As part of a long text on the use of られる, there is this sentence:

られる は私{わたし}の父{ちち}が信{しん}じていたほどには効能{こうのう}を持{も}っていなかったのではなかろうか。

This sentence is from my JLPT textbook, but it seems a section of the full text can be found online here.)

I'm having trouble parsing this sentence. My inadequate attempt to translate it has only resulted in fragments that don't come together into one logical whole. "As for られる / to the degree my father put trust in / didn't have benefit / probably wasn't the case."

Can someone help me link everything together so that this sentence makes sense?

  • 5
    @Tim, people have all sorts of levels of ability, all sorts of methods and ways of studying, and so I can't see any argument for assuming why, if, or how anyone should access the meaning of a sentence. Two things to consider: If you don't like the furigana, you can turn it off in options, so you can have your way without imposing on what other people may need. Also, I've personally found that by including furigana, I'm sometimes corrected on a reading, which helps me learn. In short, making things as accessible as possible only creates more learning opportunities, and I can't see a downside.
    – Questioner
    Jun 29, 2014 at 4:58

3 Answers 3


I did not look at the link very closely but I surmise this is part of a discussion on whether ら抜き言葉 make the language more ambiguous and whether this could really matter in certain situations. I would read the extract as

Perhaps the "rareru" construction was not as efficacious as my father thought.

As per the other answer, のではなかろうか basically has the same meaning as のではないだろうか. When translating such sentence endings I think the trick is:

(1) recognise what is just a variation in grammatical style,
(2) confirm whether the writer is asserting or denying the topic using the context and
(3) when it comes to choosing the best English, there is no right answer so go with what fits the passage best but make reference to where the sentence ending lies on the "I think/Probably" spectrum of other possible sentence endings:


I find expressions containing words like 効能 unsatisfying to translate. "Effective" was my first choice but its appropriateness might depend on exactly what the father said. I chose "efficacious" because the following definition includes all the qualities that I imagine the father believed in:

Efficacious: (typically of something inanimate or abstract) successful in producing a desired or intended result; effective (New Oxford American Dictionary)


かろう is a way of making だろう style volitional out of i-adjectives, so instead of ~のではないだろう it becomes ~のではなかろう. It has a little bit of an older feel to it, but there are some constructions where you need to use this. For example, you might say どんなに暑かろうとも~. Sometimes people in fiction might say よかろう in place of いいだろう. Keep in mind that it is not a very colloquial construction (maybe in some dialects it might be), but it means だろう.

So のではなかろうか = のではないだろうか


As background to ssb's answer, the -かろう, -かれ, and related forms of い adjectives are a contraction of the regular old く adverbial ending + various conjugated forms of verb ある "is / are". So なかろう is a contraction of なく + あろう, expressed in modern colloquial Japanese as ないだろう. You might run into よかろう (from よく + あろう, equivalent to よいだろう) in manga or anime.

The -かれ forms still show up in certain set phrases, like 遅{おそ}かれ早{はや}かれ "[be it] sooner or later", and arose as a contraction of く + あれ, the imperative form of ある "be", used here like the English subjunctive conjugation, such as in "be it good weather or bad, I'm still going out."

For that matter, the past tense of い adjectives is also a contraction: -かった derives from く + あった.

  • There's also a 良かれ right? is that the same derivation?
    – virmaior
    Jun 29, 2014 at 8:34
  • @virmaior, yes, that's a contraction of 良く + あれ. Jun 30, 2014 at 1:41

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