Verb［る］(A) + に + Verb［できる］［ない］(A)
生徒が言った冗談は面白かったが内容が下品だったので笑うに笑えなかった。The joke the student told was funny, but it was inappropriate so I could not laugh even if I wanted to.
- 本当は時間はあんまりなかったが、先輩に頼まれたから断るに断れなかった。I actually didn't really have too much time, but since my senpai asked me I couldn't refuse even if I wanted to.
- 息子には明日までに滑り台を作ってあげると約束してしまったので、どんな忙しくても引くに引けない。I promised my son that I would build him a slide by tomorrow, so I can't back out no matter how busy I am.
最近は色々と悩み事が多くて、集中するにできない。A lot has been on my mind recently that I haven't been able to concentrate even if I wanted to.
息子が一晩中泣いていて寝るに寝れず徹夜をしてしまった。My son cried all night and because of that I couldn't sleep even if I wanted to and stayed up all night.
昨日の練習で足の怪我をしてしまったので歩こうにも歩けない。I couldn't walk even if I wanted to because I injured my foot in yesterday's practice.
- 今の仕事を辞めようと思っているが、次のところが見つからないから今の仕事を辞めようにも辞められない。I'm thinking of quitting my current job, but I can't find another one, so I couldn't quit my current job even if I wanted to.
During my junior high school days, I confessed to a girl I liked and was rejected. There were some people nearby, so I was in a position where I could not cry even if I wanted to.
By extension of the basic meaning, 泣くに泣けない has also come to mean 'extremely depressed' or 'extremely mortified'.
The boss that everyone hates had a spectacular fall. The employees' faces looked as though they wanted to laugh but were unable to.
'Why is he not willing to go back to school?'
'I'm not sure if something happened or not, but maybe he is in a situation where he cannot talk about it (even though he may want to).'
By extension of the basic meaning, 言うに言えない has come to mean 'unspeakable'.
'She said, 'If you refuse, I will kill you,' so the situation suddenly turned into one where I couldn't refuse even if I wanted.'
I have a meeting today, but snow has piled up and the road is closed, so I can't go, even if I want to.
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