〈17〉 ◆ chap 3 " The Japanese expressions & their secrets ! "
So far we've discussed about the peculiarities and wonders of the Japanese language, as well as basic grammar. These are the framework or skeleton of the Japanese, and now you have a rough idea of the language spoken by the Japanese people. Congrats on your completion of the "basic" section! From here, it's time to move on to the "practical part" !
"must" and "have to"
Let's start with these words, which always appear in English studies. When you translate them into Japanese, the sentences become very long, such as "...shinakutewa naranai" or "shinakutewa ikenai". Why is that? What secrets are hidden there?
It seems this is because of the cultural differences between Japan and the West.
It is often said that the West is an "individualistic society" and Japan is a "feudalist" or "collectivist" society. While Westerners tend to focus on themselves, Japanese tend to think and speak within the context of the people around them and the social hierarchy.
This may be why Japanese people have a habit of asking for permission from those above them when they want to do something. Let's examine them one by one while looking at the table below!
Questions and answers for the Japanese when they want to do something.
１） （to do something) → (OK?)(!)
...shitemo ーーーーーーー→ ii？(!)
２） （to do something） → (NO?)(!)
...shitewa ーーーーーーー→ ikenai? (!)
３） （to do not something) → (OK?)(!)
...shinakutemo ーーーーーーー→ ii？(!)
４） （to do not something） → (NO?)(!)
...shinakutewa ーーーーーー→ ikenai? (!)
...shinakereba <naranai? (!)>
"kekkon shinakuccha!!"(I have to get married!)
For example, let's think about the verb "to call (by phone)"!
1) is "denwa shitemo ii (desuka)? 《Can I call you? / Is it OK to call you?》". It's a question that asks for permission to act in a certain way, and when the other person says, "hai, denwa shitemo ii (desuyo). 《Yes, you can call me !》", that same phrase serves as a word of approval.
2) is "denwa shitewa ikenai (ikemasenka)? 《I must not call you? / Isn't it OK to call you? 》". It is a question of whether a certain behavior is not allowed, and when the other person says "hai, denwa wo shitewa ikemasen(kyoka saremasen. )《"yes", you are not allowed to call!》" it can also be an affirmation of that. If you are negative to the question, change the "Yes" in response to "No" and say, "iie, denwa shitemo ii (desuyo)! 《"No", you can call me !》”
(In Western languages, “yes” is always “yes” and “no” is always “no”. In Japanese, if the information in the question is correct for you, the answer is “yes”, and if it is not, the answer is “no”. In some cases, the answer is the complete opposite, so be careful!)
3) is "denwa shinakutemo ii (desuka)? (Don't I have to call you? / Is it OK to not call you?)". It's a question that asks for permission for the negative form of a certain action. And It can be a word of approval as "hai denwa shinakutemo ii (desuyo)! ("Yes", you don't have to call me!)". But if you deny that permission, you would change the "Yes" in the next 4) reply to "No". Go on and look at 4).
4) is a bit more complicated. Here we have "denwa shinakutewa ikenai (ikemasenka)? (Do I have to call you? / Isn't it OK to not call you?)". It's a question of whether the negative form of the action is not allowed, and it can also be a word of approval as "hai, denwa shinakutewa ikenai (ikemasen)! ("Yes", you have to call me!)". If you deny that disapproval, change the "Yes" in the reply to "No" and say, "iie, denwa shinakutemo ii (desuyo)! ("No", you don't have to call me!)".
("...shitemo" and "...shitewa" in the table are examples of changes in the case of the verb "suru (do)". Other verbs, such as "kaku (write)", you change them like "kaitemo", "kaitewa", "kakanakutewa", along with the past tense or negative form of <informal>.
"hatarakanakutewa ikenai !!(I have to work!)"
You've already noticed that, haven't you?
That's right! The English words "must" and "have to" correspond to 4) in Japanese. This means that, to express "must" and "have to" in Japanese, you have to use the double negative form, "...shinai koto wa ikenai". It's a full of duty, complicated and time-consuming method, but it's a very characteristic part of Japanese culture.
When I tell my Japanese language students about this, they are surprised and react like, "Why are you using such a cumbersome phrase !?
In fact, there is no negative element in their "must" and "have to", but rather a strong will to do something. It is very important to understand each other's thinking when learning a foreign language.
(btw, there is also an expression "surukoto ga hitsuyou da (need to)", which is not a double negative. But it has a slightly different nuance than "have to" in Japanese).
Now, let's get it straight!
If you put (1) to (4) into English, then
4) was "must" and "have to". In addition, 3) was "don't have to", 2) is "must not" and 1) is "can".
In other words,
1) [...shitemo → ii (iidesu)] is "can".
2) [...shitewa → ikenai (ikemasen)] is "must not"
3) [...shinakutemo → ii (iidesu)] is "don't have to "
4) [...shinakutewa → ikenai (ikemasen)] is "must / have to"
...and each of these can be used as a question and an answer.
Since "ikenai" (ikemasen) & "naranai" (narimasen), and "shinakutewa" & "shinakereba" can be used interchangeably,
2) can be [...shitewa → ikenai (ikemasen)] or [...shitewa → naranai (narimasen)]
4) can be [...shinakutewa → ikenai (ikemasen)], [...shinakutewa → naranai (narimasen)], [...shinakereba → ikenai (ikemasen)], [...shinakereba → naranai (narimasen)]
〈 The words inside of ( ) are formal type 〉
So they have two or four variations. Japanese people unconsciously use these expressions in different ways, but the meaning is almost the same. If you want to make it shorter, you can change "...shitewa" to "...shichaa", "...shinakutewa" to "...shinakucha", "...sinakereba" to "...shinakerya", or something more casual.
Yes, Japanese is an odd language. But you already know what to say, don't you? The Japanese have always enjoyed the nuances in every little variation. I am sure that new expressions are being created at this very moment. Let's enjoy these changes together!.
ーーー The next post will be