Grammar Info
N4 Lesson 6: 7/16

to do something by accident, to finish completely・totally, unfortunately

Verb[て]+ しまう
Verb[] + ちゃう(1)

(1) じゃう(*)

(*) Used when Verb[て]ends with で
Verb[て]+ しまいます
Verb[] + ちゃいます(1)

(1) じゃいます(*)

(*) Used when Verb[て]ends with で
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使用域 一般
By combining the 接続助詞(せつぞくじょし) , with the verb しまう (sometimes written as 終(しま)う), you are able to express that something was done ‘by accident’, ‘completely’, or ‘unfortunately’. These meanings may seem quite different, but we will discuss their similarities in a moment. Let’s look at a few examples of てしまう first.
  • 私(わたし)すぐに道(みち)に迷(まよ)ってしまう
    Unfortunately, I easily get lost.
  • 家(いえ)お菓子(かし)いっぱいある全部(ぜんぶ)食(た)べてしまうのでお菓子(かし)買(か)わないようにしている
    When there are a lot of snacks in my house, I completely eat them all, so I try not to buy them.
  • メニューアイスクリームがある頼(たの)んでしまう
    When there is ice-cream on the menu, I unfortunately order it.
  • 私(わたし)よく舌(した)噛(か)んでしまう。
    I accidentally bite my tongue often.
As we can see, verbs that usually take instead of will be no different when using てしまう.
Sometimes, てしまう or でしまう will be shortened to a more casual form, which are often used in speech. These forms are as follows:
てしまう will become ちゃう
でしまう will become じゃう
  • 最近(さいきん)運動(うんどう)してないから太(ふと)っちゃう
    Recently, I haven't been exercising, so I’m totally going to get fat.
  • 花(はな)死(し)んじゃうから、花(はな)踏(ふ)な。
    Since the flowers will unfortunately die, don’t step on them.
Fun Fact
While て終(しま)う is most frequently written in hiragana, て仕舞(しま)う may also be seen. There is a slight nuance difference between these two kanji structures, but the primary meaning of しまう will always be that ‘something has come to the point where ending/ending up in a specific state cannot be avoided’. This ‘no turning back point’ may be temporary (likely to be written as 仕舞(しま)う), or it may be permanent (likely to be written as 終(しま)う).
Due to this ‘cannot be avoided’ nuance, しまう often comes across as ‘totally’, as in ‘ah… I totally left the chicken in the oven for too long’. In these cases, it is simply expressing the speaker's exasperation that something is ‘too late’ to change. However, despite regularly being used negatively, てしまう can also be used positively. In these cases it still has the nuance of ‘no turning back’.
  • ゲーム始(はじ)める前(まえ)に宿題(しゅくだい)終(お)わらせてしまおう
    Let's completely finish my homework before I start playing video games! (I'm going to completely finish my homework before I start playing video games)
  • 青木(あおき)先輩(せんぱい)、定時(ていじ)までに社長(しゃちょう)頼(たの)まれたレポート完成(かんせい)させてしまいましょう
    Aoki senpai, let's completely finish the report that our boss has asked us to do before work is over.
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I unfortunately forgot my umbrella.
My friend finished off my cake.
[totally ate]
(Someone) accidentally broke a plate.
[totally broken]
Genki II 1st Edition
Page 117
みんなの日本語 II
Page 30 [CH 29]
Genki II 2nd Edition
Page 145
[DBJG] A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
Page 2 & 403
Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
Page 232