900 - ほど~はない

What would you say if you wanted to express your grammar dorkiness in Japanese?

Well, you could say:

Mastering a grammar point is really satisfying.

Or, you could master this lesson’s grammar point and flash your incredible nihongo skillz by saying:

There’s nothing as satisfying as mastering a grammar point.

Intrigued? I should hope so. Let’s go!

 

JLPT N3: ほど~はない (nothing is as supremely...as)

This grammar point is used when you want to emphasize that “A is the most B ever.” For example:

世界地図を見ながら旅行の計画を立てるほど楽しいことはない
せかいちず を みながら りょこう の けいかく を たてる ほど たのしい こと はない。
There’s nothing quite as fun as planning a trip while poring over a world map.
Literally: “world map + を + while looking + trip + の + plan + を + make + ほど + fun + thing + はない.”

In other words, A (planning a trip) is the most B (fun thing) ever.


仕事の後に飲むキンキンに冷えたビールほどおいしいものはない
しごと の あと に のむ キンキン に ひえた ビール ほど おいしい もの はない。
Nothing tastes quite as good as an ice-cold beer after work.
Literally: “work + の + after + に + drink + ice-cold + に + chilled + beer + ほど + delicious + thing + はない.”

A (an ice-cold beer) is the most B (delicious thing) ever.

As you can see from the above two sentences, A will either end in Vる or a NOUN, and B will be a noun phrase (i.e. a noun with a phrasal descriptor. If that sounds too technical, you can just think of it as a phrase with something like こと, もの, or some other noun at the end).

To break it down:

Vる (A) + ほど + noun phrase (B) + はない 
NOUN (A) + ほど + noun phrase (B) + はない

 

The thing you’re emphasizing doesn’t have to be positive, either. For example, you could say:

肩を骨折したほど痛かったことはありません
かた を こっせつ した とき ほど いたかった こと はありません。
I’ve never been in as much pain as when I fractured my shoulder.
Literally: “shoulder + を + bone fracture + did + time + ほど + hurt + thing + はありません.”


Hang on. Why is this one translated in the first person?

You might have noticed that, unlike the previous sentences, the i-adjective in the second clause (痛かった) is in the past tense. This implies that the speaker isn’t making a general statement, but talking about a specific thing that happened to them personally. 

Also, wouldn’t it sound odd to say “Nothing hurt more than a fractured shoulder”...? If you've ever spoken to someone in a language you're learning only for them to reply in English, I'm pretty sure you know what I mean. Savage.

 

☠️ Trades and Tribulations ☠️

You may remember that ほど is almost identical to くらい・ぐらい, so it should come as no surprise to you that くらい~はない can replace ほど~はない

うちのタマちゃんくらい可愛い猫はいないよね。
うち の タマちゃん くらい かわいい ねこ はいない よ ね。
Our Tama-chan is just the cutest cat ever, isn’t she?
Literally: “our family + の + Tama-chan + くらい + cute + cat + はいない + よ + ね.”


Sound familiar? If you have a good memory, you might remember it from [NDL #331] - JLPT N3: くらい~はない. This lesson also has a great explanation of the uses of くらい・ぐらい, if you want a refresher!

So, what’s the difference between くらい and ほど

Basically, ほど tends to sound slightly more polite/stiff – but not to the extent where you’ll offend anyone if you use くらい in polite conversation.

In other words, Japanese is pretty chill when it comes to which one you use with this grammar point. Don’t worry about it, man...

 

Okay, here’s the fun part where we learn how NOT to use a grammar point. First, let’s take a look at this example:

× ロシアほど大きい国はない
× ロシア ほど おおきい くに は ない。
x There’s no country as big as Russia.
x Literally: “Russia + ほど + big + country + はない.”



Even the English translation sounds kinda weird, right? To work out why that is, let’s look at how it would be written in natural Japanese:

○ ロシアは世界で一番大きい国だ。
○ ロシア は せかい で いちばん おおきい くに だ。
○ Russia is the biggest country in the world.
 Literally: “Russia + は + world + で + number one + big + country + だ.”


Basically, as we saw earlier, ほど~はない is used when you want to emphasize your opinion or personal experience. But Russia being the biggest country is an objective fact, so it wouldn’t make sense to say that you personally feel that way, right? 

Saying that, even if you said the first sentence, you’d be understood, just like we’d understand the English translation. It just wouldn’t sound all that natural, is all.

This grammar point is not only fun to use, it’s also great for stepping away from the robotic phrases everyone is taught and adding some punchy emotion to your Japanese.

You can do it! There’s no one I have more faith in than you 😉