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I just read the short story 高瀬舟 and I got a bit confused by this sentence:

[...]庄兵衛、まだどこやらに腑に落ちぬものが残っているので、なんだかお奉行さまにきいてみたくてならなかった。

In particular the last part of it, きいてみたくてならなかった

きいてみたい + くて + なる-in-negative-past-tense-form

In this some old fashioned form of きいかなくてはならない ? By the flow of the story I claim it means something like "I have to ask the magistrate ...", but I am not entirely sure if this is really correct.

  • Did you copy this correctly? (I know the answer to that question but I want you to check it yourself.) The「お奉行さまにきてみたくてならなかった」part makes no sense. Since that is the part your question is about, I had to mention it here. – l'électeur Apr 4 '15 at 23:22
  • An い was missing, sorry – toobee Apr 4 '15 at 23:40
  • Good, that is what I meant and that is why the "Best Answer" below is invalid. The base verb here is 「聞く」, not 「来る」. – l'électeur Apr 4 '15 at 23:50
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No, it is neither old-fashioned nor a form of きかなくてはならない.

This form of ~てならない means "really, really ~". It is similar to the forms ~てしかたがない・~てしょうがない・~てたまらない. Here are a few examples:

  • ワープロを始めたせいか、この[頃]{ごろ}目が疲れてしょうがない → It might be because I started using a word processor, because lately my eyes are really tired.
  • いよいよあした帰国かと思うと、嬉しくてしかたがありません → Thinking about finally returning to my home country tomorrow, it make me super happy.
  • どうしたんだろう。今日は朝からのどが渇いてたまらない → What's happening? Since this morning I've been really, really thirsty.
  • あの人はどうも悪いことを考えているのではないかという気がしてならない → I really get the feeling that that guy is somehow thinking about something bad.

This is just きいてみたい in the paste tense of this form: きいてみたくてならなかった. So it is says something like "...for some reason I really wanted to ask you, Mr. Magistrate."

Note that the here is extremely important for the meaning. If it were just きいてみたくならなかった, it would say "I did not become wanting to ask you" which is almost the opposite meaning.


All examples taken from どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型500中・上級

  • Are you aware that we do not say 「Person + に + くる」 to mean "to come see (someone)"? Your answer is based on the non-fact that we do. – l'électeur Apr 4 '15 at 23:29
  • Apparently the original post had a typo in it, and had it been くる, I failed to remember that you don't say Personにくる, but instead need ところ to convey that. (Personのところにくる). Hope that clears things up. – istrasci Apr 5 '15 at 2:32

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