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I am currently further increasing my knowledge of subjunctive form. I recently encountered this statement"

Es difícil que ella hable.

I have attempted to interpret this sentence into a couple of different ways..

  1. It is difficult that she talks

This is what I thought of as the literal meaning, which is confusing to me and would not make 100% sense in english.

  1. It is difficult for her to talk

Would make 100% sense yet I am not sure that is the meaning of the sentence itself

What is the proper translation for this phrases and ones similar in the subjunctive?

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I'm sorry to disagree with @rsanchez but both translations are correct.

"Difícil" also translates to "difficult" or "hard" see here

Difficult is (see Merriam-Webster)

  1. not easy : requiring much work or skill to do or make
  2. not easy to deal with or manage
  3. not willing to help others by changing your behavior

Let's say she had an accident and injured her mouth difficulting her to talk.

Spanish: Es difícil que ella hable porque sus heridas no se lo permiten.

English: It is difficult/hard for her to talk because of her injuries.

Now, she is very shy and there is a public speaking event. Someone wants her to talk at the conference but someone else could reply to that by saying:

Spanish: Es difícil que ella hable en la conferencia porque es muy tímida

English: It is difficult that she talks at the conference because she is very shy.

Then, she witness a crime but the criminal saw her. Someone thinks she could talk to the police but then someone else will comment saying.

Spanish: Es difícil que ella hable por miedo al criminal

English: It is unlikely that she talks because she is afraid of the criminal.

As I see it both translations are correct plus the new one suggested by @rsanchez.

So I would say that in Spanish you could say it just one way but the correct translation will depend on context and the 3 sentences are likely translations of the same Spanish sentence.

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    I'd add for your first translation: es difícil para ella hablar or es difícil para ella que hable. Both infinitive and subjunctive make sense, and to sum up, this should be the accepted answer. I deleted mine because it was incomplete. – Alejandro Apr 21 '16 at 13:23
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    I updated my answer to reinforce my position. Also note that It is difficult that she talks doesn't make much sense in English, as sbswim states. – rsanchez Apr 21 '16 at 17:37
  • @rsanchez The sentence it's difficult that she talk is the correct sentence. The other one it's not used. – Alejandro Apr 21 '16 at 18:21
  • I do not think a native speaker would say 'it is difficult that she talks'. It is difficult for her to talk sounds more idiomatic to me. It is unlikely that she talks would probably be better as it is unlikely that she will talk (That is, of course, just the perspective of one speaker of the dialect of English spoken in south eastern England, other dialects may vary).. – mdewey Apr 21 '16 at 21:02
  • @mdewey the thing is you wanted to translate Spanish 'difícil" into English and I think "unlikely" is one option but "hard" or "difficult" are valid too as I already explained. You can go with "it is hard for her to talk" when it does not refer to the possibility/probability of her talking but to the difficulty due to physical/psychological restrictions. The main use of "difícil" in Spanish is "hard to do" or "not easy" (see first link or RAE) – DGaleano Apr 21 '16 at 21:14
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Neither of your options is correct. The construction es difícil que is used to say that something is unlikely to happen, so your original sentence means:

It is unlikely that she will talk.

You can find more information in this article.

EDIT: As there is an alternative answer, I'll expand here why I think mine is correct instead of in comments.

These sentences:

Es difícil que ella hable porque sus heridas no se lo permiten.

Es difícil que ella hable en la conferencia porque es muy tímida

Es difícil que ella hable por miedo al criminal

All of them just mean:

It is unlikely that she will talk for whatever reason

If the reason that she won't talk is that it is difficult for her to do it, that's just a coincidence that doesn't make es difícil que mean it is difficult.

Why do we use the set phrase es difícil que to express unlikely? The underlying idea is that it is difficult for "the universe" to make that happen. The odds are against it.

If instead you want to express It is difficult for her to talk, you have several options, for instance:

A ella le es difícil hablar.

Para ella es difícil hablar.

Es difícil hablar para ella.

A ella le cuesta hablar.

  • Again. Sorry to disagree. As the link I shared on my answer from the dictionary Merriam-Webster "dificil" translates "difficult or hard" not "unlikely". In your answer you say difficult=dificil but dificil=unlikely and deny the reverse difícil=difficult. Did i misread ??? I would use "poco probable" to translate "unlikely" but that is not what this question is about. – DGaleano Apr 21 '16 at 18:42
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    unlikely = improbable, esto no implica necesariamente que sea difícil. – Alejandro Apr 22 '16 at 11:48

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