てならない - Grammar Discussion

very
extremely
can’t help but do

Structure

  • Verb[ ] + ならない
  • いAdj[ くて ] + ならない
  • なAdj + で + ならない

[Mostly used with adjectives that describe feelings]

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How interchange is て仕方がない with the examples sentences, at least for the “can’t help but”?

This is hard to feel the translations because these seem like 3 different degrees intensity in one grammar point. I’m reading a “beyond control” type of meaning but ‘very’ and ‘extremely’ doesn’t seem match it. Are there varieties in meaning or is it just translation choices?

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てしようがない、てしょうがない てならない てたまらない are all very similar, to the point of almost completely overlapping in the way they are used.

All of those express extreme physiological and psychical feelings that are of extreme degree, cannot be controlled, etc.
It is important to mention that those are “private” expressions, so they are used to express feelings of speaker/writer. If you want to talk about other people extreme feelings you have to use らしい、ようだ, etc.

First of all,
てならない is a domain of people around 40, or even 50+ years old. It is much less often used by a younger generation. You can see it more often in literature, etc.

The most common expressions nowadays are てたまらない、てしようがない、てしょうがない、て仕方がない、てしかない。

てしうがない is a casual expression and is mostly used in casual conversations.
Other than that, it is completely identical in meaning with てしようがない and てしかたがない.

Now, lets come to differences. However, even though I say differences, those might be called “preferences”, when expressions are more commonly, or less commonly used. A lot of people will consider all of them completely interchangeable (well maybe with exception of てならない which sounds a bit old).

  • てたまらない
    –more often than the other expressions used with expressions of desire like たい and ほしい
    –much less often used with spontaneous expressions, that are beyond will of the speaker and expressions of thinking and perception like 見える、思える、気になる、思われる、感じられる、思う、感じる and てくる
    –often used with 嫌い、好き
    –more emotive than other expressions
  • てしょうがない・てしかたない・てしかたがない・てしようがない
    –used with expressions of desire like たい and ほしい, but less often than てたまらない
    –often used with spontaneous expressions, that are beyond will of the speaker and expressions of thinking and perception like 見える、思える、気になる、思われる、感じられる、思う、感じる and てくる
    –used with 嫌い、好き
    –more often than the other expressions used in negative-sense
    –てしょうがない is used mostly in casual speech
    –generally more versatile than other expressions
  • てならない
    –more often used by older people, much less often by younger generations
    –often used with spontaneous expressions, that are beyond will of the speaker and expressions of thinking and perception like 見える、思える、気になる、思われる、感じられる、思う、感じる and てくる
    –rarely used with expressions of desire like たい and ほしい (it was more common in the past though)
    –rarely used with 好き and 嫌い
    –less often used with physiological expressions 腹が立つ
    –more than the others limited to feelings, so 暑くてならない and the like are much less common

To sum up, あの服がほしくてならない or 泣けてきてたまらない are understandable, and some people will consider those completely natural (and a lot of others will think of them as at least a bit unnatural phrases), but あの服が欲しくてたまらない and 泣けてきてしょうがない are much more common. So most of the time, those are translation choices.

PS
There is another similar expression, てかなわない、which is used only with negative situations.

I hope it helps,
Cheers :+1:

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Another very thorough response, thank you! Nice list, I think I’ve seen most but was unfamiliar with all these nuances.

This helps ‘lock in’ the grammar point, particular given it’s a 1st person expression only :+1:

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Unrelated to our previous discussion, ずにはいられない has mention of てならない as a hint/warning but there is nothing for ずにはいられない. I would post this in the bug section but I’m entirely confident (there may be a nuance I’m missing). Is this interchangeable?