I want to express an exception and don't know which sentence would be appropriate. I want to say that I just wasn't able to do it today, but I am able to do it normally. Which of the following sentences has got this meaning; or are there better ways to say this?

(I guess some of these sentences actually mean the opposite, I am not able to do it, as always.)

  • いつものように出来ない
  • いつもみたいに出来ない
  • いつも通りに出来ない

Or maybe one of these sentences?

  • いつものようには出来ない
  • いつもみたいには出来ない
  • いつも通りには出来ない

I guess that いつも通りに(は)出来ない is alright, but I am not certain. Also, maybe these sentences in the past tense would make it easier, but I wanted to try it with the present tense.

Also, adding a 今日は to the sentences could make it easier, too, I guess.

  • 2
    How about using a counterfactual: いつもならできるのに!😫 Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 10:37
  • Yeah, I'm aware of this and would use exact the same to clarify, what I mean, but for this question, I was wondering, how to do it without :) Thanks!
    – dinogeist
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 11:42

2 Answers 2


Your first set of three sentences without 「は」 used in them could mean two very different things. This represents one of the soft spots of informal Japanese today.

1) "I am being unable do it (today) as good as I usually do." Today is an exception.

2) "As usual, I could not do it (today)." Today is no exception.

By adding 「は」 as you did in your second set of three sentences, the semantic ambiguity instantly disappears and the sentences can now mean only one thing:

"I am being unable to do it (today) as good as I usually do."

One can easily (and naturally) express the same idea by adding 「に[限]{かぎ}って」:


By using 「限って」, you can drop the 「は」.

(Lastly, it is officially 「できない」, not 「出来ない」.)

  • 2
    Thanks a lot! Btw, whats that officially your talking about for using できない? Would be great to know in which sense. I know, you don't use it in like 公式文書, but many japanese friends say, these rules are ridiculous.
    – dinogeist
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 13:09
  • 1
    I don't know why l'électeur said できない≠出来ない。 sanabo.com/gogen/ct_ta/te/dekiru Here it is simply put 出来ない is できない written in Kanji.
    – user7644
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 13:59
  • @KentaroTomono I've heard a lot of people say that 「出来×」 is OK for words like 出来上がり, 出来心, etc., but that it's incorrect for できる, よくできた, etc. I don't know if it's technically correct or if it even matters, but searching for 「できる 出来る 使い分け」 on Google shows that a lot of people think this (even though dictionaries seem to say otherwise). Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 18:49
  • Looks like --I-- was wrong. detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1121523066 When we use them as verbs, adverbs, できる should be used.......uh, since in my entire life I really never doubted about it and have had no problem, but I apologize, 'électeur. Sorry.
    – user7644
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 0:11

I have the feeling that even いつも通りに(は)出来ない risk being misinterpreted as meaning "I always cannot", and the phrase does not ring well to my ears.

First, bear in mind that the particle は in itself can express "exception", as in 今日はできません, where it's naturally interpreted this way. To emphasize on this particular occasion being an exception to the ordinary, I'd add だけ, as in 今度だけは行けません.

Other alternatives include いつもと違って, and possibly variations including のに.

EDIT: Also, note that straight-forward expressions are commonly avoided in Japanese. Rather than using 出来ません I'd suggest that rephrasing to きついです or similar might be appropriate where applicable. This should still be interpreted as meaning "not possible", even though the literal meaning is different.

  • Thanks! Of course the 今日は出来ません one is one, I would normally choose, but was wondering, if one of the above could be used, too. I like the idea of adding だけ, thanks.
    – dinogeist
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 11:46

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