723 - ~ないわけにはいかない

JLPT N3: ~ないわけにはいかない (can't not ~; can't avoid ~)

We've already seen this grammar point before: [NDL #681] - JLPT N3: わけにはいかない.

Well, sort of. They're a bit different.

In that past lesson, we saw how「V るわけにはいかない」(← that は is the particle wa) is used to say "can't," as in this sentence:


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.”

Conversely, in this lesson we're looking at how「V ないわけにはいかない」is used to say "can't not," as in this sentence:


パリに来たからには、ルーヴル美術館に行かないわけにはいかない
パリ に きた からには、 ルーヴル びじゅつかん に いかないわけにはいかない。
Now that I’m in Paris, I can’t not go to the Louvre.
Literally: “Paris + に + came + からには, + the Louvre + art museum + に + not go + わけにはいかない.”


It's often unnatural to use the double negative "can't not" in our English translations. Often a simple "can't" is fine for ~ないわけにはいかない


熱で頭がくらくらするけれど、今日は大事な会議があるから、出勤しないわけにはいかない
ねつ で あたま が くらくら する けれど、 きょう は だいじな かいぎ が ある から、 しゅっきん しないわけにはいかない。
My fever is making me dizzy. But I have an important meeting today, so I can’t miss work.
Literally: “fever + で + head + が + dizziness + does + but, + today + は + important + meeting + が + have / there is + because, + going to work + not do + わけにはいかない.”


昔あんなにお世話になった人の結婚式に出席しないわけにはいかない
むかし あんなに おせわ に なった ひと の けっこんしき に しゅっせき しないわけにはいかない。
I can’t miss the wedding of someone who has done so much for me in the past.
Literally: “long ago + that much / to that extent + was indebted to / received help from (=assistance + に + became) + person + の + wedding ceremony + に + attendance + not do + わけにはいかない.”


Technically speaking, the meaning of ~ないわけにはいかない doesn't match up perfectly with "can't not" or "can't avoid."

It's closer to something like:

~ないわけにはいかない
(might not want to, but) must (because of some situation)

That's why the speakers in our sentences aren't talking about their (lack of) capability to not do something.

Instead, there is some kind of social or psychological factor that makes the speakers feel that they are unable to not do something:


あまり食欲がないけれど、小学生の息子がせっかく作ってくれたご飯を食べないわけにはいかない
あまり しょくよく が ない けれど、 しょうがくせい の むすこ が せっかく つくって くれた ごはん を たべないわけにはいかない。
I don’t have much of an appetite, but I can’t exactly turn down food that my (elementary-school-aged) son made just for me.
Literally: “not really + appetite + が + don’t have / there isn’t + but, + elementary school student + の + son + が + specially / expressly + make (and) + gave (me) + food / meal / rice + を + not eat + わけにはいかない.”


I use this grammar point from time to time, and I think you should too.

Saying all of those characters, ~ないわけにはいかない, might feel like a bit of a tongue-twister at first, but with practice it starts to feel natural.

Good luck!

We'll see some other uses of わけ in a few future N3 lessons, by the way. Something to look forward to...

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