In this lesson, we will learn about the grammar point ～ては, which is a combination of the conjunctive particle て and the bound particle は, used here in its contrastive role. Firstly, as a very brief reminder, below is a quick summation of how to conjugate with ～ては. Because this grammar pattern only concerns verbs, we’ll only need to worry about when～ては may become ～では. This occurs for Godan verbs which end in ぐ・ぶ・む・ぬ.
|Ichidan Verb||食べる ＋ ては →||食べては|
|Godan Verb|| 立つ ＋ ては →|
死ぬ ＋ ては →
|する||する ＋ ては →||しては|
|くる||くる ＋ ては →||きては|
|だ||だ ＋ ては →||では|
Curriculum Note: This lesson does not cover how the contrastive は can go after the gerund use of the particle て as seen in phrases like ～について, ～に関して, ～に対して, etc. This is to be discussed later in IMABI.
Usage 1: Trouble Causing Hypotheticals
The first usage of ～ては we will look at is how it is used to express situations that bring about anxiety, misgivings, uneasiness, fear, and/or inconvenience.
I’m troubled with asthma attacks happening due to exercise at school in gymnastics.
I’m embarrassed when I’m looked at by old people.
Since it’d be worrisome if there is a misunderstanding.
Things will be difficult if there are any wounds/nicks.
Since it’d all be for naught if it were ruined by deer, we have the surroundings of the forest enclosed in an electric fence.
We have actually already learned about this usage of ～ては when we learned about “must” and “must not” conditional phrases. As review, we will go over the basic combinations for these conditional phrases once more.
・～てはいけない: This is used to tell someone he/she mustn’t do something. It isn’t simply used just to forcibly prohibit things. It could simply imply that the act in question is not favorable and that it will not be approved of by the speaker. This pattern is not typically used towards those who are higher in social status.
・～てはならない: This is used to prohibit something with a sense of duty and responsibility. Whereas the phrase above is most frequently used to prohibit and/or disapprove of the action(s) of individuals, this phrase is most frequently used to objectively state things that ought not be allowed by society at large. Because of this, it is frequently used in law and other important, official documents.
・～てはだめだ: This phrase is a more colloquial, softer variant of ～てはいけない.
One mustn’t dig up dirt during the Festival of the Dead.
We must not abdicate our responsibility.
Why is it that it’s bad to kill animals?
One mustn’t judge based on appearance.
We mustn’t start a war ever again.
・～なくてはいけない: The use of this pattern indicates that the listener ought to do something, not just because the speaker is demanding such action, but that not doing whatever it is will be unbeneficial/unfavorable for the speaker and/or listener. This is often used to make statements regarding common sense, morality, societal common wisdom, or current trends. Typically, the sentence is not interpreted as first-person unless a first-person pronoun is explicitly used.
・～なくてはならない: This pattern is used for very affirmative commands out of a sense of duty, but this “must” pattern is directed more so toward individual responsibilities rather than societal ones. This pattern is also preferred in formal writing over the phrase above.
Why do you have to study?
Sentence Note: The “you” in the sentence is the indirect “you” and not necessarily literally second-person. This is also the case for Ex. 12
Do you have to always pull wisdom teeth?
Not just the economy but also each and every citizen must constantly aim at growth.
A cellphone is a necessity that one can’t be without to me.
What do you think about company systems that mandate (workers) be present even during typhoons?
Usage 2: Condition for Strong Emotional Response
This usage of ～ては is used to express that an action/state that has come about is the reason for a strong emotional response, whether that response be a rebuke, retort, or astonishment.
Being talked about to that degree, I have no choice but object.
I can’t stand being so ridiculed and made a fool of.
I can’t stay silent having something illogical so calmly be done to me.
I can’t stay silent as even my life is put in danger.
I can’t stay silent when I’m falsely accused.
Usage 3: Repeated Action/Effect
Similar to the particle たり, ～ては is most frequently used to express the repetition (of a series of) actions. This is usage is more naturally emphatic than たり due to the presence of the contrastive/emphatic は. It is most frequently used in the written language and song lyrics as it adds a layer of expressive capability that isn’t necessarily indicative of standard conversation.
Grammatically speaking, the second verbal element of the pattern V＋ては＋V needs to be in the 連用中止形. This is the form of a verb that can at times be used as nouns. Incidentally, this pattern can be treated as a complex nominal phrase as an effect (See Ex. 28).
