Japanese with 少ない [Few] and すこしは [A few].
- E.g. 日本語がわかるアメリカ人は少ない。[There are few Americans who can speak Japanese.]
- E.g. 日本語がわかるアメリカ人はすこしはいる。[There are a few Americans who can speak Japanese.]
- わずか(だ) is similar but not identical to 少ない. Specifically, わずか means “An insignificant number or amount of” and it can be used as an adverb, pre-nominal adjective, or predicate. わずか can only replace 少ない when it behaves as a predicate.
- E.g. Adverb: その時僕はわずかに六つでした。[At that time, I was merely six years old.]
- E.g. Pre-nominal Adjective: わずかなお金で暮らしている。[I live on a small amount of money.]
- E.g. Predicate: 私が持っているお金はわずかだ。[The money that I possess is very small in number.]
この町はいいレストランが少ない。[There are few good restaurants in this town.]
この大学は女子学生が少ないです。[There are few female students at this university.]
日本は犯罪が少ない。[There are few crimes in Japan.]
日本語が書ける外国人は大変少ない。[There is a very small number of foreigners who can write in Japanese.]
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