This is my first post here, I'm sorry if I didn't follow any formatting or posting rules.

Original sentence, from a character's monologue:


The English translation I have (not mine or official) is

I wish this moment could last even a little bit longer.....

I was quite confused by this conjugation, so I did some research on this site, and read this answer on how conditionals can be represented as 連用形 + あれば. So is 願わくば a contraction of 願わなくあれば / 願わなければ ?

But the thing I'm more confused about is, why is the negative conditional form used here in the first place? In the plain conditional, this looks something like "If I had to wish for something, it would be for this moment to continue for a little longer", but why the seemingly negative form? (Or is it even negative to begin with?)

Sorry for the double triple-loaded question, but one more thing: is this contraction of the conditional form commonly used? (Like in informal contexts?)

Edit: In case you're wondering why I made these somewhat far-fetched guesses: I guessed negative because of the わ (願う->願ない), and guessed conditional because of the ば (願う->願え). Sorry >.<

Thank you for your time.

  • It is neither negative nor conditional, I am afraid. In case some people are seriously into grammar: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%AF%E8%AA%9E%E6%B3%95
    – user4032
    Jan 5, 2016 at 15:11
  • I'm not good enough to understand the full article, but from what I can read, its a classical way of nominalizing verbs? Change ending into -a sound (う->わ(は))and add く? (I may be wrong, I have no knowledge of Classical Japanese besides the わ/は usage). But still, thanks for the read! As strawberryjam (thanks!) and the bottom of the article has mentioned, I now understand that 願わくば is the same as (願わく)は. Besides this, are there other commonly used verbs that are commonly nominalised using this -くclassical method that I should know? Jan 5, 2016 at 15:41
  • Wow, this question sort of bothers me, specifically because of the bits at the bottom where you are trying to intuitively guess at the meaning. I know what this means -- 「願わくば…」 is not unusual at all -- but now that I think of it I've never been told or looked up exactly why it means this. It makes sense in my mind, so there must me some logical semantic leap or definite history of verbizing words this way, but I can't explain the system behind it... yet.
    – zxq9
    Jan 5, 2016 at 18:42
  • 2
    @chesnutcase *aku 'thing, place' is thought to have been a formal noun used as a nominalizer, though it's not independently attested. It combined with the 連体形 of various forms (not the 未然形 as older theories have it), regularly deleting the first of the two vowels at the junction, and morphologized into a nominal ending -aku. But this nominal ending disappeared from the language, and now it only exists in a few lexicalized forms like naruto explains below. You'll have to learn each one independently.
    – user1478
    Jan 6, 2016 at 3:01
  • 3
    References: A History of the Japanese Language (Frellesvig), p.113 and A Descriptive and Comparative Grammar of Western Old Japanese (Vovin), p.763 (and 473).
    – user1478
    Jan 6, 2016 at 3:01

2 Answers 2


This 願わくば is a fixed expression fossilized long ago, and you just have to memorize it without thinking about it too much. It's a literary expression that corresponds to "Hopefully, ..." used as a sentence adverb.

As pointed out in the comment, this is related to ク語法, a grammatical feature which had already dropped out of use more than 1000 years ago. It was originally 願わくは (nominalized 願う + topic marker は = "What I hope is ..."). 願わくは is still used, but I hear 願わくば more often.

Here are some words and phrases which are etymologically related to ク語法. It's not really worth analyzing them too much unless you want to be an expert of old Japanese grammar.

  • Very interesting! I was reminded of あわよくば, but in this case ば feels like a conditional marker, like in よければ, so I'm not sure if the etymology is related.
    – dainichi
    Jan 7, 2016 at 2:19

願わくば is actually a 副詞, not anything else you might have confused it with. It simply means "I wish that...."

I found some more information about this in this page: http://keigo.livedoor.biz/archives/946281.html


According to this page, 願わくば is actually an incorrect form of 願わくは, which comes from a 文語詞 of 願う(願ふ). The page also states that 願わくば is a very common expression nowadays. This means that classifying it as incorrect is debatable.

Edit: For further clarification, 願はく is a noun form of 願ふ, which then had は added to it(i.e. "the wish is.."). the は turned into わ and the final は turned into ば in modern usage.

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