I wrote and erased, wrote and erased in writing up the report.
From running to resting, I continued forward.
Eyes closed, I inhale and exhale.
Life breaks and retreats like waves.
That cat constantly dies and comes back to life; it’s as if it’s immortal.
Fujiko, who has up till now repeatedly been married, divorced, and then remarried, has had four shotgun weddings!
Various sceneries appeared and went away.
When someone becomes depressed, one will see behaviors such as loss of composure, walking constantly back and forth in rooms, and repeatedly standing up and sitting down.
When I pick out clothes, I can’t get it together and I end up repeatedly taking clothes off and putting them back on many times over.
Grammar Note: Verbs that end up being one-mora long when put in the 連用中止形 usually manifest in the て form when the “V + ては + V” is used as a noun.
On top of dinner being late, it’s only natural to be gaining weight each time one eats.
Usage 4: Infallible Repeat
The purpose of this usage of ～ては is to explain how something always happens under the condition that it marks. Think of this as an amalgam of the three usages above being intended simultaneously.
You will not succeed forever by repeatedly doing the same things as other people.
There will be no plus to messing around like everyone else.
Nothing will go well from constantly being sneaky about things.
You cannot succeed with a diet by constantly denying what your body (is trying to tell you).
Haste makes waste.
Usage 5: ～てはみる
The purpose of ～てはみる is to express that although one will make an attempt at doing something, one doesn’t have the confidence and/or doesn’t expect a good result.
I’ll think about it (but I’m not so sure I’ll be okay with it).
I’ll definitely try, but I don’t know whether it’ll go well.
I at any rate try clicking it every time, but I have yet to win even once.
I pay attention to what my meals are and I try all sorts of challenges, but not matter how much I try, I don’t get slimmer.
I’ll try committing English vocabulary to memory, but I always can’t remember, or I’m always not in the mood to be able to remember them.
Usage 6: ～てはどうか
By using the pattern ～てはどうか, you can suggest that someone do something. There is an implication that the suggestion hasn’t been tried yet by the speaker, thus the use of the contrastive は. In more formal speech, this is expressed as ～てはいかがですか.
How about coming to the world of magic?
How about if you use the while chair if I lend you my hands?
How about using it before throwing it away?
How would you like going to relax at a summer resort?
How would you like seeing it?
Usage 7: ～てはいる
The contrastive marker は may be inserted inside ～ている to imply that one is doing something, or that what is in question is indeed the case, but that other actions/states are not being undertaken/happening.
Although I’ve been living with the same man for the last five years, we haven’t built anything (together).
Although our father is no longer with us, his being remains forever within our family.
As a company, it is doing so with that intent, but whether it’s being transmitted as intended is a separate problem, but
Although the budget presented by President Trump is exclusively reduced, government spending was not a problem that he fussed over during his campaigning in the presidential election.
Although total abolition of nuclear weapons is discussed in various settings, it is difficult to say that it is necessarily progressing due to each country’s ulterior motives.
Usage 8: ～ではない
As the last use of ～ては to be discussed in this lesson, we return to a grammar point that was first introduced in Lesson 9. Now that you understand how the particle は is exclusively treated as a contrast marker after the particle て, it is only natural to conclude that some degree of contrast is implied with ～ではない, which is indeed the case.
The reality is not always so.
Figs are not fruit.
Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.
No nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily, or financially.
President Temer of Brazil on the morning of the 19th at the United Nations General Assembly, along with strongly criticizing North Korea, urged that each nation not rely on military force but rather search for peaceful solutions through mutual collaboration.
For Usages 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8, you may find ては contracted to ちゃ（あ） ・じゃ（あ） . There isn't any difference in meaning whether the vowel /a/ is elongated.
You mustn’t do anything bad.
Wouldn’t it be terrible if you were late to your new job from the very beginning?
We gotta do it if we’re told to have a throw down.
You can’t possibly when by constantly ruining yourself!
It’d just be trouble if (he/she) were just nice.
No, now’s not the time to call for (him/her).
I’d be in a rut with a man who’s selfish and egotistic.
You mustn’t cry forever.
[I’m/we’re] going to go through a bunch of trouble with you staying quiet.
You can’t just be dawdling!