Grammar Info

N2 Lesson 3: 22/23

ねばなら + ぬ

Must, Have to, Should

Rarely used in modern Japanese; mostly used in literature


Verb[ない+ ならない



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About ねばならない

Unlike the standard ば form of hypothetical phrases, ねば makes use of the classical auxiliary verb ず in its ね form. However, the meaning is the same as the modern なければ 'if not (A)'. ねば connects to verbs in the same way as ない, and will then be followed by the negative form of なる 'to become', ならない.
Like なければならない, ねばならない will translate to 'must do (A)', or 'have to do (A)', and is simply a double negative that literally means 'if not (A), it won't be (B)'. This is a formal structure, and will mostly be found in literature.
  • 今月(こんげつ)の13(にち)までに電気代(でんきだい)(はら)ねばならない
    I have to pay the electric bill by the 13th of this month.
  • あの人は一応(いちおう)(わたし)先輩(せんぱい)なので(なに)()われても、(したが)ねばならない
    That person is my senpai, more or less, so no matter what he says, I must obey him.
As ね is a form of the literary auxiliary verb ず, the base of する will change to せねば, in the same way it changes to せず in other grammar patterns.
  • (きゃく)さんが()(まえ)掃除(そうじ)せねばならない
    I must clean before the guests arrive.
  • 日本語(にほんご)(いま)より(はな)せる(よう)になりたいのならば、もっと努力(どりょく)せねばならない
    If you want to be able to speak Japanese better than you do now, you have to work harder.
Caution - Sometimes ならない will be replaced with ならぬ. This has exactly the same meaning and just makes use of the ぬ attributive form of the same auxiliary verb, ず.
  • 社長(しゃちょう)には(ぼく)(まか)せてくださいと()ったので、(なに)があっても成功(せいこう)せねばならぬ
    I told my boss to leave it to me, so no matter what happens, I must succeed.
While not changing the meaning at all, the addition of ぬ will make the overall expression sound even more old-fashioned.
Fun-fact - As with other 'must' double-negative structures, the second part of the ねばならない may sometimes be omitted, resulting in ねば or せねば appearing by itself. This is similar to the modern ないと appearing without いけない following it.
  • もうこんな時間(じかん)ですか、そろそろ(かえ)ねば
    It's already so late! I must go home soon.
  • あなたたちは兄弟(きょうだい)でしょう?もっと仲良(なかよ)せねば
    You guys are siblings, aren't you? You guys have to be nice to each other.



  • (とお)りがかりに意識(いしき)(うしな)った(ひと)がいたら、すぐに緊急(きんきゅう)(よう)番号(ばんごう)連絡(れんらく)ねばならない

    If you happen to come across a person that has lost consciousness, you have to immediately call an emergency phone number.

    • 指示(しじ)によると日本語(にほんご)能力(のうりょく)試験(しけん)にはHBの鉛筆(えんぴつ)使(つか)ねばならない

      According to the instructions, you should use an HB pencil on the JLPT exam.

      • 自然(しぜん)環境(かんきょう)悪化(あっか)危機(きき)にさらされているため、保護(ほご)するために国際(こくさい)社会(しゃかい)一致(いっち)して協力(きょうりょく)ねばならない

        Because the environmental crisis is growing worse, the international community must join forces to protect it.

        • 体重(たいじゅう)激減(げきげん)したため、生活(せいかつ)パターンを見直(みなお)ねばならない

          Due to my weight dropping drastically, I must rethink how I live my life.

          • 血圧(けつあつ)(たか)すぎるので、病院(びょういん)()ねばならない

            Since my blood pressure is too high, I should go to the hospital.

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            ねばならない – Grammar Discussion

            Most Recent Replies (5 in total)

            • lisaki8


              Thank you for your reply. I will definitely add ねばならない to my JLPT2 review list.

              Could I suggest that the tag-line be changed to read something along the lines of:

              Rarely used in modern spoken Japanese; mostly used in literature

              Maybe that would be more accurate based on the fact that it is used in modern books?

            • nekoyama


              TBH tags like this could just all be replaced with “don’t use this yourself”. On bunpro, something like “rarely used” usually just means “rare in comparison to other things we learn for the JLPT”. But none of these grammar points are really obscure. Otherwise they wouldn’t appear on the JLPT. The main point to take away from these tags is that it’s not the most normal thing to say.

            • lisaki8


              Thank you. I’ll keep this in mind as I continue studying.

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