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すくない / わずか

すくない / わずか

すくない / わずか Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: い-Adjective

Essential Meaning: Few / A small number of

Construction: い-Adjective


  • すくない (すくない in kanji) is an い-Adjective that means “Few” or “A small number of“. Unlike most い-Adjectives, すくない is used as a predicate and can not directly precede a noun (except in cases when すくない is the predicate of a relative clause and is therefore not modifying the noun that it precedes).
    • E.g. すくないまちみたくありません。[I don’t want to live in a town that has few trees.] In this example すくない modifies rather than まち.
  • 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 すくない [Few] and すこしは [A few].
    • E.g. 日本語にほんごがわかるアメリカじんすくない。[There are few Americans who can speak Japanese.]
    • E.g. 日本語にほんごがわかるアメリカじんはすこしはいる。[There are a few Americans who can speak Japanese.]
  • わずか(だ) is similar but not identical to すくない. 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 すくない when it behaves as a predicate.
    • E.g. Adverb: そのときぼくはわずかにむっつでした。[At that time, I was merely six years old.]
    • E.g. Pre-nominal Adjective: わずかなおかねらしている。[I live on a small amount of money.]
    • E.g. Predicate: わたしっているおかねはわずかだ。[The money that I possess is very small in number.]

Example Sentences:

このまちはいいレストランがすくない。[There are few good restaurants in this town.]

この大学だいがく女子じょし学生がくせいすくないです。[There are few female students at this university.]

日本にほん犯罪はんざいすくない。[There are few crimes in Japan.]

日本語にほんごける外国人がいこくじん大変たいへんすくない。[There is a very small number of foreigners who can write in Japanese.]

WILD Examples:

Listen to this line from 2:24: あれから一度いちどなみだながしてないよ、でも本気ほんきわらうこともすくない [I haven’t cried once since then, but at the same there have been few things to laugh heartily about]
Listen to this line at 2:52: わずかにえた、あのそらこう [I merely saw it, beyond that sky]
Listen to this line at 0:50: かれはアパートで一人暮ひとりぐらし、趣味しゅみすくない [He lives alone in an apartment, and he doesn’t have many hobbies]

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