I'm trying to translate a phrase、許せるはずもなく. Generally, I think the meaning should be along the lines of "We were not forgiven," but with the grammatical structure of verb + hazu + naku, would it be directly translated as "We were not able to be forgiven"?

  • 1
    Is there any context, or is it part of a larger sentence or quote?
    – user1478
    Nov 11, 2013 at 18:27
  • 2
    Rather than "we were not", perhaps "we could not"...
    – Zhen Lin
    Nov 11, 2013 at 19:54
  • Agreed. "were not" would necessitate 許される.
    – istrasci
    Nov 11, 2013 at 20:27
  • 1
    So it's just this phrase alone on a page at the end of the chapter? I guess the information people are seeking is who is forgiving whom, maybe (or rather, not forgiving)?
    – ssb
    Nov 12, 2013 at 4:15
  • 2
    Could you please give further context, either by updating your question, or by posting an answer yourself if you have found it? Thank you.
    – rintaun
    Nov 12, 2013 at 8:49

4 Answers 4


To native speakers, 「[許]{ゆる}せるはずもなく」 would make enough sense without further context. All that is unclear is who is not forgiving whom, but OP would surely know who would be in the position to forgive or not forgive someone. If OP does not, then he has not been able to follow the story --- with or without this particular phrase.

Seriously, it is nothing new seeing sentences ending in [連用形]{れんようけい} even in prose, let alone in poetry. In poetry, it IS the norm. Ending a sentence in 連用形 allows the reader/listener use his imagination and complete the sentence himself. The reader/listener also has the choice to not complete the sentence by pretending that it ended in [終止形]{しゅうしけい} --- in this case, a「許せるはずもなかった」.

The 「も」 is a key word here though no one has mentioned it so far. It suggests that the event of Person A not forgiving Person B was completely "expected". It is the emphatic も.

"As expected, (Person A) was totally unable to forgive (Person B)."

  • but "as expected" in English is usually about hypothesis+result, whereas 許せるはずのないもの is like, "something unforgivable", i.e., social norms, right? Although we don't have any context beyond "not forgiven by family", unfortunately... Feb 12, 2014 at 10:37

はず, 筈: This word stems from a deep metaphor. 筈を付ける means to nock an arrow, that is to place (付ける) the nock (筈) of an arrow on the string of a bow. So when you're saying something like 「先生もいらっしゃるはずだよ」 imagine you have an arrow with the phrase 「先生もいらっしゃる」 written on it and that it's on your string. <~はず> means that the situation has the potential to be true, because several other things have "nocked its arrow," and if the arrow were released it'd be likely to hit its mark (be true).

So, 「許せるはずもない」 means that there is no potential for 「許せる」 to be true. The も part of it means that that's in addition to something else, or that even something as simple as the potential for 「許せる」 is lacking. It's very simple when you see it this way.

<許せる> forgive someone
<話せるはず> expectation/potential for forgiving someone
<話せるはずはない> There is no expectation/potential for X being able to forgive Y.
<話せるはずもない> There is not even expectation/potential for X being able to forgive Y.

So, I'd translate it: "There was no way X could forgive Y ..., ..."


I generally don't like answering with an English translation, but the meaning of this phrase is relatively simple. It means: "with no reason for forgiveness".

What that means in the context of your story is impossible to determine without more context.

はず does not mean anything out of the ordinary. See What is the difference between 「はずがない」 and 「わけがない」? for a complete explanation.


I'll take a shot in the dark, since this question was asked months ago.

If the potential form takes a subject marker が as its 'object' (here object refers to its role in English), you can reduce it to the NP P NP form, which, for brevity's sake, is the simple adjectival descriptor like 犬が重い [the dog is heavy].

With the potential form, this becomes 誰か に 何か が できる [something was possible for somebody]. By that reasoning, potential forms with が are emphasizing the act. Something was done that was of course unforgivable. This act was beyond forgiveness. Etc. etc.

The addition of はず+ない modifies the verb phrase--here はず refers to "expectation", which in this case is societal. That's why "beyond forgiveness" corresponds well as translation--ない is sort of an adjective, and "beyond forgiveness" is an adjectival phrase. Both the Japanese sentence and this translation describe the act, which is also a plus.

  • reason for downvote? Jan 3, 2014 at 21:52
  • I wasn't your downvote, but I really don't see how you're answering the question with what you wrote.
    – virmaior
    Feb 11, 2014 at 15:07
  • The OP appears to be confused about what the subject and object were of this sentence, so I'm giving an answer that doesn't involve projecting English/Western linguistic framing onto the sentence. I also try to avoid just offering "my spin" on a translation unless it's illustrative of something more general. I will add a note about はず for completeness. Feb 12, 2014 at 10:33

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