LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Expressing non-feasibility

Posted by Tae Kim

We learned how to express feasibility in the section on the potential form quite a while ways back. In this section, we'll learn some advanced and specialized ways to express certain types of feasibility or the lack thereof. Like much of the grammar in the Advanced Section, the grammar covered here is mostly used for written works and rarely used in regular speech.

Expressing the inability to not do using 「~ざるを得ない」

Vocabulary

  1. 得る 【え・る】 (ru-verb) - to obtain
  2. 意図 【い・と】 - intention; aim; design
  3. する (exception) - to do
  4. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  5. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  6. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  7. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  8. テレビ - TV, television
  9. これ - this
  10. 以上 【い・じょう】 - greater or equal
  11. 壊れる 【こわ・れる】 (ru-verb) - to break
  12. 新しい 【あたら・しい】(i-adj) - new
  13. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  14. ずっと - the whole time, all along
  15. 我慢 【が・まん】 - tolerance; self-control
  16. 状態 【じょう・たい】 - situation
  17. 歯医者 【は・い・しゃ】 - dentist
  18. 上司 【じょう・し】 - superior; boss
  19. 話 【はなし】 - story
  20. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) - to ask; to listen
  21. どうしても - by any means, no matter what
  22. 海外 【かい・がい】 - overseas

This grammar is used when there's something that just can't be helped and must be done. It is the negative version of the grammar we previously covered for something that has to be done. It uses the negative of the verb 「得る」 or "obtain", to roughly mean that "one cannot obtain not doing of an action". This means that you can't not do something even if you wanted to. As a result of the use of double negatives, this grammar carries a slight suggestion that you really don't want to do it, but you have to because it can't be helped. Really, the negative connotation is the only difference between this grammar and the grammar we covered in this "have to" section. That, and the fact that this grammar is fancier and more advanced.

This grammar uses an archaic negative form of verbs that ends in 「~ざる」. It is really not used in modern Japanese with the exception of this grammar and some expressions such as 「意図せざる」. The rules for conjugation are the same as the negative verbs, except this grammar attaches 「ざる」 instead. To reiterate, all you have to do is conjugate the verb to the negative form and then replace the 「ない」 with 「ざる」. The two exception verbs are 「する」 which becomes 「せざる」 and 「くる」 which becomes 「こざる」. Finally, all that's left to be done is to attach 「を得ない」 to the verb. It is also not uncommon to use Hiragana instead of the Kanji.

Using 「~ざるを得ない」 for actions that must be done
  • To say that you can't not do something replace the 「ない」 part of the negative verb with 「ざる」, then attach 「を得ない」 to the end of the verb.
    Examples
    1. → 食べない → 食べざる → 食べざるを得ない
    2. → 行かない → 行かざる → 行かざるを得ない
  • Exceptions:
    1. するせざる → せざるをえない
    2. くるこざる → こざるをえない

Examples

  1. このテレビがこれ以上壊れたら、新しいのを買わざるを得ないな。
    If this TV breaks even more, there's no choice but to buy a new one.
  2. ずっと我慢してきたが、この状態だと歯医者さんに行かざるを得ない
    I tolerated it all this time but in this situation, I can't not go to the dentist.
  3. 上司の話を聞くと、どうしても海外に出張をせざるを得ないようです。
    Hearing the story from the boss, it seems like I can't not go on a business trip overseas no matter what.

Expressing the inability to stop doing something using 「やむを得ない」

Vocabulary

  1. 止む 【や・む】 (u-verb) - to stop
  2. 仕方 【し・かた】 - way, method
  3. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  4. しょうがない - it can't be helped, nothing can be done
  5. 得る 【え・る】 (ru-verb) - to obtain
  6. 事由 【じ・ゆう】 - reason; cause
  7. 手続 【て・つづき】 - procedure, paperwork
  8. 遅れる 【おく・れる】 (ru-verb) - to be late
  9. 必ず 【かなら・ず】 - without exception, without fail
  10. 連絡 【れん・らく】 - contact
  11. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  12. 仕事 【し・ごと】 - job
  13. 厳しい 【きび・しい】 (i-adj) - strict
  14. 最近 【さい・きん】 - recent; lately
  15. 不景気 【ふ・けい・き】 - recession, depression
  16. 新しい 【あたら・しい】(i-adj) - new
  17. 見つかる 【み・つかる】 (u-verb) - to be found
  18. 状態 【じょう・たい】 - situation

