794 - ~なければならない

JLPT N4: ~なければならない

Get ready to practice some tongue twisters.

~なければならない — or ~なければなりません — is used when saying that something must be done.

~なければ is the negative ば-conditional form. It literally means something like "if (you) don't."

ならない/なりません literally means "doesn't become."

"if (you) don't X" + "doesn't become" = "(you) must X"


Confusing? Maybe an example will help:

今週は、土日も学校に行かなければなりません
こんしゅう は、 どにち も がっこう に いかなければなりません。
This week I have to go to school on Saturday and Sunday, too.
Literally: “this week + は, + Saturday and Sunday + も + school + に + must go.”


行く(いく // to go
↓ ↓ ↓
行かない(いかない // don't go
↓ ↓ ↓
行かなければいかなければ // if [you] don't go
↓ ↓ ↓
行かなければなりませんいかなければなりません // [you] must go

 



👷 Construction 👷

If you don't remember your ば-conditional conjugations, you should review this lesson: [NDL #736] - JLPT N4: ~ば.

You will see ~なければならない being used with VERBS, i-adjectives, and na-adjectives and NOUNS in the following ways:

V なければならない
i-adjective くなければならない
na-adjective / NOUNなければならない


We have examples of all of these below.

 

Here's another example with なりません:

アメリカでは、お酒を飲むには21才以上でなければなりません
アメリカ で は、 おさけ を のむ には にじゅういっさい いじょう でなければなりません。
In the US, you have to be at least 21 years old to drink alcohol.
Literally: “America + で + は, + alcohol + を + drink + に + は + 21 years old + at least / not less than + must be.”

 

Here, on the other hand, is an example with ならない:

公共の乗り物は、安全でなければならない
こうきょう の のりもの は、 あんぜん でなければならない。
Public transportation must be safe.
Literally: “public + の + vehicle / transport + は, + safe + must be.”

 



Note that it is possible to drop the ならない/なりません part completely, which you'll find is quite common in colloquial language:

今日はバイトの面接でしょう。ひげを剃らなければ
きょう は バイト の めんせつ でしょう。 ひげ を そらなければ。
You have a job interview today, right? You need to shave.
Literally: “today + は + (non-career) job + の + interview + でしょう. + facial hair + を + must shave.”

 



Last of all, ~なければ will usually morph into ~なきゃ in spoken language:

医療費は、安くなきゃならない
いりょうひ は、 やすくなきゃならない。
Medical care needs to be affordable [cheap].
Literally: “medical expenses + は, + must be cheap.”


↑ Although we didn't do so, the ならない could have been dropped from this sentence, too.

 



While this grammar point may not seem too complicated to understand, being able to conjugate your phrases into the ~なければならない ending can be difficult, especially when you need to be able to do it on the fly in the midst of a conversation. Even if you do remember the conjugations, saying them without tripping over the combination of sounds here can be tough.

To get better, you can start by trying to repeat some of the examples here with your eyes closed (i.e. from memory). It would also be helpful to drill ~なければならない conjugations with a teacher or language exchange partner... but if you're anything like me, you probably won't be too good about doing that. ^_^

We have a few N4 lessons covering uses of ~なければ left, so hang in there!



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.