beki (べき) | Meaning and Examples [JLPT N3]
beki) is a verbal suffix indicating something that should be done, generally referring to a moral obligation or duty.
There are also different forms of べき which take on different meanings and have a different level of formality between them.
In this post we go to see all the forms and variations of べき to learn their meaning through examples of real sentences.
べき is conjugated as a noun. The verb preceding べき remains in its base form, and it is simply followed by べき without variations:
There is a special case with the verb する. This can be formed either as するべき or as すべき:
- するべき is a more colloquial form
- すべき is a more formal form
べき comes from the kanji 可き, which is rarely used
In its basic form with the addition of the copula だ, べきだ indicates an action you should / must do.
べき can be translated as
you should (conditional) or
must (obligation) depending on the sentence.
The original meaning of べき indicates an obligation, something that you are expected to do, and therefore you should (or rather you must 💁🏼♂️) do.
Let's see some examples of using the form べきだ:
You should apologize to her.
The use of べき in this example makes us understand that what has been said is not a simple suggestion, but an explicit request to apologize. This is because べき conveys the idea that there is an obligation or duty to perform the action, which in this case is to apologize.
You should study more.
Also in this second example we can understand how what has been said is not a suggestion. In fact, one might think that the one who is told this sentence has an obligation towards someone, and that not studying is causing problems towards this obligation.
When べき is followed by a noun it indicates something we should do:
There are many things I should do.
As seen in the previous paragraph, べき is not used to make suggestions.
This is because the meaning of べき is very strong, and instead of being interpreted as
you should (as a hint) it is instead interpreted as
you have an obligation to.
For this reason, when using べき to tell someone what to do, this is seen more as a rebuke.
べき is therefore used for:
- Indicate what I myself should do
- Indicate a general rule that everyone should follow (
you have to pay taxes,
you have to raise your children well, etc.)
- Ask someone their opinion about something you should or shouldn't do
Hey, do you think I should call him?
If we change the copula following べき to its negative form ではない / じゃない, then the meaning becomes
Also in this form the preceding verb is conjugated in the its basic form.
ではない and じゃない have the same meaning; ではない is the more formal form, while じゃない is the colloquial form:
You shouldn't say such a thing.
You shouldn't say such a thing.
It is also possible to conjugate the copula in the past tense form だった.
In this case べき expresses a regret, something you
should have done in the past, but you have not done:
I should have asked her for her number.
Another form is to follow べき from the particle か: べきか (
This form is for wondering if I should or shouldn't take a certain action:
To be or not to be.
It is also possible to use かどうか in place of か to emphasize this meaning.
かどうか means "I should or shouldn't"
I wonder whether or not I should buy an IPhone 6.
Grammatically, べく is the conjunctive form (連用形) of べき. Nevertheless, べく has a different meaning than べき.
べく in fact is used to indicate an action performed to achieve a predetermined purpose. Therefore, べく can be translated as
for the purpose of.
べく is a formal way of indicating a purpose. There are more colloquial expressions with the same meaning
He entered law school to become a lawyer.
Adding the particle も and ない (
not to exist) to べく forms the expression べくもない, which means
there is no chance (of something happening).
This expression means something that is not possible in any way, even if you try hard:
A drawing cannot be compared with a photograph.
べからず is the negative form of -べし and is used as an imperative form in the negative:
Stay off the lawn.
べからず is a mostly literal and written form