第59課: Criticizing: くせに・くせして

Everyone has bad habits, tendencies, or mannerisms. On top of that, everyone in the world loves to complain and ridicule the bad qualities of others—sometimes themselves as well. In Japanese, one of the most effective ways of ridiculing others for something is done so by using the word 癖, which literally means “habit” in the negative sense.

In this lesson, we will learn how this word is used in the grammar expression くせに, which is seen in cruder contexts asくせして, to mean “even though/in spite of” when used to express annoyance, criticism, anger, etc. 


As mentioned in the introduction, 癖’s basic meaning is to describe habits, mainly bad ones although not limited to them. For instance, “biting one’s nails” would be (つめ)()(くせ) and “waking up early” can be expressed with 早起(はやお)きの(くせ).

1. (わる)(くせ)(なお)すには、どうしたらいいでしょうか。
What should I do to fix a bad habit?

2. この(あじ)(くせ)になりますね!
I’m going to get hooked to this taste!

In Ex. 2, you can see how X{が・は}(くせ)になる is used to mean “to get hooked to X.” Interestingly, 癖 may also refer to kinks and curls in things like hair, rugs, etc. For instance, “to straighten out one’s hair” can be expressed with (かみ)(くせ)(なお)す and the word 癖毛(くせげ) means “frizzy/unruly hair.”

The pattern 癖に, usually written out as くせに, attaches to nouns, adjectives, adjectival nouns, and verbs as demonstrated in the chart below. Its meaning, as mentioned in the introduction, is “even though/in spite of” and is used when describing annoyance, criticism, anger, a complaint, etc. It is semantically synonymous with the particle のに with the only true difference being the extremely negative connotations implied by くせに.

 Nouns Noun + の・である + くせに 男おとこ{の・である}くせに
 Even though you’re a man… 
 Adjectives Adj. + くせに ふるいくせに
Even though it’s old…
 Adjectival Nouns Adj. Noun + な + くせに 簡単かんたんなくせに
Even though it’s easy…
 Verbs Verb + くせに うくせに
In spite of buying…

Grammar Note: Noun + であるくせに is not used in the spoken language and is seen in somewhat old-fashioned speech.

Below are example sentences of くせに following the various parts of speech as shown in the table above to show an array of negative critical connotations.

3. 彼女(かのじょ)って大人(おとな)のくせに、まだ母親(ははおや)洗濯(せんたく)してもらってるそうだ。
I hear that she still has her mom do her laundry even though she’s an adult.

4. 健太君(けんたくん)子供(こども)のくせに、全然外(ぜんぜんそと)(あそ)びたがらないの。
Kenta doesn’t want to play outside all even though he’s a kid.

5. 田中(たなか)さんは、日本人(にほんじん)のくせに、日本語(にほんご)(はな)すのが()きじゃないみたいですねえ。
Mr. Tanaka, despite being Japanese, doesn’t appear to like speaking Japanese, huh.

6. あの(ひと)新卒者(しんそつしゃ)のくせに、よく(なん)でも()ってるように(しゃべ)ったりしますね。
Despite being a new graduate, that person sure often talks like he knows everything, huh.

7. 彼女(かのじょ)、コメディアンのくせに、全然面白(ぜんぜんおもしろ)くないよ。
She isn’t funny at all despite being a comedian.

8. 「(おとこ)のくせに」や、「(おんな)のくせに」などといった()(かた)はセクハラになり()ると()えよう。
One could say that expressions like “even though you’re a man” or “even though you’re a woman” can be treated as forms of sexual harassment.

9. 野生動物(やせいどうぶつ)のくせに(うご)きが(にぶ)いな。
It’s slow moving despite being a wild animal, huh.

10. ワニのくせに海水(かいすい)もへっちゃらなんだぁ。
Huh, sea water isn’t even a big deal even though it’s an alligator.

Spelling Note: ワニ can seldom be seen spelled as 鰐.

11. 中国人(ちゅうごくじん)のくせに爆買(ばくか)いしないなんておかしい!
It’s so strange that he/she won’t spend like crazy despite being Chinese!

12. 猪原(いはら)(あたま)(わる)いくせに、人気(にんき)があって(うらや)ましい!
I’m so jealous that Ihara is popular even though he’s dumb!

13. 本当(ほんとう)元気(げんき)なくせに(なま)けやがって!
How dare you slack off when you’re actually fine!

14. 自分(じぶん)馬鹿(ばか)なくせに(ひと)馬鹿(ばか)にする(ひと)大嫌(だいきら)い。
I hate people who make others out to be idiots even though they themselves are idiots.

15. (かしこ)いくせに、おかしなことを(かんが)えるんだね。
You sure think a lot of crazy stuff for someone who’s wise.

16. 学歴(がくれき)がないくせにプライドだけ(たか)(おとこ)、めっちゃ(きら)いなの!
I really hate men who only have pride with no education!

17. あんた、戦争(せんそう)経験(けいけん)もないくせに戦争(せんそう)(あこが)れを()つんじゃねーぞ。
You don’t yearn for war when you’ve never experienced war!

18. あたしの彼氏(かれし)ね、()ってるくせに(おし)えてくれないわ。
My boyfriend, you know, knows but he won’t tell/teach me.

19. やったくせに()らんぷりするんじゃないぞ!
Don’t act like you don’t know when you’re the one who did it!

20. それだけの怪我(けが)したくせに?
Even though that’s all you’re hurt?

21. 3(さん)(かい)()ずかしい失敗(しっぱい)をしちゃったくせに、今更何(いまさらなに)()ずかしいの?
What are you so embarrassed about now? You’ve already failed three times…

22. (なん)だ、自分(じぶん)がミスしたくせに・・・
What? Even though you yourself have messed up…


In far critical, often derogatory contexts, くせに can be seen as くせして. This implies slightly older grammar in which に and して share some degree of interchangeability with the latter being more emphatic, thus this form of the expression.

23. (おれ)って、日本人(にほんじん)のくせして仏教(ぶっきょう)についてはとんと門外漢(もんがいかん)だよ。
Even though I'm Japanese, I’m a complete outsider about Buddhism.

24. 帰国子女(きこくしじょ)(くせ)してそんなのも()らないってわけか。
So you don’t even know stuff like that despite being a kikoku shijo, huh?

Word Note: 帰国子女 refers to children of Japanese expatriates who then return to Japan. 

25. 日本人(にほんじん)のくせして、日本語(にほんご)文法(ぶんぽう)がからっきしダメだ。
Even though I’m Japanese, my Japanese grammar is absolutely hopeless.

Adj. + くせに