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<< tehaikenai | tehajimete >>

〜てはいられない・〜てばかりはいられない [〜てはいられない・〜てばかりはいられない] (tehairarenai / tebakarihairarenai)
    Meaning: can't / can't afford 〜(doing something)
    Example: we can't be relaxing like this drinking tea
    JLPT Level: 1
    Category: grammar

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one can't afford doing or continue doing a certain action because of nervousnes or to meet the demands of that particular situation or moment. 「〜てばかりはいられない」is almost the same as 「〜てはいられない」, only the ばかり emphasizes of " only just doing .... (action that one should not be doing that moment)".

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ex #5855   もうすぐ試験なので、遊んでばかりはいられないのです。 
Because exam is just around the corner, I can't (afford to) be fooling around.  
ex #5856   お客様がそろそろお着きになって大変なので、のんびりお茶など飲んではいられない 
Since the customers will be coming in no time and it will be a hard time, we can't just relaxing around drinking tea.  

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    bamboo4In #5856, "Since the customers will be coming in no time and it will be a hard time" is awkward. Should read: "Since customers will be arriving in no time and we will have more than our fill..." 
    wribbitSorry if this is too simplistic, but am wondering if I can use this with the negative form as well?
    For example, can I say "___ しなくてはいられない" (Can't afford not to do __)
    tigerthey wribbit,

    If you want to say you cant afford not to do, you should probably use I must do or have to grammar forms. English and Japanese don`t have the same idiomes, so trying to translate your thoughts exactly will end up in strange Japanese. when you want to say Can`t afford not to do try

    しなくではいけない (I must) or しなくではならない (I have to)

    also if you want to add a hypothetical if to it
    しなければいけない or しなければならない


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