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According to the WWWJDIC, the verbal suffix まい can mean:

(1) probably isn't (doesn't, won't, etc.)
(2) don't (doesn't) intend to; intend not to
(3) must not; (when used in an imperative sentence) don't

but I've found this sentence in my 日本語能力試験文法問題対策一級 text:

何であれ, 必要ならば買わなければなる まい

Which is the right translation? Or are there other possible translations?

a) 'No matter what, if it's necessary, I'll probably have to buy it.'
b) 'No matter what, if it's necessary, I won't probably have to buy it.'

If it's b), it doesn't make much sense, does it? If it's a), it contradicts the meaning given by the dictionary.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted
  • I am not sure if there is meaning 3). What example sentences do yo have in mind?

  • Your sentence has まい with meaning 1). In both of your translations, you are dropping なる 'be in a good situation'. That is why your translations do not work. A literal translation is:

'Whatever it is, if it's necessary, it probably won't be good if I do not buy it.'

This may sound a bit unnatural. That is because Japanese lacks a single word for "must" (except for べき which is weaker in meaning), and you have to say なければならない "it will not be well without", なければなるまい "it probably will not be well without". A more natural translation is:

'Whatever it is, if it's necessary, I probably must/should buy it.'

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I get your point, なるまい is ならないでしょう。As a matter of fact "must" is なければならない.... – Ross Jun 25 '12 at 11:14

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