507 - ~ざるをえない

aNow, I know this is going to make your day (nerd), but in this lesson we're looking at an N2 grammar point that is actually used in everyday conversations!

\(◎o◎)/!

Specifically, we'll be exploring:


JLPT N2: ~ざるをえない (have no choice but to...)


We'll start with an example:


家事は苦手だが、妻は仕事が忙しいので私がやらざるをえない
かじ は にがて だ が、 つま は しごと が いそがしい ので わたし が やらざるをえない。
I'm not good at doing housework, but my wife is busy with work, so I have no choice but to do it.
Literally: “housework + は + poor (at) / dislike (of) + だ + が, + wife + は + work + が + busy + ので + I + が + have no choice but to do.”

At the end of this sentence we have the verb やる, "to do."

By conjugating it into やらざるをえない, it becomes "have no choice but to do."

That's because we use ~ざるをえない when performing an action cannot be avoided even though the speaker does not want to do it.

It sounds like whack Japanese, but actually ざる is an old term meaning ない, which a negative conjugation for verbs. Also, you may recall from this lessonand this lesson that 得る (える) has a bunch of meanings, but it's negative form, 得ない (えない), sometimes means "unable to do" or "cannot."

So, "VERB-ざるをえない" is kind of like saying, "unable to not VERB."

Typically, we'll translate it to things like "have no choice but to VERB" and "cannot avoid VERB-ing." Remember that the VERB is something that the speaker is not very happy about doing.


Here's another example:


寝たきりの父の介護のため、仕事を辞めざるをえない状況になってしまった。
ねたきり の ちち の かいご の ため、 しごと を やめざるをえない じょうきょう に なって しまった。
I have no choice but to quit work to take care of my bedridden father.
Literally: “bedridden + の + father + の + nursing + の + purpose / in order to, + work + を + have no choice but to quit + situation / circumstances + に + became (unfortunately).”


To clarify, that's:

辞める(やめる // to quit
辞めざるをえない(やめざるをえない // to have no choice but to quit


Have you picked up on the conjugation pattern yet?

It's...

V ない + ざる + を + えない

That is, you take a verb, conjugate it into simple present negative tense (=Vない), then drop off ない and add ざるをえない.

Since I really want us to master this conjugation, let's divide verbs into godan (Group I), ichidan (Group II), and する verbs:

Godan (Group I):

V ない + ざる + を + えない

Ichidan (Group II):

V ない + ざる + を + えない

する:

しない → ざるをえない

As you can see, する is irregular. All you do is take せ and add ざるをえない. For the others, we're just attaching ~ざるをえない to the stem of Vない (i.e. Vない).


Two more examples:


この件に関しては、私に責任があると認めざるをえないだろう。
この けん に かんして は、 わたし に せきにん が ある と みとめざるをえない だろう。
I’m afraid I have to admit that I am responsible for this matter.
Literally: “this + matter / affair + in relation to + は, + I + に + responsibility + が + have + と + have no choice but to admit + だろう.”


台風が近づいているので、週末のキャンプは中止ざるを得ない
たいふう が ちかづいている ので、 しゅうまつ の キャンプ は ちゅうし せざるをえない。
Due to the approaching typhoon, we have no choice but to cancel our camping trip this weekend.
Literally: “typhoon + が + is approaching + ので, + weekend + の + camping + は + cancellation + have no choice but to do.”

As you can see in that last example, we can also include the kanji for 得ない. Using just hiragana is fine, too, though.


People use this grammatical construction quite commonly in everyday life.

Back when I first learned it, I got a pretty good sense of it's meaning, but it was years until I found myself able to use it in my own speech.

I think the problem was that I never took the time to sit down and drill conjugations for ~ざるをえない.

Don't worry, though. This won't happen to you because we have...


💡 🐸 💡 🐸 💡
Conjugation Quiz!
💡 🐸 💡 🐸 💡

Here are some verbs:

01 働く(はたらく // to work
02 言う(いう // to say
03 行く(いく // to go
04 書く(かく // to write
05 飲む(のむ // to drink
06 買う(かう // to buy
07 嘘をつく(うそをつく // to lie; to tell a lie
08 起きる(おきる // to wake up; to get up
09 調べる(しらべる // to look up; to investigate; to research
10 食べる(たべる // to eat
11 引っ越しする(ひっこしする // to move [residence]
12 貯金する(ちょきんする // to save money
13 入院する(にゅういんする // to be hospitalized

Quick! Conjugate them into ~ざるをえない!

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OK. Here are our answers:

01 働かざるをえない(はたらかざるをえない // to have no choice but to work
02 言わざるをえない(いわざるをえない // to have no choice but to say
03 行かざるをえない(いかざるをえない // to have no choice but to go
04 書かざるをえない(かかざるをえない // to have no choice but to write
05 飲まざるをえない(のまざるをえない // to have no choice but to drink
06 買わざるをえない(かわざるをえない // to have no choice but to buy
07 嘘をつかざるをえない(うそをつかざるをえない // to have no choice but to lie
08 起きざるをえない(おきざるをえない // to have no choice but to get up
09 調べざるをえない(しらべざるをえない // to have no choice but to look up
10 食べざるをえない(たべざるをえない // to have no choice but to eat
11 引っ越しせざるをえない(ひっこしせざるをえない // to have no choice but to move [residence]
12 貯金せざるをえない(ちょきんせざるをえない // to have no choice but to save money
13 入院せざるをえない(にゅういんせざるをえない // to have no choice but to be hospitalized


Please take the time to conjugate verbs into ~ざるをえない in your head. Getting familiar with this verb formation will certainly benefit you in the future.


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