In Classical Japanese (correct me if I'm wrong; all my CJ was from Wikipedia and linguistic papers), the 已然形 could attach a lot of things: ど, ば, ども, etc. So I would be able to say 会へども話せず rather than 会うけれど話せない?

Anyways, where does the ker- part come from in all these supplanted forms of the 已然形? Is there once some helping 四段 verb ける? If so, what would it mean?

  • I think I know what you are talking about, but can you clarify what ければ is? Oct 20, 2013 at 1:11
  • The suffix ければ on 形容詞.
    – ithisa
    Oct 20, 2013 at 1:22
  • I was not clear enough. By “clarify”, I meant “clarify by editing the question.” By the way, I hope that by now you understand that けれど and ければ are syntactically quite different in Modern Japanese. Oct 20, 2013 at 1:28
  • @user54609 〜けれ on adjectives is just the usual 已然形 suffix.
    – Zhen Lin
    Oct 20, 2013 at 8:20
  • 1
    会うけれど話せない=>会ふが話せず。会へども話せず=>会っても話せない。-- though I'm not certain.
    – jovanni
    Oct 20, 2013 at 10:21

2 Answers 2


They are conjugational endings from (sh)i-Adjectives:

We can derive verbs from adjectives by adding あり:

赤し -> 赤く+あり -> 赤かり

And conjugate them further:

  • 赤かれ+ば
  • 赤けれ+ど(も)
  • 赤からず (negation)
  • ...

This conjugational suffix got reanalyzed as a word on its own, yielding けれども, which was shortened to けれど, けども, and けど.

Even けれ by itself was used in the meaning of けれども by the same process.



  • Why is it 赤けれど rather than 赤かれば? あれど あれば seem to be the forms for あり, not えれど and あれば.
    – ithisa
    Oct 20, 2013 at 23:06
  • 赤く+あり->赤かり, but 赤く+あれど -> 赤けれど and 赤く+あれば-> 赤ければ
    – blutorange
    Oct 21, 2013 at 6:37
  • Yeah, why. Is there some sort of a/e alternation in Old Japanese?
    – ithisa
    Oct 21, 2013 at 10:48
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    Since no one has addressed the disagreement between the two answers, I'll try my best. There are two similar looking things here, 形容詞活用の已然形語尾「けれ」 (described in this answer, apparently derived from く+あれ, from which modern けれども・けれど and ultimately けど are derived) and 助動詞「けり」の已然形「けれ」 (mentioned in Tokyo Nagoya's answer, derived from き+あり). According to Wikipedia, 「く+あれ」 also contracted to 「かれ」 in pre-Edo era Japanese.
    – user1478
    Oct 22, 2013 at 20:18
  • 1
    @user54609 One book blutorange often quotes, Sansom's 1928 An Historical Grammar of Japanese, says on page 205: "This change is easy to understand, for the final e of kare influences the preceding vowel a, by a tendency which is common in Japanese." (That's the only explanation I've found for けれ so far.)
    – user1478
    Oct 30, 2013 at 9:31

It should be the auxiliary verb けり that you are discussing, not ける. Or is it the origin of けり that you are trying to find out? If so, I do not think anyone could answer.

  • What does けり mean? Sorry, as I said, I've never systematically learned CJ.
    – ithisa
    Oct 20, 2013 at 1:52
  • けり can express a few different things. 1. Restrospective heresay "Once upon a time, there lived a ~~~." 2. Equivalent of the present perfect progressive in English. "(Something) has been done this way for centuries." 3. Exclamatory. "Oh, what a fool I have become!" 4. Objective statement of a fact.
    – user4032
    Oct 20, 2013 at 3:00
  • Regarding けり, I believe there are two theories for its etymology: (1) The kahen verb ku "to come" in 連用形 plus ari, or (2) the recollective ki plus ari. (きあり⇒けり in both cases.) My understanding is that theory 1 is much accepted than 2. Oct 20, 2013 at 4:30
  • And since it was not mentioned, けり is in its 已然形 for けれど, and ど is the concessive conjunctive particle. Oct 20, 2013 at 4:38
  • @DariusJahandarie, FWIW Shogakukan's Kokugo Dai Jiten lists the recollective き + あり as the first explanation, and 来{き} + あり as the second. May 17, 2014 at 8:19

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