なければいけない (nakereba ikenai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - To Be Necessary

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'なければいけない (nakereba ikenai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - To Be Necessary'

Anna Baffa Volpe

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なければいけない (nakereba ikenai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - To Be Necessary

The structure なければいけない (nakereba ikenai) means must do, have to do, be necessary to do, need to do.

They express duty and necessity.

This is one of the various forms that translate the verb must.

In this post we will also see some examples with another structure for the verb must: なければならない.

How なければいけない is formed

Let's analyze this locution to understand its meaning:

  • なければ is the conditional form of ない ⇨ if there is not, if it is not
  • いけない means it is not good, it can't go, it is not acceptable

⇨ if it is not, it is no good ⇨ it must be, it is necessary

Example with the Ichidan Verb: ()める, decide


⇨ I have to decide, I must decide

Example with the Godan Verb: ()call

B1 or Negative Base ending in A +なければいけない

⇨ I have to call, I must call

How and when なければいけない is used

なければいけない is used in situations where there is a need to do something, and it expresses a sense of obligation or necessity.

It refers to something that must be done or that is necessary and appropriate to do. It is often used in the first person.


I must study.

Or: It is necessary for me to study


I have to prepare for the trip this afternoon.

なければいけない and なければならない


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In a colloquial and informal context, the same structure can be found in the variant:

なきゃ+ いけない whose なきゃ is the contraction form.


I have to tell him the truth.

なきゃ is often used singularly as a shortened form of なければならない or なければいけない.


We have to go!

なくちゃ is another informal and colloquial variant of なければならない or なければいけない.


The train is coming in five minutes, so we have to hurry.

Why should I eat vegetables?


Why should I eat vegetables?

Examples of なければいけない


I need to concentrate more in order to finish this job.


I have to buy the ticket before getting on the train.


The report must be submitted by Friday.

How to do what you have to do.


How to do what you have to do.


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