How to use Japanese causative sentences to say the following?

He had me not wash the dishes.

I believe that "彼は私に皿を洗わせませんでした。" is not the answer because its translation becomes "He has not made me wash the dishes.".

  • 'He had me not wash the dishes' sounds awkward in English to me.
    – Angelos
    Nov 23, 2015 at 0:15
  • 4
    I think it sounds okay. But we're focusing on the Japanese here, so I think the important thing here is to understand what Yasashii Eirian is trying to express. Eirian thinks 「彼は私に皿を洗わせませんでした」 expresses "He didn't make me wash the dishes", where the negation has scope over the causative, and wants to know how to express "He made me not wash the dishes", where the causative has scope over the negation.
    – user1478
    Nov 23, 2015 at 1:48
  • Does this help? japanese.stackexchange.com/q/5929/1478
    – user1478
    Nov 23, 2015 at 2:41
  • Causative is used for both made/let. This sentence can be translated more naturally with let.
    – xeta217
    Nov 23, 2015 at 3:16

2 Answers 2


Using the terms from snailboat's link:

  • Not [force doing]
    He didn't have me wash the dishes (but I washed them because I was bored).
    Similar to → He did not force me to wash the dishes.

  • Force [not doing]
    He had me not wash the dishes (because I'm really clumsy).
    Similar to → He forced me to not wash the dishes.

Verbs in the form 〜せなかった/〜せませんでした are ambiguous and can work for both of these two meanings. It will only mean one or the other depending on the context. You will need to rephrase it if you want to be absolutely clear. There are many options, but just to give a few:

  • Not [force doing]
    • 洗わせることはしなかった
    • 洗えとは言わなかった
    • 洗わせようとはしなかった
  • Force [not doing]
    • 洗うことを許さなかった
    • 洗うことを禁じた
    • 洗わないように指示した

Direct translation of "He had me not wash the dishes." is, as you wrote "彼は私に皿を洗わせませんでした。". That is correct.

But it's bit awkward for me, I real situation he stopped me to wash dishes because I wanted to wash. That was indicated, isn't it?

For me "彼は私に皿を洗わせてくれませんでした。" sounds more natural.

  • What about 彼は私に皿を洗うことを許すのが禁止させました。 Would that be a natural way to express it and handle the negation scope?
    – virmaior
    Nov 23, 2015 at 2:21
  • 1
    No, it's not right sentence. Considering about negation scope, my translation is "He didn't make me wash the dishes". "He made me not wash the dishes" would be 「皿を洗わないように 指示しました/言いました」.
    – ironsand
    Nov 23, 2015 at 3:53

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