542 - ことか
JLPT N2: ことか (how very...! // so...)
Let's get right to it:
ことか comes at the end of phrases when the speaker is expressing that something is "so X" that he or she cannot even describe or imagine it.
Now, before jumping to the conclusion that ことか means "I literally can't even right now," note that ことか is typically reserved for written language. You're pretty unlikely to hear someone using it in daily conversation.
That said, it is (I think) a fun grammar point. For example, we can say sentences like this one...
ふたご の にんしん を ほうこく した とき、 りょうしん が どんなに よろこんだ ことか。
I can’t imagine how happy my parents must have been when they found out I’ll [I'd] be having twins.
Literally: “twins + の + pregnancy + を + report / news + did + when, + (both) parents + が + how much + were pleased / were delighted + ことか.”
We have the phrase 両親がどんなに喜んだ, "how much my parents were delighted."
Add ことか, and we get "I can't imagine how happy my parents were."
You'll find that ことか commonly appears alongside words expressing degrees of things like どんなに (how much) and どれほど (how much) or words expressing surprise, shock, and so on, such as なんと (what a...; how [very]...), いったい (what the...?; [what] on earth?; [why] in the world?; etc.).
👷 Construction 👷
Just put a plain-form word in front of ことか. That's it!
PLAIN FORM ＋ ことか
Well, maybe it's not quite that simple, since for nouns and na-adjectives, "plain form" could mean a na-adjective followed by な or a noun or na-adjective followed by である.
We have examples of all of these in this lesson, so you'll see what I mean as you continue reading...
しごと の こと で なやんでいた とき、 いったい なんど かれ の ことば に すくわれた ことか。
Who knows how many times his (kind) words have saved me when I was stressed about work.
Literally: “work / job + の + こと (=stuff; things) + で + was being troubled by + when, + ...on earth / ...in the world (e.g. “how on earth;” “what in the world;” etc.) + how many times + he + の + words + に + was saved + ことか.”
しんさい で いえ も かぞく も うしない、 かせつじゅうたく で くらす ひび は、 どれだけ つらかった ことか。
I can’t describe how hard it was living in temporary housing just after losing my home and my family (members) in the earthquake.
Literally: “earthquake disaster + で + house + も + family + も + lose (and), + temporary housing + で + live + days + は, + how much + was painful / was difficult + ことか.”
らいげつ、 ストックホルム に すんでいる いとこ が とうきょう に あそび に くる。 なんと たのしみな ことか。
Next month my cousin that’s living in Stockholm is coming to visit me in Tokyo. I’m so excited.
Literally: “next month, + Stockholm + に + is living + cousin + が + Tokyo + に + coming to see [hang out] (= play + に + come). + how (very) + looking forward to + ことか.”
なんと ぎょうぎ の わるい こども である ことか。 おや の かお が みて みたい。
I can’t believe how bad that child’s manners are. I can only imagine what his parents are like.
Literally: “how (very) + manners + の + bad + child + である (=is) + ことか. + parent + の + face + が + want to see (=see [and] + みたい [want to see]).”
Note: 親の顔が見てみたい is more or less a set phrase. It is used when conjecturing that a parent must surely lack refinement, education, etc. after seeing their child's terrible behavior. In other words, the speaker is not saying that they want to inspect the parents' faces or something. It's a figure of speech.
You made it to the end of yet another lesson.
You're like some kind of lesson-devouring beast.