681 - わけにはいかない

JLPT N3: わけにはいかない (can't)

In our preparation for the JLPT N3 test, we'll come across a few grammatical constructions that contain the word 訳 (わけ), usually without kanji.

I remember being very confused about the meaning of わけ back when I was first learning it. I'm not sure how, but over time, I got used to seeing it in sentences and even using it in my own Japanese. So even if it seems confusing, don't worry too much about it.

First, here's how the dictionary explains わけ:

訳(わけ
conclusion from reasoning, judgement, or calculation based on something read or heard; reason; cause; meaning; circumstances; situation

OK... I guess that makes sense. However―and maybe my mental prowess is lacking―I don't really see how that explains わけにはいかない, which is what we're looking at in this lesson:

わけにはいかない;わけにはいきません
(might want to, but) can't (because of some situation)

Specifically, our pattern will be:

V るわけにはいかない
can't VERB

I guess I could see how "VERB + reason / situation + には + doesn't go" means "can't VERB"... maybe...

But I think trying to put logical explanations on grammar forms like this is what got me so confused back when I was learning about わけ for the first time.

Important: I alluded to this above, but this is not referring to one's inability to do something because of a lack of skill or talent. Instead, someone is unable to do something because of the situation that he or she is in―for example, doing something is not socially acceptable, goes against the person's morals, etc. This will make more sense when you see the examples below. I think translations like "can't exactly VERB" and "can't just VERB" are often appropriate. Not always, though―most of our examples below don't use these translations.

Let's look at a handful of examples...



仲間を置いて自分だけ逃げるわけにはいかない
なかま を おいて じぶん だけ にげる わけにはいかない。
I can’t just leave my friends and run away by myself.
Literally: “comrade / friend + を + leave (and) + oneself + only + run away + わけにはいかない.”




どんなにお金に困っていても、母の形見を売るわけにはいかない
どんな に おかね に こまっていても、 はは の かたみ を うる わけにはいかない。
No matter how badly I need the money, I could never sell the memento of my mother.
Literally: “how much + money + に + even if (I am) having trouble, + mother + の + memento + を + sell + わけにはいかない.”
Note: It's hard to translate this naturally, since in English we probably wouldn't say "memento" in a sentence like this. We might say what the specific memento is, instead (e.g. "I could never sell my mother's necklace. (It's all I have to remember her by.").




明日は大事な会議があるので、休むわけにはいかないんです。
あした は だいじな かいぎ が ある ので、 やすむ わけにはいかない んです。
There’s an important meeting tomorrow, so I can’t miss work.
Literally: “tomorrow + は + important + meeting + が + there is + because (=ので), + rest / take the day off + わけにはいかない + んです.”




物的証拠が出てこない以上、容疑者を拘留し続けるわけにはいかなくなった。
ぶってきしょうこ が でてこない いじょう、 ようぎしゃ を こうりゅう し つづける わけにはいかなく なった。
Without any physical evidence, we [they] were no longer able to hold the suspect in custody.
Literally: “physical evidence + が + doesn’t come out + since / seeing that, + suspect (e.g. of a crime) + を + custody / confinement + continue doing + わけにはいかなく + became.”



To summarize, we had:

逃げるわけにはいかない
にげる わけにはいかない。
can’t just run away
Literally: “run away + わけにはいかない.”

売るわけにはいかない
うる わけにはいかない。
could never sell
Literally: “sell + わけにはいかない.”

休むわけにはいかない
やすむ わけにはいかない
can’t miss work.
Literally: “rest / take the day off + わけにはいかない

拘留し続けるわけにはいかない
こうりゅう し つづける わけにはいかない
were no longer able to hold
Literally: “custody / confinement + continue doing + わけにはいかない”

Maybe it's not such a hard grammar point after all?

Or is that just wishful thinking?


In any case, people use わけにはいかない quite a bit, so you'll need to understand it when you come across it.

Being able to use it wouldn't hurt, either.

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