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From what I understand, すら is commonly used with the negative conjugation (~ない, ~なかった) of verbs.

For example:

  1. 「ひらがなすら書けない。」 I expected (him) to be able to write hiragana. But even hiragana, (he) can't write.

  2. 「涙すら出なかった。」 I expected tears to fall. But even tears, didn't fall. (I expect him to cry but he didn't even wept a tear.)

Basically I was wondering is it grammatical to use すら with the positive conjugation of a verb?

For example, can 「涙すら出た。」 be considered grammatical, assuming the context is that the speaker expected "no tears to fall", but indeed "tears did fall"?

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As Tsuyoshi Ito mentions, your translations are wrong. すら does not mean "unexpectedness", but rather means "the least likely" (a comparative notion). If the event mentioned happens, then the unexpectedness does not fall on the thing mentioned, but falls on the more likely things on the scale. Correct translations will be 1. "He can't even write hiragana (which is the least likely thing he can't do, so I expect he can't write anything else.)" 2. "Even tears didn't fall (which is the least likely thing to not happen, which means indicates that it was indeed a sad situation.)" –  user458 May 27 '12 at 16:17
    
Among the words called 取り立て詞, to which すら belongs, I think only しか is such word that appears in such environment. –  user458 May 27 '12 at 16:26
    
I agree with sawa. By the way, I realized that in the original title, you asked whether すら can be attached to […] a verb. In Japanese, a particle is attached to a word preceding it, not following it, so “attach” is a wrong term to use. –  Tsuyoshi Ito May 27 '12 at 23:04
    
@sawa Yes I've got a misconception, thanks for the explanation =D –  Pacerier May 28 '12 at 11:58

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You are right in that すら is often used with negation, but I do not think that it is a hard rule. For example,

彼はドッグフードすら食べる。 He eats even dog food.

But in general, the use of すら itself is rare in the modern Japanese, and さえ is used more often.

(By the way, I am not sure if you understand the meaning of 涙すら出ない correctly. Your translation suggests that you consider that it means something like “not sad enough to weep,” but it usually means “too shocked to weep.”)

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Yes I've misunderstood it. Thanks for the corrections =) –  Pacerier May 28 '12 at 12:05

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