Grammar Info
N2 Lesson 3: 3/23

might・could be, capable of, possible

Verb[ます+ かねない
Noun + + ​​かねない
Verb[ます+ かねません
Noun + + ​​かねません
Register Standard
使用域 一般
The negative form of the る-Verb 兼(か)ねる ‘to spread across’ (usually 2 different activities or thought processes) is a grammar pattern that indicates a possibility of (A) happening, especially when it is something that the speaker themselves cannot control. 兼(か)ねない is often translated as ‘might (A)’, ‘capable of (A)’, or ‘(A) is a possibility’.
This structure will be seen connected to the ます-stem of verbs, or after nouns followed by に. Both the kanji and non-kanji forms may be used.
  • それは命(いのち)を落(お)としかねない感染症(かんせんしょう)らしい。
    Apparently that is an infectious disease that could lead to death.
  • 地震(じしん)の後(あと)には津波(つなみ)が起(お)こりかねないので、出来(でき)るだけ早(はや)く避難(ひなん)しましょう。
    A tsunami might follow an earthquake so try to evacuate as soon as possible.
  • ベッドでの喫煙(きつえん)は火災(かさい)になりかねないのでご遠慮(えんりょ)ください。
    Please refrain from smoking on the bed as it might cause a fire.
  • 仕事(しこと)のやりすぎは、鬱(うつ)の原因(げんいん)になりかねない
    Working too much could be a cause of depression.
It is quite common to see 兼(か)ねない come after conditional phrases that include と, ば, たら, でも, and similar structures. This indicates that ‘if (A) were to happen, (B) may also occur’.
  • 操作(そうさ)を間違(まちが)えれば怪我人(けがにん)が出(で)かねない
    If you operate it wrong, it could cause injuries.
  • どんなに注意(ちゅうい)をしていても、事故(じこ)は起(お)こりかねない
    No matter how careful you are, accidents might happen.
Caution - While this grammar structure is most often used to highlight negative outcomes, it may also be used to indicate or desire or wish sarcastically.
  • ちゃんと毎日(まいにち)勉強(べんきょう)すれば、来週(らいしゅう)のテストは合格(ごうかく)できかねない
    If I study everyday, I might do well on the test next week.
Fun-fact - As 兼(か)ねる means ‘to spread across’, in the negative, this expression can be thought of as similar to ‘to not be a stretch’ in English. It just indicates the action of (A) would not be a stretch of the ability or capacity of whoever or whatever is being discussed.
  • 彼女(かのじょ)はどんな病気(びょうき)でも治(なお)しかねない
    It would not be a stretch to say that she can cure any disease.
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Expired food could be a cause of diarrhea.
If his dog bites you, it is capable of causing serious injury.
If you leave it at that, it might cause conflict.
完全マスター N2
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Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
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