I assume that 死んでられない is 死んでる in the negative potential form, which means it would mean something like "I can't be dying" or "I can't be dead". Can anyone help me understand this better?

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    I think the「(死んで)られない」is like「(死んで)る場合じゃない(、俺にはもっと重要な任務がある/行くところがあるetc.)」... (多分この人は、どこかに急いでいるか、まだまだ任務か使命がある?)
    – user1016
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:51

2 Answers 2


I'm going to venture another answer and claim that the perfective-progressive discussion is a bit of a red herring.

Usually, since 死ぬ is a change-of-state verb, 死んでいる means "is dead" (perfective aspect) and not "is dying" (progressive aspect).

But in this case, I claim that ~ていられない is really a fixed construction and the difference between

死ねない and

is one of emphasis, not one of perfective aspect. The first one could have been used here to mean a relatively neutral "I cannot die here". The second one adds emphasis and means something like:

Damned if I'll die here
I'm too busy to die yet
I'd feel like a fool dying here

or some such.


You're on the right track. 〜ている indicates an ongoing process, although in the case of something like dying it's also used to indicate a state of being. For example, in the rare cases that you hear [死]{し}ぬ used instead of [死亡]{しぼう} or [亡]{な}くなる to refer to dead people you'll often hear:

[彼]{かれ}は[死]{し}んでいる。 "He is dead."

as opposed to

[彼]{かれ}は[死]{し}んだ。 "He has died."

So going along those lines, the most natural translation I can think of would be "I can't die in a place like this!"

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    So the implication would be, "the idea of being dead (sinderu) in a place like this is unacceptable to me"?
    – Axe
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:46
  • Yes, that's correct. It's part of the reason why he shifts from non-て form to て-form between the two sentences.
    – Kaji
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:48
  • I guess my question is more about the potential. Here, "can't be (dead)" means "unacceptable proposition" right?
    – Axe
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:50
  • Right. He doesn't want it to be, and therefore he perceives it as impossible.
    – Kaji
    Mar 19, 2014 at 13:52
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    Since no one has mentioned this, I might. 「られない」 is the colloquial contraction of 「いられない」, making 「死んでられない」 a negative present-progressive potential. @Chocolate's comment above captures the nuance of the phrase perfectly.
    – user4032
    Mar 19, 2014 at 23:45

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