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てたまらない / てしかたがない

てたまらない / てしかたがない

てたまらない / てしかたがない Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Phrase

Essential Meaning: Unbearably X / Be dying to do X

Construction: 

  • い-Adjective Stem + くてだまらない
    • E.g. さむくてたまらない [Unbearably cold]
  • な-Adjective Stem + でたまらない
    • E.g. 不便ふべんでたまらない [Unbearably inconvenient]

Notes:

  • てたまらない indicates that some situation is unbearable for the speaker (either in a positive or negative way). てたまらない derives from the verb たまる, which means “To stand” or “To endure“. So てたまらない expression can be roughly translated as ”It’s so ADJECTIVE that I can’t stand it” (e.g. “This book is so boring that I can’t stand it.“) The adjective that precedes てたまらない should refer to some human emotion; A sentence such as “This grass is so green that I can’t stand it.” would be awkward in Japanese because the sentence does not refer to an adjective of human emotion.
    • E.g. 今日きょうあつくてたまらない。[It’s so hot that I can’t stand it.]
  • Note that てたまらない can NOT be inverted to say something to the effect of “This book is so interesting I CAN stand it!“. In other words てたまらない is only usable with something unbearable, either in a good way or a bad way.
    • E.g. このほんはおもしろくてたまらない。[This book is so interesting I can’t stand it.] This situation is unbearable in a good way.
    • E.g. ちちんでかなしくてたまりません。[My father died, and I’m so sad that I can’t stand it.] This situation is unbearable in a bad way.
  • てたまらない can generally be interchanged with て仕方しかたがない. The main differences are:
    • (1) てたまらない is slightly more emotionally-charged that て仕方しかたがない.
      • E.g. このほんはおもしろくてたまらない。[This book is so interesting I can’t stand it.]
      • E.g. このほんはおもしろくて仕方しかたがない。[This book is so interesting that I can’t contain myself.] This sentence basically means the same thing as the preceding sentence.
    • (2) If 仕方しかたがない is preceded by ても / でも, it can NOT be interchanged with てたまらない. In other words, てたまらない is incompatible with ても / でも.
      • E.g. そんなほんんでも仕方しかたがない。[Even if I read that kind of book, there’s no use.] In this case, ても / でも precedes 仕方しかたがない, so てたまらない can not be inserted into this example.

Example Sentences:

今日きょうあつくてたまらない。[It’s so hot that I can’t stand it.]

数学すうがくきらいでたまらない。[I hate math so much that I can’t stand it.]

このほんはおもしろくてたまらない。[This book is so interesting I can’t stand it.]

ちちんでかなしくてたまりません。[My father died, and I’m so sad that I can’t stand it.]

おいしいさかなべたくてたまりません。[I want to eat delicious fish unbeatably badly.]

ぼくはあのきでたまらない。[I love that girl so much I can’t stand it.]

あに田中たなか先生せんせい授業じゅぎょうがいやでたまらなかった。[My older brother hated Tanaka-sensei’s class so much that he couldn’t stand it.]

WILD Examples:

Listen to this line from 2:10: 恋人こいびとができた、何度なんどきしめてもせつなくてたまらない [I found a lover, but no matter how many times we embrace, I feel so miserable that I can’t stand it]
Listen to this line from 1:56: きたくてたまらない、あなたのいるまち [I want to go so badly that I can’t it, To the town where you are]
This song begins with the following line: おはよう、ここのところなんかからだだるくて仕方しかたがない [Good morning, my body feels sluggish in this place and there’s nothing I can do about it]

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