N4 grammar assistance

I keep getting the same mistakes wrong in Bunpro when drilling and I was hoping someone could dumb it down for me as I can’t seem to understand the difference between:

ないといけない = must not not do
なくてはいけない = must not not do
なければいけない = if not done must not do

Either I’m blind or missing the difference between the explanations Bunpro gives but I swear they are all the same. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

There are a few things to consider here. First, いけない can be considered a word in its own right since it is used to mean something quite specific on its own. You can think of it as being similar to ダメ which can actually be swapped into these structures. ならない is not a stand alone word and although it can be swapped into any of these structures it usually is used with なければ. Check your favourite dictionary for more information. Second, the abbreviated forms of なくちゃ and just ないと are extremely common in speech since they are the shortest to say. なければ structures are generally seen more in writing and sound more formal(?). Third, all those structures actually mean something like “if not doing whatever then bad”, even the なくては form which may not obviously seem like a conditional at first glance. Fourth, the theoretical difference between them is the same as the difference between the conditional forms they use however, as mentioned, in speech people will opt for the easiest/shortest one. In writing or formal speech I believe there is a tonal difference, though. Last thing, depending on the context the difference between these things is just splitting hairs. This is how I understand things anyway.

These ones suck to learn as they use more advanced grammatical ideas or structures than the level that they are taught at.


It is not? I thought it was a conjugation of なる, meaning to not become.

Yes, exactly. Likewise いけない comes from the negative potential form of 行く (行ける–>行けない). The point I was trying to make, although I obviously sacrificed clarity for brevity, is that いけない is used in such a specific way that it is possible to consider it its own word based on usage, separate from 行く. This is not the case for ならない which is just the negative form of なる. Sorry for any confusion. This is what I was alluding to when I suggested checking a dictionary in regards to いけない.

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