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I am using an easy-to-read VN to get some grammar experience. The following sentence has been troubling me for about half an hour now:

生徒会に入ったら、どうしてもこっちを着なきゃだめなの?

The topic of 着る is 制服 if that will help understand it better.

I have no problem understanding the first clause「生徒会に入ったー」: "When (you) join the student council..."

My first doubt comes with the 「どうしても」, does it mean something like "by all means"? However, the biggest problem I have is wrapping my mind around this (triple negative?): 「着なきゃだめなの?」

So here's what I know: 「なきゃ」 is casual for「なければ」 and together with 「だめ」 it would mean "Gotta wear (uniform)" or less casual "Must wear (uniform)". However, since it's 「だめな(い)」 I got really confused. Does 「着なきゃだめ」 altogether mean "Must not wear (uniform)"?

I am sorry if the explanation is messy, but I tried to write down my thought process. At some point I also became uncertain whether the topic is 制服 due to the を particle in this sentence (I expected 「に」particle after 「こっち」 "here").

Please point me in the right direction and if it isn't too much, an idiomatically correct translation would also be much appreciated as I feel it would help me figure out the X by knowing Y.

Edit 1:

The topic is confirmed to be 制服. I translated こっち as "here", rather than the correct "this", referring to the school uniform.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Where to start...

「どうしても」, in this context, means "no matter what". The nuance is "One has no choice but to ~~." This is an extremely common phrase.

Regarding the "triple" negative, it is only "double" at best in reality. By the Japanese standard, it is actually only "single".

「[着]{き}なきゃだめなの」

Negative #1 = 着なきゃ, colloquial for 着なければ ("if I do not wear")

Negative #2 = だめ ("no good"). It looks like negative if translated into "no good", but the word だめ is NOT negative in Japanese.

なの is affirmative despite what you stated. There is no ない embedded in it. なの is an affirmative question-ender.

「着なきゃだめなの?」 therefore, literally means "Is it no good if I don't wear ~~?". More naturally, "Do I have to wear ~~?"

「こっち」 here colloquially means "this one (rather than the other one)" . The other one is called 「あっち」.

「[生徒会]{せいとかい}に[入]{はい}ったら、どうしてもこっちを着なきゃだめなの?」

therefore means: "Would I have to wear this one no matter what if I joined the Student Council?"

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Great! Many thanks. One thing though, you mentioned that なの is something called "an affirmative question-ender". I only knew about the casual の. Is there any place I could read up on it, or is it just as simple as that - なの - an alternative of の? –  chlenix Aug 25 at 2:36
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@chlenix, なの is actually the attributive copula な + the nominalizer (formal noun) の. If that is too technical, you can use the rule that の comes after verbs and i-adjectives, なの comes after nouns and na-adjectives. I.e. おかしいの?, but だめなの?. –  dainichi Aug 25 at 4:10
    
@dainichi, It all makes so much more sense now! –  chlenix Aug 25 at 18:46

なの? is the plain form of ですか?, not a negative.

どうしても can be understood as "no matter what" in this context.

Is that enough to help you understand the meaning of the sentence?

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Actually, no; ~なの? is the the plain form of ~なんですか? (e.g., だめなの? -> だめなんですか?). Similary: ~の? -> ~んですか? (e.g., また屁理屈を並べたの? -> また屁理屈を並べたんですか?) –  Will Aug 25 at 6:33
    
I was trying to provide a simple answer. The statement itself makes no sense on a deep level. なの is does not inflect and does not have polite or plain forms at all from a syntactic perspective. From the semantic perspective, there is a range of forms for asking questions, each with their own nuance and I would hardly say the only difference between なの? and なんですか? is that the latter shows respect to the addressee, so labeling one as plain and the other as polite doesn't make sense IMO. –  Darius Jahandarie Aug 25 at 6:46
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This inspired me to ask a question: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/18400/… –  Darius Jahandarie Aug 25 at 8:25
    
Great! That's very commendable of you. Evidently, the answers to that question reaffirm my comment above. Note in particular the answer from user @dainichi, which I think strikes the best balance between clarity and accuracy. I hope you've come to the realization that labeling one as plain and the other as polite does make perfect sense. It really is that simple (and of course I trust that you are pragmatic enough not to dwell into the realm of cognitive dissonance, where everyone is wrong and only you truly understand the nuances of speaking Japanese). –  Will Aug 27 at 2:06
    
Thank you. I'm not entirely convinced that the story is that simple still, but I think I'm convinced that "~なの? is the the plain form of ~なんですか?" is more accurate than what I have written currently, as far as simple approximations go. –  Darius Jahandarie Aug 27 at 2:12

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