789 - ~なくてもいい (don't have to...)

JLPT N4: ~なくてもいい (don't have to...)

Before getting into this lesson, you should review this previous lesson of ours: [NDL #679] - JLPT N4: ~てもいい (permission).

While ~てもいい is used when giving permission to do something, ~なくてもいい is used when giving permission to not do something.

In other words, it means something like "don't have to..." or "it's not necessary to..."

For example:

You're not familiar with airline travel. At the check-in counter, you ask...

 A:
このかばんも預けなければなりませんか。
この かばん も あずけなければなりません か。
Do I need to check this bag, as well?
Literally: “this + bag + も + must entrust / must deposit + か.”

The friendly person at the counter then explains...

 B:
いいえ、小さいかばんは預けなくてもいいですよ。
いいえ、 ちいさい かばん は あずけなくてもいい です よ。
No, you don’t need to check small bags.
Literally: “no, + small + bag + は + don’t have to check (=even if [you] don’t entrust / deposit + good) + です + よ.”


(Note: If you're overwhelmed by the ~なければなりません ending in that first sentence, fear not. We'll have a lesson on that eventually, too.)

If you've read all of the N4 lessons up to this point, ~なくてもいい shouldn't scare you too much:


預ける
あずける
to entrust [something]; to leave [something] in the care of [someone]; to deposit [something]
↓ ↓ ↓
預けない
あずけない
not entrust [something]; not leave [something] in the care of [someone]; not deposit [something]
↓ ↓ ↓
預けなくても
あずけなくても
even if [you] don't entrust [something]; even if [you] don't leave [something] in the care of [someone]; even if [you] don't deposit [something]
↓ ↓ ↓
預けなくてもいい
あずけなくてもいい
[you] don't have to entrust [something]; it's not necessary to entrust [something]
[you] don't have to leave [something] in the care of [someone]; it's not necessary to leave [something] in the care of [someone]
[you] don't have to deposit [something]; it's not necessary to deposit [something]



Maybe I should've used a verb with a shorter definition for our example, yeah? Oops.

Let's look at some more examples...

 



You might hear something like this on a cooking show:

辛い物が苦手な人は、唐辛子を入れなくてもいいです。
からい もの が にがてな ひと は、 とうがらし を いれなくてもいい です。
For people that don’t like spicy food, it’s not necessary to add the peppers.
Literally: “spicy + thing + が + disliked + person + は, + pepper + を + don’t have to add (=even if [you] don’t insert + good) + です.”

 



You might say this to a coworker after the two of you slip up at work:

このことは社長に言わなくてもいいでしょうか。
この こと は しゃちょう に いわなくてもいい でしょう か。
I wonder if it would be OK (for us) to keep this from the boss.
Literally: “this + thing + は + company president + に + don’t have to say (=even if [we] don’t say + good) + でしょう + か.”
Note: In more natural English, we would probably say the company president's name instead of "boss," but we are translating the sentence without that contextual information.

 



A couple of things:

1) You can use words like かまわない (more formally, かまいません) instead of いい.
2) You can use ~なくてもいい in a question (which technically we already saw in our previous example).


For example, maybe you're entering a shop or restaurant that has a step up into it. That often means you need to take off your shoes. However, you don't see any shoe boxes or shoes on the floor, so you ask:

 A:
靴は脱がなくてもかまいませんか。
くつ は ぬがなくてもかまいません か。
It is all right if I don’t take off my shoes?
Literally: “shoes + は + don’t have to take off (=even if [I] don’t take off + is not an issue / doesn’t matter / doesn’t bother you) + か.”

You are told:

 B:
ええ、かまいませんよ。靴のままあがってください。
ええ、 かまいません よ。 くつ の まま あがって ください。
Yes, that’s no problem. Please come in with your shoes on.
Literally: “yes, + is not an issue / doesn’t matter + よ. + shoes + の + as something is / unchanged + please come in (=rise [and] please).”


Aside from かまわない, the word 大丈夫 (だいじょうぶ) is also commonly used. So we could have put:

靴は脱がなくても大丈夫ですか。
くつ は ぬがなくてもだいじょうぶ です か。
It is all right if I don’t take off my shoes?
Literally: “shoes + は + don’t have to take off (=even if [I] don’t take off + OK / all right) + です + か.”

 



Sometimes people remove the from ~なくてもいい:

海外旅行は慣れてるから、心配しなくていいよ。
かいがい りょこう は なれてる から、 しんぱい しなくていい よ。
I’m used to traveling abroad, so you don’t need to worry about me.
Literally: “overseas + trip / travel + は + am being used to + because, + don’t have to worry (=worry / anxiety + even if [you] don't do + good) + よ.”
Note: The speaker might be talking to his mother, who is worried about him traveling, for instance.


Somewhat similarly, you can use the ending ~なくたっていい.

~なくたっていい  sounds a bit stronger than ~なくていい.

In the following sentence, for example, it sounds like the speaker is emphasizing that his mother doesn't need to worry. Maybe he thinks she is overreacting a bit:

海外旅行は慣れてるから、心配しなくたっていいよ。
かいがい りょこう は なれてる から、 しんぱい しなくたっていい よ。
I’m used to traveling abroad, so you don’t need to worry about me.
Literally: “overseas + trip / travel + は + am being used to + because, + don’t have to worry (=worry / anxiety + even if [you] don’t do + good + よ).”
Note: Depending on the situation, maybe we could add "I'm telling you" to the beginning of our translation to better convey the nuance of ~なくたっていい.

 



Our last example:

 A:
ごめん。貸してくれた本、なくしちゃった。
ごめん。 かして くれた ほん、 なくしちゃった。
I lost the book you lent me. Sorry.
Literally: “sorry. + lend (and) + gave (me) + book, + (accidentally / unfortunately) lost.”

 B:
捨てるつもりだったから、謝らなくたってかまわないよ。
すてる つもり だった から、 あやまらなくたってかまわない よ。
No need to apologize. I was planning to throw it away, anyway.
Literally: “throw away + intention + was + because, + don’t have to apologize (=even if [you] don’t apologize + it doesn’t matter / I don’t mind) + よ.”

 



This is a highly useful grammar point.

It's one that you should be able to use in your own speech, in addition to simply understanding it.

You know what that means...



Noticed any typos we've missed or other issues?
Report them here at this link.

Have questions about something in this lesson? Something not quite clicking yet? Join our discord community and discuss any questions / comments with us and fellow students.
You can join by heading to this link.