Grammar Info

N2 Lesson 3: 21/23

ないではいられない

Cannot help doing something, Cannot resist doing something

Structure

Verb[ない]+ では(1) + いられない

(1) じゃ

Details

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About ないではいられない

In order to express that something cannot be helped or cannot be resisted in Japanese, the phrase ないではいられない will be used. This is a structure that is comprised of verbs in the negative form connected to で, は, and the negative-potential form of the る-Verb ()る 'to be'. In this way it just means 'to be unable to be without (A)'.
ないではいられない primarily expresses the inability of the speaker to tolerate (A) not happening, due to wanting to do it. It may also indicate that they will unfortunately do it despite knowing that they shouldn't.
  • セール(ひん)()ると、()ないではいられなくなる。
    When I see something on sale, I can't help but buy it.
  • (わたし)(つら)(もの)()べると、牛乳(ぎゅうにゅう)()ないではいられないの。
    When I eat something spicy, I can't help but drink milk.
  • ペットのワンちゃんが自分(じぶん)尻尾(しっぽ)()いかけているのを()るとおかしくて、(わら)ないではいられない
    When I see my pet dog chasing his tail around, it's so funny that I can't help but laugh.
ないではいられない may also be used to highlight that in the situation of (A), some particular emotion, feeling, or reaction cannot be repressed. (B) is something that happens naturally as a consequence of (A).
  • 大親友(だいしんゆう)がじこでなくなったときは、()ないではいられなかった
    When my best friend died, I couldn't help but cry. (Emotion)
  • おばあさんが(こま)っているのを()ると(たす)ないではいられない
    When I see an old lady in need, I can't resist helping them. (Feeling)
  • 上司(じょうし)理不尽(りふじん)(おこ)られた(とき)には、キレないではいられなかった
    When my boss yelled at me unreasonably, I couldn't help but lose my temper. (Reaction)

Examples

  • 引退(いんたい)試合(じあい)()けて、()ないではいられません

    Having lost his last game before retirement, he can't help but cry.

  • 大好(だいす)なお(わら)番組(ばんぐみ)()て、(わら)ないではいられない

    I can't help but laugh while watching the comedy show I love.

  • (かれ)(つら)状況(じょうきょう)()(たす)ないではいられない

    Seeing his suffering, I can't help but feel like helping. (Literally - Can't help but help)

  • (こう)(きゅう)なお寿司(すし)半額(はんがく)だ。()ないではいられない

    Premium sushi is half price. I can't help but eat it.

  • 毛糸(けいと)(から)まり(こま)っている(むすめ)に、()()ないではいられない

    I can't help but give a hand to my daughter who is tangled up in yarn.

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ないではいられない – Grammar Discussion

Most Recent Replies (2 in total)

  • megatron0000

    megatron0000

    About 3 years ago

    In

    彼の辛い状況を見て助けないではいられない

    Would it be correct to say instead

    彼の辛い状況を見て助けたくてならない

    or

    彼の辛い状況を見て助けたくてたまらない

    I ask because there is a review question where the second/third forms are not accepted.

  • mrnoone

    mrnoone

    About 3 years ago

    @megatron0000
    Hey

    In Japanese we don’t usually say something like 助けたくてたまらない (and たくてならない is used less often than たくてたまらない).

    It would be understandable, but ずにはいられない or ないではいられない sound much better.

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