Monday, July 15, 2019

nakya なきゃ

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, nakya なきゃ is often used to say you "must" do something. It can also be used to say "if not something, something else."
  • ganbaranakya
    [I] must work hard. Try my best. Put effort.
    • ganbaru 頑張る
      To work hard. Try your best. Etc.
  • yasukunakya urenai
    If [it's] not cheap, [it] can't be sold.
    • yasui 安い

Grammatically, it's either a contraction of nakereba なければ, the conditional ba-form of the i-adjective nai ない, "nonexistent," which can be suffixed to verbs and adjectives to create their negative forms.

This nakya なきゃ is almost synonymous with nakucha なくちゃ, which contracts nakute wa なくては instead.


Both meaning of nakya, or rather, of ~kya ~きゃ, can be used to express a condition which leads to a consequence.
  • okane ga nakya komaru
    If there's no money: be troubled.
    [I'll] be troubled if [I] don't have money.
    [I'll] be troubled if [you] don't have money. (because you owe me money, for example.)

The reason nakya is particularly important is because you often see it in double negatives, which end up translating to "must."
  • hatarakanakya kuenai
    If [you] don't work, [you] can't eat.
    [You] must work in order to eat.

Like nakucha, nakya is often combined with dame ダメ, "no good," ikenai いけない, "can't go," and naranai ならない, "won't be," which result in phrases that mean you "must" do something. For example:
  • benkyou shinakya dame
    If not study: no good.
    Not studying is no good.
    Studying is good.
    I should study. I have to study. I must study. (etc.)
  • benkyou shinakya ikenai
    (same meaning.)
  • benkyou shinakya naranai
    (same meaning.)

These patterns, nakya dame なきゃダメ, nakya naranai なきゃならない, nakya naranai なきゃならない, are common enough that sometimes what comes after nakya gets omitted.
  • benkyou shinakya
    If [I] don't study. (then what???)

So a phrase like above is saying "I have to study." It should be saying "if I don't study it's going to be bad," but it's omitting the "it's going to be bad" part, which is what makes it so confusing.
  • sou konakya
    If [it] doesn't come like that. (it's bad.)
    • In other words, if you don't act like that, if you don't do it like that, if you don't say something like that, if you don't behave like that, if you don't show courage or determination like that, etc. etc. etc. it's no good.


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  1. Thank you for the explanation, although in this example that I have found, I can't seem to make any light of it.

    person 1:神様…」

    person 1:「居るのか?」

    person 2: 「こんな世界があるんだもの。居なきゃおかしいわ

    from what I have understood, in this example it seems to be a completley different thing altogether, roughly meaning 'it doesn't exist, im joking', very roughly. thanks for any help and for the article once again.

    1. It's the same thing. What you got wrong is that おかしい doesn't mean "I'm joking," it means something is weird, doesn't make sense, or is funny.

      Person 1: Gods, do they exist?
      Person 2: Given that a world like this exists. If [gods] didn't exist, that would be odd!

      Person 2 is saying that the world is so blessed or something like that that it could only have been created by gods, therefore gods must exist, and "it wouldn't make sense if [they] didn't exist," いなければおかしい.