This grammar is very similar to the one we just learned above except that it uses the verb 「止む」 to say that one cannot obtain the stopping of something. Remember that we normally can't just attach the 「を」 direct object particle to verbs, so this is really a set expression. Just like the previous grammar we learned, it is used to describe something that one is forced to do due to some circumstances. The difference here is that this is a complete phrase, which can be used for a general situation that doesn't involve any specific action. In other words, you're not actually forced to do something; rather it describes a situation that cannot be helped. If you have already learned 「仕方がない」 or 「しょうがない」, this grammar means pretty much the same thing. The difference lies in whether you want to say, "Looks like we're stuck" vs "Due to circumstances beyond our control..."

Since this is a set expression, there are really no grammar points to discuss. You only need to take the phrase and use it as you would any regular relative clause.

Examples

  1. やむを得ない事由により手続が遅れた場合、必ずご連絡下さい。
    If the paperwork should be late due to uncontrollable circumstance, please make sure to contact us.
  2. この仕事は厳しいかもしれませんが、最近の不景気では新しい仕事が見つからないのでやむを得ない状態です。
    This job may be bad but because (I) can't find a new job due to the recent economic downturn, it's a situation where nothing can be done.

Expressing what cannot be done with 「~かねる」

Vocabulary

  1. かねる (ru-verb) - to be unable to; to find difficult (unpleasant, awkward, painful) to do;
  2. 決める 【き・める】 (ru-verb) - to decide
  3. する (exception) - to do
  4. なる (u-verb) - to become
  5. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  6. 場 【ば】 - place, spot
  7. ちょっと - a little
  8. また - again
  9. 別途 【べっ・と】 - separate
  10. 会議 【かい・ぎ】 - meeting
  11. 設ける 【もう・ける】 (ru-verb) - to establish
  12. 個人 【こ・じん】 - personal
  13. 情報 【じょう・ほう】 - information
  14. 漏洩 【ろう・えい】 - disclosure; leakage
  15. 速やか 【すみ・やか】 (na-adj) - speedy; prompt
  16. 対応 【たい・おう】 - dealing with; support
  17. 願う 【ねが・う】 (u-verb) - to wish; to request
  18. 致す 【いた・す】 (u-verb) - to do (humble)

The meaning and usage of 「かねる」 is covered pretty well in this jeKai entry with plenty of examples. While much of this is a repetition of what's written there, 「かねる」 is a ru-verb that is used as a suffix to other verbs to express a person's inability, reluctance, or refusal to do something

「かねる」 is often used in the negative as 「かねない」 to indicate that there is a possibility that the verb in question might happen. As the jeKai entry mentions, this is usually in reference to something bad, which you might express in English as, "there is a risk that..." or "there is a fear that..."

One important thing that the jeKai doesn't mention is how you would go about using this grammar. It's not difficult and you may have already guessed from the example sentences that all you need to do is just attach 「かねる」 or 「かねない」 to the stem of the verb.

Using 「~かねる」 for things that cannot be done
  • To say that something cannot be done using 「かねる」, change the verb to the stem and attach 「かねる」.
    Examples
    1. 決め → 決めかねる
    2. する → しかねる
  • 「かねる」 is a ru-verb so use the negative 「かねない」 to say that something (bad) might happen.
    Examples
    1. → なりかね → なりかねない
    2. する → しかね → しかねない

Examples

  1. この場ではちょっと決めかねますので、また別途会議を設けましょう。
    Since making a decision here is impossible, let's set up a separate meeting again.
  2. このままでは、個人情報が漏洩しかねないので、速やかに対応をお願い致します。
    At this rate, there is a possibility that personal information might leak so I request that this be dealt with promptly.