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Expressions of non-feasibility [〜ざるを得ない、やむを得ない、〜かねる] (feasibility)
    Meaning: Formal expressions of non-feasibility (〜ざるを得ない、やむを得ない、〜かねる)
    JLPT Level: 2
    Category: lesson
    Author: TaeKim

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Advanced expressions of non-feasibility

In this section, we'll learn some advanced and specialized ways to express certain types of feasibility or the lack thereof. Like much of the grammar in the Advanced Section, the grammar covered here is mostly used for written works and rarely used in regular speech.

Expressing the inability to not do using 「~ざるを得ない」

This grammar is used when there's something that just can't be helped and must be done. It is the negative version of the grammar to mean roughly, "one cannot obtain not doing of an action". This means that you can't not do something even if you wanted to. As a result of the use of double negatives, this grammar carries a slight suggestion that you really don't want to do it, but you have to because it can't be helped. That, and the fact that this grammar is fancier and more advanced.
This grammar uses an archaic negative form of verbs that ends in 「~ざる」. It is really not used in modern Japanese with the exception of this grammar and some grammar attaches 「ざる」 instead. To reiterate, all you have to do is conjugate the verb to the negative form and then replace the 「ない」 with 「ざる」. The two exception verbs are 「する」 which becomes 「せざる」 and 「くる」 which becomes 「こざる」. Finally, all that's left to be done is to attach 「を得ない」 to the verb. It is also not uncommon to use hiragana instead of the kanji.
Using 「~ざるを得ない」 for actions that must be done
  • To say that you can't not do something replace the 「ない」 part of the negative verb with 「ざる」, then attach 「を得ない」 to the end of the verb.
    例) 食 → 食べない → 食べざる → 食べざるを得ない
    例) 行 → 行かない → 行かざる → 行かざるを得ない
  • The two exception verbs 「する」 and 「くる」 become 「せざる」 and 「こざる」 respectively.
    例外1) するせざる → せざるをえない
    例外2) くるこざる → こざるをえない


(1) このテレビがこれ以上壊れたら、新しいのを買わざるを得ないな。
- If this TV breaks even more, there's no choice but to buy a new one.
(2) ずっと我慢してきたが、この状態だと歯医者さんに行かざるを得ない
- I tolerated it all this time but in this situation, I can't not go to the dentist.

(3) 上司の話を聞くと、どうしても海外に出張をせざるを得ないようです。
- Hearing the story from the boss, it seems like I can't not go on a business trip overseas no matter what.

Expressing the inability to stop doing something using 「やむを得ない」

This grammar is very similar to the one we just learned above except that it uses the verb 「止む」 to say that on cannot obtain the stopping of something. Remember that we normally can't just attach the 「を」 direct object particle to verbs, so this is really a set expression. Just like the previous grammar we learned, it is used to describe something that one is forced to do due to some circumstances. The difference here is that this is a complete phrase, which can be used for a general situation that doesn't involve any specific action. In other words, you're not actually forced to do something; rather it describes a situation that cannot be helped. If you have already learned 「仕方がない」 or 「しょうがない」, this grammar means pretty much the same thing. The difference lies in whether you want to say, "Looks like we're stuck" vs "Due to circumstances beyond our control..."
Since this is a set expression, there are really no grammar points to discuss. You only need to take the phrase and use it as you would any regular subordinate clause.


(1) やむを得ない事由により手続が遅れた場合、必ずご連絡下さい。
- If the paperwork should be late due to uncontrollable circumstance, please make sure to contact us.
(2) この仕事は厳しいかもしれませんが、最近の不景気では新しい仕事が見つからないのでやむを得ない状態です。
- This job may be bad but with the recent economic downturn, it's a situation where nothing can be done.

Expressing what cannot be done with 「~かねる」

The meaning and usage of 「かねる」 is covered pretty well in this jeKai entry with plenty of examples. While much of this is a repetition of what's written there, 「かねる」 is a ru-verb that is used as a suffix to other verbs to express the fact that something is impossible. By impossible, we are not talking so much about physical impossibility, such as creating matter out of nothing, but more about what cannot be accomplished given certain conditions.
「かねる」 is more often used in the negative tense as 「かねない」 to indicate that there is a possibility that the verb in question might happen. As the jeKai entry mentions, this is usually in reference to something bad, which you might express in English as, "there is a risk that..." or "there is a fear that..."

One important thing that the jeKai doesn't mention is how you would go about using this grammar. It's not difficult and you may have already guessed from the example
Using 「~かねる」 for things that cannot be done

    例) 決め → 決めかねる
    例) する → しかねる
  • 「かねる」 is the same as a regular ru-verb so you negate it to 「かねない」 to say that something (bad) might happen.
    例) な → なりかね → なりかねない
    例) する → しかね → しかねない


(1) この場ではちょっと決めかねますので、また別途会議を設けましょう。
- Since we making a decision here is impossible, let's set up a separate meeting again.
(2) このままではインターネットは崩壊しかねない(
- If nothing changes, there is a possibility that the internet might be destroyed.

Copyright © 2003-2006 Tae Kim (
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