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せめて親でも生きていてくれたら、こんなに苦労しなくても済んだだろう

I wouldn't have so many difficulties, if only my parents were still alive. [Example sentence from Japanese Postpositions: Theory and Practice ISBN-13: 978-3895861116]

As I understand it, the bolded part works like this:

  • 苦労する: to be having trouble
  • 苦労しない: to not be having trouble
  • 苦労しなくて: connective form of the above
  • 苦労しなくても: も added to emphasize not having trouble
  • 済んだ: past form of 済む added to mean "manage", "make do" (?)

With that in mind, to me the whole thing, 苦労しなくても済んだ, now means "managing/making do and not having trouble"? Considering the translation given by the book, how is it implied that the speaker is having difficulty?

Please note I do not actually understand how 済む is used here, grammar-wise. The above is just guesswork. I would appreciate some help on that as well.

The main question is, following the chain of logic above, possibly linked in me misunderstanding the use of も and/or 済む:

Why is the negative form 苦労しない used here (but implying the speaker actually does 苦労) instead of the positive form?

  • これは楽しくない "This is really boring" [Example sentence from a book]. Shouldn't it be これは楽しい - this is really fun? Why is 楽しい negative? What is the grammar behind this? – Earthliŋ Apr 21 '15 at 13:42
  • The translation given by the book, I wouldn't have so many difficulties, implies that the speaker actually did have many difficulties. The English sentence you suggest, even if I had so much difficulty, I'd manage, implies that the speaker didn't have much difficulty. Could you elaborate on why you think it should be like this? – blutorange Apr 21 '15 at 15:11
  • @blutorange edited OP – user9771 Apr 21 '15 at 15:32
  • Thanks, now I understand the question. I changed the last sentence to avoid further confusion, I hope that is what you meant. – blutorange Apr 21 '15 at 15:51
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「せめて[親]{おや}でも[生]{い}きていてくれたら、こんなに[苦労]{くろう}しなくても[済]{す}んだだろう。」

First, this sentence is 100% natural, grammatical, etc.; It is perfect. As a Japanese-speaker, I know that without even thinking. (考えなくてもわかる) ← Hint #1: "Without" ≒「なくて」

I am thinking to myself: 「もし、user9771さんも[日本語話者]{にほんごわしゃ}だったら、この[文]{ぶん}を[理解]{りかい}するのに苦労しなくて済むのに・・・」← Hint #2

「Verb phrase + なくて/ないで + (も) + [済]{す}む」

= "can manage/survive/do/get through, etc. without (verb phrase)"

To express the "without" part, the verb phrase in Japanese MUST be in the negative form because you are essentially saying that you would make it if it were not for (something).

There is just no exception; The verb needs to be in the negative form. ← Hint #3 (Wow, it was a rule!)

"What will happen if I use the affirmative form by mistake?" asks my imaginary Japanese-learner.

That will change the meaning of the sentence completely!

Suppose you did not like eating raw fish but you were served sashimi as part of a course dinner.

You:「ボクのサシミ、[食]{た}べてくれない?そしたら、ボク食べなくて済むから。」

Guy:「[自分]{じぶん}で[食]{く}えよ。たった3-4[切]{き}れだろ?ささっと食えば済むんだから。」

You: "Could you eat my sashimi for me? So that I'll get through without eating it myself? (And it'll save me from looking impolite)"

Guy: "Eat it yourself, man! It's only a coupla tiny pieces, ain't it? Just swallow it down quickly and dinner will be over."

As you have seen above, I hope, if you used the affirmative verb form in front of 「済む」, the phrase would mean "(something) gets finished". "To end completely" is one meaning of 「済む」.

With that in mind, to me the whole thing, 苦労しなくても済んだ, now means "managing/making do and not having trouble"?

Exactly.

Considering the translation given by the book, how is it implied that the speaker is having difficulty?

It is actually "stated clearly", and not "merely implied". 「こんなに~~ない」 means "not this much". That would indicate there is an amount of (something) if not a whole lot, would it not?

Why is the negative form 苦労しない used here (but implying the speaker actually does 苦労) instead of the positive form?

I hope I have already answered this, but you just have no choice but to use the negative verb form to express "to get by without ~~ing". "Without" has a negative meaning, does it not? It just is not a verb.

In meaning, would you not agree that "Without (verb)ing" = "With not (verb)ing" even though the latter may not be used in real life?

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Rather than emphasis, the も here gives to しなくても the meaning of without.

  • something しなくて : Not doing something
  • something しなくても : Without doing something

And the meaning of 済んだ is also more "(would) have ended up".

So the sentence is "it would probably (だろう) have ended up (済んだ) without such hardship (こんなに苦労しなくても)".

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