611 - くらい (so... that)

We just had a lesson on くらい:[NDL #604] - JLPT N3: くらい (just; only).

And now we have (you're not gonna believe this) another lesson on くらい:


JLPT N3: くらい (so... that)

I mentioned this in the lesson linked to above, but the word くらい can have quite a few meanings.

Here we're looking at how it can mean "so X that Y."

An example:

電車の中で知らない人に「社会の窓が全開ですよ。」と言われた時は、死にたいくらい恥ずかしかった。
でんしゃ の なか で しらない ひと に 「しゃかい の まど が ぜんかい です よ。」 と いわれた とき は、 しにたい くらい はずかしかった。
When I was told “Your fly is down” by a stranger on the train, I was so embarrassed (that) I wanted to die.
Literally: “train + の + inside + で + don’t know + person + に + 「fly (of one’s pants) (=society + の + window) + が + fully open + です + よ.」 + と + was told + time / when + は, + want to die + くらい + was embarrassed.”
Note: "Society's window" is such a better phrase for the (open) zipper of one's pants than the word "fly."

Scared of long sentences? Let's just look at the end of that one:

死にたいくらい恥ずかしかった。
しにたい くらい はずかしかった。
I was so embarrassed (that) I wanted to die.
Literally: “want to die + くらい + was embarrassed.”

Like practically everything in Japanese grammar, the order is the opposite of English:

so X that Y
= Y くらい X.

In the example above...

X = was embarrassed = 恥ずかしかった (はずかしかった)
Y = want to die = 死にたい (しにたい)

so X that Y
so was embarrassed that want to die
→ (I) was so embarrassed that (I) wanted to die

Y くらい X
死にたいくらい恥ずかしかった


Yeah, all of that stuff (↑) probably makes sense if you take your time to read through it.

But being able to make sentences like this on the fly is the real challenge.

In a real conversation, you won't have time to think "I want to say 'so X that Y,' so I should say Y くらい X."

Instead, you'll just have to get so used to this type of construction over time that it feels like second nature... which is pretty much what we need to do for every grammar point, yeah?


👷 Construction 👷

Words in plain form can come directly before this くらい.

In a lot of cases, however, you'll find that the word directly before くらい is a verb in ~たい (=want to ~) form (which is technically an i-adjective) or a verb in the present tense.

So:

V たいくらい
V-Presentくらい

We already saw an example with ~たい before くらい:

死にたいくらい恥ずかしかった。
しにたい くらい はずかしかった。
I was so embarrassed (that) I wanted to die.
Literally: “want to die + くらい + was embarrassed.”

...and all of our remaining example sentences will use verbs in the present tense directly before くらい.


so X that Y
= Y くらい X.

X = safe = 安全 (あんぜん)
Y = a woman can walk around by herself at night = 女性が夜に一人で出歩ける (じょせい が よる に ひとり で であるける)

この辺りは女性が夜に一人で出歩けるくらいの安全なエリアです。
この あたり は じょせい が よる に ひとり で であるける くらい の あんぜんな エリア です。
The area around here is so safe that a woman can walk around by herself at night.
Literally: “this + around here + は + female / woman + が + night + に + alone (=one person + で) + can go about / can go for a stroll + くらい + の + safe + area + です.”


so X that Y
= Y くらい X.

X = light = 軽い (かるい)
Y = even my 80-year old mother can pick it up easily= 80才の母でも軽々と持ち上げられる (はちじゅっ さい の はは でも かるがる と もちあげられる)

この掃除機はすごく軽い。80才の母でも軽々と持ち上げられるくらいだ。
この そうじき は すごく かるい。 はちじゅっ さい の はは でも かるがる と もちあげられる くらい だ。
This vacuum is really light. It’s so light that even my 80-year old mother can pick it up easily.
Literally: “this + vacuum + は + very / extremely + light (i.e. not heavy). + 80 + -year old + の + mother + でも (=even) + easily + と + can lift up + くらい + だ.”

*Note that 軽い, or "X" in our formula, is actually omitted after くらい since it's unnecessary to repeat it.


so X that Y
= Y くらい X.

X = was surprised= びっくりした
Y = was speechless= 声も出ない (こえ も でない)

今日車を運転中、目の前をカンガルーが横切った。声も出ないくらいびっくりした。
きょう くるま を うんてん ちゅう、 めのまえ を カンガルー が よこぎった。 こえ も でない くらい びっくり した。
Today when I was driving my car, I saw a kangaroo crossing the street. I was (so surprised that I was) speechless.
Literally: “today + car + を + driving + -in the middle of, + before my eyes + を + kangaroo + が + crossed (the road/street, etc.). + voice + が + won’t come out + くらい + was surprised (=surprise / astonishment + did).”


That's all for this one.

This grammar point is used quite commonly in everyday life, so it's worth spending a bit of extra time really getting familiar with it.

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