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I've normally seen it being used in past tense, e.g.

「我慢した―があった」

However, I'm not sure how to correctly interpret a sentence like:

「生きている―がない」

I've come across this definition:

期待できるだけの値うち。 (sense two in 大辞泉)

Assuming 期待できる is used to express a strong possibility or hopeful feeling and だけの + 値うち is used to gauge the worth of the attached rel. clause (I've only seen だけの being used to express sufficiency before, so I'm not sure if that's correct), does a sentence like 「生きている―がない」 mean 'there is no value in expecting/hoping to live'?

If I stumbled badly at some point (or numerous points, probably) in this chain of logic I'd be grateful if you could point out where it happened.

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As a side note, 広辞苑 states:

かい 【詮・甲斐】 : 行動の結果としてのききめ。効果。また、してみるだけの値打ち。

I believe your assumption

Assuming 期待できる is used to express a strong possibility or hopeful feeling and だけの + 値うち is used to gauge the worth of the attached rel. clause

is correct, but the overall interpretation is slightly different. Using the definition you quoted, "生きている甲斐がない" can be interpreted as "生きていることに、期待できるだけの価値がない"(*1), which can be roughly translated into "Nothing valuable is going to happen in my life". If I allow myself to be informal due to my not being fluent, it's like "Yes, I'm alive. What can I expect from it because I'm alive? (There should be something, right?) Nothing, nothing truly valuable!"

新和英大辞典, a good Japanese-English dictionary from 研究社, has

Life [is meaningless, is not worth living, has no point]

for "生きる甲斐がない". I think these are quite good translations.

So yes, this phrase is used by people who are unhappy, and who don't expect to be happy in the future.

(Careful : anything below is my subjective point of view)

It is important though, that the speaker is unhappy because of the lack of some essential value in his/her life, and not because of excessive amount of sadness. This phrase is sometimes used with "without you/her", to express how deeply the speaker cares about him/her and how crucial his/her existence is, to the point it affects the meaning of his/her whole life.


(*1) : This phrase is can be a little confusing --- without "、", this can also be interpreted as "「生きていることに期待できる」だけの価値がない", "there is no value good enough for me to expect a good deal from my life", which does not really make sense without context. I used the phrase as "生きていることに、「期待出来るだけの価値」がない" here.

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  • I believe terminally sick persons can use this phrase too, but when doing so, that's because he is deprived of some essential value by the sickness.
    – Yosh
    Feb 22 '15 at 14:32
  • "there is no value worth expecting in (my) life/ living life" seems ungrammatical as English to me. Would "Nothing valuable is going to happen in my life" express the same thing you're trying to say there?
    – virmaior
    Feb 22 '15 at 14:52
  • @virmaior Thanks for spotting this! (I've been away for a while, sorry.) I've edited the answer. The expression you proposed is close enough, but I feel not exactly the same -- I'll try to find an even better expression.
    – Yosh
    Mar 1 '15 at 9:26

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