ざるを得えない (zaru o enai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Have To

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'ざるを得えない (zaru o enai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Have To'

Anna Baffa Volpe

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ざるを得えない (zaru o enai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - Have To

The expression ざるを()ない (zaru o enai) means can't help doing, have no choice but and is related to the concept and verb have to.

The translations into various languages have different nuances; let's see together in this post how the expression ざるを得ない is formed and how it is used in the Japanese language with practical examples used in real life.

How ざるを()ない is formed

The structure consists of 3 parts:

  • ざる is an ancient expression indicating the negation and is preceded by the Negative Base of the Verb or Base in あ
  • the particle を indicating the object in the sentence
  • the negative plain form ()ない of the verb ()gain, acquire

We have a double negation ざる and ない generating an affirmation ⇨ I must do that certain thing, I do that thing.

Ichidan Verb: the final syllable る is omitted+ざるを得ない

⇨ cannot help but eat, have to eat, have no choice but to eat

Godan Verb: Verb Base in あ+ざるを得ない

⇨ cannot help but drink

ざるを()ない with the Verbs する and ()

「する」、「来る」は(れい)(がい)で「せざるを()ない」、「()ざるを()ない」となります。 The verbs する and 来る are exceptions and become せざるを得ない and 来ざるを得ない.


I have to disagree with him on that issue.


I am so busy this week that I have to work overtime every day.

How and when to use ざるを()ない

The structure ざるを()ない is used in circumstances in which it is inevitable to perform the action, the person must do that thing having no other choice and no other solution.

The subject is often reluctant to perform the action, but the situation demands it and it cannot be done otherwise.

The meaning is ~しなければならない I must do and どうしても〜する必要がある I really need to do.


If there is no one else to do it, then I have to do it.

したくないけどそうせざるを得ない: I don't want to do, but I have to.


We have no choice but to follow the instructions.

Expressions similar to ざるを()ない

There are other expressions with a different structure that translate the concept of can't help doing, can't stop myself from doing, can't help but and are:

  • ~ないではいられない
Negative plain form in ない+ではいられない


I couldn't resist buying those clothes.

  • ~ずにはいられない
Negative Base of the Verb or Base in あ+ずにはいられない


I couldn't help but laugh.

Negative plain form in ない+わけにはいかない


I borrowed this book from the library, so I can't help but return it.

Examples of ざるを()ない

Would probiotics be necessary, if I have to take antibiotics?
(こう)(せい)(ぶっ)(しつ)()まざるを()ない: I have to take antibiotics


Would probiotics be necessary, if I have to take antibiotics?


Due to a sudden business trip, I have no choice but to decline tonight's welcome party for new employees.


They are forced to live on a meager income.


People have to accept their fate.