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In the following sentence (from the Legend of Zelda guidebook I am translating) this sentence appears when talking about fighting enemies. My question is about the purpose of ダメ at the end.

全ての敵を倒す必要はないが、逃げてばかりではダメ。

From this SO question dame written as katakana I think that ダメ is simply adding emphasis. Otherwise, it makes no sense to me:

It is not necessary to beat all enemies, escape is no good (?)

How do you all translate the sentence?

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Think of it as being in the same boat as ~ては(いけない・ならない) which I'm sure you've probably come across as the default phrases for prohibiting an action. It's the same thing with ダメ. Using ダメ instead of いけない or ならない makes it sound a little harsher or colloquial, I think.

"You don't have to beat every enemy, but you can't run away all the time."

  • I think a side-by-side comparison with the same sentence using 「いけない」 would be very helpful, if you will. – Helix Quar Mar 24 '14 at 9:49
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    I could, but the question isn't really about the differences between the three as much as it is what the sentence means. If you want to make a separate question about the differences between てはだめ・いけない・ならない I'll gladly write an answer for that discussing it – ssb Mar 24 '14 at 10:10
  • Ah my translation was not correct. The "ga" is used to mean "but" - and now it all makes sense. Thank you very much! – VictorySaber Mar 24 '14 at 14:54
  • I would be really interested to know too @helix. japanese.stackexchange.com/q/15023/4071 – VictorySaber Mar 24 '14 at 15:00
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There are a few reasons for the usage of Katakana, but the main one here is as you suspect, to provide emphasis.

Katakana is not only used for loan words, but also words with unusual Kanji (especially technical terms) and for onomatopoeia. They are also used to provide a break in a train of Hiragana to limit risk of confusion.

ダメoriginally comes from a term in the game Igo, where it refers to useless points on the board. This might be one of the reasons why Kanji usage is less common. Also, writing it in Katakana has a harder feeling to it than writing it in Hiragana would have, which is usually more appropriate considering the meaning of the word.

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