932 - ほかない

[NDL #932] - JLPT N3: ほかない (have no choice but to)

ほかない is one of the less difficult N3 grammar points.

You may already know that 他 (ほか) means something like "other" or "another." For example in our N4 lesson on ~てもかまわない, we saw this sentence:

私はカラオケでも、の居酒屋でも、どこでもかまいませんよ。
わたし は カラオケ でも、 ほか の いざかや でも、 どこ でもかまいません よ。
I don’t mind where we go. Karaoke, another izakaya―anywhere is fine with me.
Literally: “I + は + karaoke + even if it is, + another / other + の + izakaya + even if it is, + anywhere (=where + even if it is) + no problem / doesn’t matter + よ.”


That's the same 他 (ほか) that is appearing in ほかない, the grammar point we're looking at in this lesson.

In sentences, we'll often translate ほかない to something like "have no choice but to," as we do in this sentence:

正体を知られてしまったからには、死んでもらうほかない
しょうたい を しられて しまった からには、 しんで もらう ほかない。
Now that you’ve discovered my true identity, I’ve got no choice but to kill you.
Literally: “true identity + を + (unfortunately) was known + からには, + die (and) + receive + ほかない.”


(Note: The above sentence uses からには, which is another N3 grammar point.)


死んでもらう
しんで もらう
I'm going to kill you.
Literally: “die (and) + receive”

↓ ↓ ↓

死んでもらうほかない
しんで もらう ほかない
I’ve got no choice but to kill you.
Literally: “die (and) + receive + ほかない”


Kind of a dramatic example, I know. But these kinds of sentences do show up in fictional stories. Let's hope none of us ever hears this sentence being used in real life!

Anyway, yeah, ほかない means something like "have no choice but to." The nuance is that the speaker is resigned to a certain action being unavoidable.

 

👷 Construction 👷

It doesn't get much easier than this:

V るほかない
have no choice but to VERB

 

It's also possible for the phrase to be in past tense:

ほかないほかなかった
have no choice but to → had no choice but to

An example:

近くのホテルはすべて満室で、ネットカフェに泊まるほかなかった
ちかく の ホテル は すべて まんしつ で、 ネットカフェ に とまる ほかなかった。
All the nearby hotels were fully booked, so I had no choice but to stay at an internet cafe.
Literally: “nearby + の + hotel + は + all / everything + full occupancy + で, + internet cafe + に + stay + ほかなかった.”

 

👷 Construction, Part II 👷

Note that the full phrase is actually...

V るより + ほか しかたがない

But it's common to leave out より and しかたが.

Below this are some rather formal-sounding sentences that include these parts, though. In them, you'll also notice that we're saying ありません and ありませんでした instead of ない and なかった, respectively:

このまま逆子が直らなかったら、帝王切開するよりほかはありません
このまま さかご が なおらなかったら、 ていおうせっかい する よりほかはありません。
If the baby’s breech presentation isn’t corrected, we’ll have no choice but to do a C-section.
Literally: “as things are / as it is + breech presentation + が + if (it) isn’t fixed, + Cesarean section + do + よりほかはありません.”
Note: You may have noticed that a は is slipping into our ほかありません. Either way is correct.


ビザがおりなかったので、旅行は諦めるよりほかしかたがありませんでした
ビザ が おりなかった ので、 りょこう は あきらめる よりほかしかたがありませんでした。
I was unable to receive a visa, so I had no choice but to give up on going there.
Literally: “visa + が + wasn’t issued + because (=ので), + trip / travel + は + give up + よりほかしかたがありませんでした.”


 

Not only are you finished with this lesson, you're finished with all JLPT N3 lessons now!

If you've been reading them in order, that is.

Congratulations! ^_^