Help parsing causative + なきゃ

Hi! I stumbled across the following sentence in my reviews:

I have to finish a project by tomorrow. So, I cannot hang out today.

Can someone help me understand why the causative is being used here? Wouldn’t the direct English translation work with just 「終わらなきゃ」? I understand the causative brings the nuance of “being made to finish the project” but as far as I can tell the above sentence would be more akin to “I have to make (someone else) finish the project”.

Any advice is appreciated!

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My understanding is that 終わる is intransitive, so it only has a subject, not a direct object. “The project will end/finish” is “プロジェクト が 終わる”. I would have expected it to use the transitive (lexical causative) version of the verb, 終える, instead of the causative conjugation, to say “I will end/finish the project” as “[私は] プロジェクト を 終える”, but that should work too.


The CAUSATIVE CONSTRUCTION is prototypically used to indicate that someone (encoded as the subject in the nominative case or as the topic with the marker wa) makes someone else do something. The causing agent is referred to as the CAUSER, and the person who is made to act is the CAUSEE. The causee is marked with the accusative marker o if the verb is intransitive, or with the dative ni if the verb is transitive.
[From Hasegawa: Japanese - A Linguistic Introduction]

In your sentence the project is the causee that is made to stop :wink:


Ha! This makes total sense. Thanks for the clarification!


Ah, I hadn’t thought at all about transitive vs intransitive – stupid English brain! Thanks for clearing that up.

Intuitively I would default for the transitive version of the verb as you mentioned. Any thoughts on why we would use this construction instead?

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