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I understand the grammar point "Verb (Dictionary Form) + ことはない" can mean either "There is no need" or "There is no possibility" depending on context.

However, what are the differences? Are there any nuances which I should be aware of? Can they simply be interchanged in any circumstance?

"There is no need" example:

わざわざここに来る必要はない
vs
わざわざここに来ることはない

"There is no possibility" example:

今日の会議を忘れる可能性はない
vs
今日の会議を忘れることはない

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

When ことはない is used to mean “there is no need,” I think that the nuance is that it is not only unnecessary but also should be avoided. 必要はない on its face value just states that it is unnecessary. (I wrote “on its face value” because if someone chooses to say that something is unnecessary, it is often because he/she actually thinks that something should not be done. But the phrase 必要はない itself does not mean “should avoid.”)

When ことはない is used to mean “there is no possibility,” I am not aware of any difference in meaning from 可能性はない. 可能性はない sounds a little more explanatory and argumentative than ことはない because of the use of the word 可能性 which is semantically heavier than こと.

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heys btw i was wondering.. how do we rank these 3 sentences (in terms of politeness): A) わざわざここに来る必要はねぇんだ。 B) わざわざここに来るのは余計だ。 C) わざわざここに来るな –  Pacerier Jun 28 '11 at 16:39
    
There are actually several grammar points which are equivalent to ~する必要がない, but I can't recall them or their different nuances/usages off the top of my head (and my notes from grammar class appear to have disappeared). However, the following example from one of my textbooks doesn't suggest something which should be avoided: 電話で話せばいい。わざわざ行くことはない。 –  rintaun Jun 29 '11 at 11:42
    
@rintaun: I stand behind my words. I think that わざわざ行くことはない has the nuance that わざわざ行く is a bad thing and should be avoided. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 29 '11 at 12:43

I would say that these 3 forms are just different.

必要 expresses the necessity: it is necessary (or not) to ...

可能性 expresses the possibility: it is possible (or not) that ...

ことはない is more abstract and I would translate it as: "There's no such thing as ..." or "there is no way that ..."

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~ことはない can mean ~する必要がない. –  rintaun Jun 29 '11 at 11:35

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