444 - ~かねない

The more you study Japanese, the more you'll find yourself pulling your hair out at the extreme proliferation of negative verbs with positive meanings, double negatives, triple negatives, agh!!

Today, we're looking at one such grammatical formation, one that has always thrown me off balance:

JLPT N2: ~かねない (could; might)

Really, there is no good reason for me to have gotten confused by this grammar so many times over the years.

I mean, it's not all that complicated:

Attaching ~かねない to the masu-stem of a verb means "could VERB."

Verbs:
使う(つかう // to use
失う(うしなう // to lose [something]

Masu-forms:
使います(つかいます // use
失います(うしないます // lose [something]

Masu-stems:
使い-(つかい-
失い-(うしない-

Masu-stem + かねない
使いかねないつかいかねない // could use; might use
失いかねないうしないかねない // could lose [something]; might lose [something]


Let's see it in action:

彼女に現金を与えたらまたギャンブルに使いかねないよ。
かのじょ に げんきん を あたえたら また ギャンブル に つかいかねない よ。
If you give her cash, she might gamble with it again.
Literally: “she + に + cash + を + if you gave + again + gambling + に + could use + よ.”

Some of you might be thinking, what's the difference between ~かねない and ~かもしれない (maybe ~; might ~; could ~)?

~かねない is only used to express that something undesirable could happen.

The other difference is that you will not hear ~かねない as often as you hear ~かもしれない. That's why ~かねない is N2 grammar, whereas ~かもしれない is N4 grammar.


Power through the following three examples, and you're good to go, yo.

ロボットが実用化されるようになったら、多くの人々は職を失いかねない
ロボット が じつようか される ように なったら、 おおく の ひとびと は しょく を うしないかねない。
If robots become more common, many people could lose their jobs.
Literally: “robots + が + making practical/useful + were made + ように (so that) + if (they) became, + many + の + people + は + work + を + could lose.”

適切な性教育をしないと、10代の望まない妊娠はさらに増加かねません
てきせつな せいきょういく を しないと、 じゅうだい の のぞまない にんしん は さらに ぞうか しかねません。
Without appropriate sexual education, the number of unwanted teen pregnancies might increase even more.
Literally: “appropriate + sexual education + を + don’t do + と, + teens + の + not wished for + pregnancy + は + even more + increasing + could do.”

盲腸を放っておくと命を落とすことにもなりかねません。必ず治療を受けましょう。
もうちょう を ほうっておく と いのち を おとす こと にも なりかねません。 かならず ちりょう を うけましょう。
Ignoring your appendix could even prove fatal, so please be sure to seek out proper medical care.
Literally: “appendix + を + neglect/ignore/leave alone + と + life + を + lose / drop + こと + にも + can become. + without fail + medical treatment + を + let’s receive.”

See what happened in those last two examples? We had ~かねません instead of ~かねない.

So, yeah, that happens too. As you likely guessed, ~かねません sounds more formal. But even ~かねない sounds a little stiff to me.

You will come across ~かねない in spoken and written Japanese, so read through this lesson as many times as you need to in order to grasp the meaning of this verb suffix.

Good luck!

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