Grammar

OBLIGATION IKENAI / NARANAI / DAME


In Japanese, obligation or necessity is expressed using two successive negative forms (if I do not do that, it won’t work). To do so, we have 3 options:

  • Verb (negative form in -Te) + WA + IKENAI or NARANAI or DAME
  • Verb (negative + conditional BA) + IKENAI or NARANAI or DAME
  • Verb (negative + conditional TO) + IKENAI or NARANAI or DAME

NARANAI (ならない) is more moral, objective and formal than いけない and だめ. だめ is used in a colloquial language.

みんな税金(ぜいきん)(はら)わなければならない
Minna zeikin o harawanakereba naranai.
Everyone must pay taxes.

法律(ほうりつ)(まも)らなくてなりません
Houritsu wa mamoranakute wa narimasen.
You must obey the law.

(ねん)一度(いちど)健康(けんこう)診断(しんだん)()けないいけません
Nen ni ichido, kenkou shindan o ukenai to ikemasen yo.
You must have a medical examination once a year.

学校(がっこう)友達(ともだち)仲良(なかよ)しないだめ
Gakkou no tomodachi to nakayoku shinai to dame da yo.
You must become friends with your classmates.

So there are 9 possible combinations, and you should be familiar with each of them to be able to understand Japanese in various situations.

In addition to those 9 combinations, some contractions exist. You can well imagine that people don’t say such long structures every time to say, “I must...”! And it’s especially true in oral communication.

  • NAKEREBA is contracted into NAKYA or NAKERYA
  • NAKUTE WA is contracted into NAKUCHA

Besides, it’s not unusual to only suggest the end of the structure:

ゴミ()さなきゃ(いけない)
Gomi dasanakya (ikenai).
I have to take out the trash.

スマホ充電(じゅうでん)しなくちゃ(いけない)
Sumaho no juuden shinakucha (ikenai).
I must recharge the smartphone’s battery.

However, be aware of an important cultural aspect. When talking to someone else, the Japanese prefer to use the HOU GA II structure (used to give advice) if the obligation might sound too direct and like an order. So in some situations, it may be better to say “You’d better...” rather than “You must...”.

The Japanese often try to maintain a certain harmony in conversations. It’s better to keep the structure of obligation for situations where the relationship between people is clearly set (with a hierarchical or social superiority). For example, a mother to her child, a boss to his/her employee, etc.

Naturally, it’s possible to conjugate the sentence in the past to get “I had to.” You’d then obtain the following forms:

  • Verb (plain negative form with -TE) + WA + IKENAKATTA or NARANAKATTA or DAME DATTA
  • Verb (plain negative form + conditional BA) + IKENAKATTA or NARANAKATTA or DAME DATTA
  • Verb (plain negative form + conditional TO) + IKENAKATTA or NARANAKATTA or DAME DATTA

Additional information

This verbal structure can also be used with adjectives or nouns instead of verbs.

(ひろ)くなければだめ
Hirokunakereba dame.
It must / has to be spacious.

ロボットなくていけません
Robotto de nakute wa ikemasen.
It must / has to be a robot.


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1
  Posted on Feb 23, 2017, 12:04:12 AM #1

Matsuiasu



The top explanation seems wrong to me:
Verb (negative + conditional BA) + IKENAI or NARANAI or DAME
Verb (negative + conditional TO) + IKENAI or NARANAI or DAME

because the given examples show:
Verb (negative + conditional = vNeg>[a-i]Cond) + IKENAI or NARANAI or DAME
Verb (negative = vNeg) TO + IKENAI or NARANAI or DAME

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