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I've seen 何気なく attached to verbs and used to mean "unintentionally or accidentally" similar to how 〜てしまう is used.

I was wondering if they had a different nuance.

For example the sentences:

そのケーキを全部食べてしまった。

and

そのケーキを何気なく全部食べた。

I would both translate as "I ended up eating the whole cake accidentally." But is there a difference between them to a Japanese person?

  • 何気なく 'without concern', 'in a casual manner', 'unruffled' – oals Jun 4 '16 at 16:50
  • From jisho I found that was mainly translation of 何気ない but they have a different translation for 何気なく the first of which is "unintentionally", and I've seen translations of the word where people definitely use the "unintentional" translation. But perhaps they all just mean "unintentionally in a unconcerned manner"...? – user2457072 Jun 4 '16 at 16:54
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The two sentences are different.

ケーキを全部食べてしまった does not carry the meaning of "unintentionally or accidentally". This sentence is perfectly fine even when the person who ate the cake was fully aware that he was doing a bad thing. The sentence just implies the result was not favorable to the speaker anyway.

On the other hand, 何気なくケーキを食べた implies nothing about the resulting situation. It just says someone ate the cake without thinking deeply, expecting nothing in particular.

  • 妹のものだと知っていたのに、ケーキを全部食べてしまった。
  • 何気なくそのケーキを食べたら、とてもおいしかった。
  • Thank you. I think Mr. Kim's grammar guide might be a little misleading. But the characterisation of 何気なくas "without thinking" makes the most sense. Also, just to check, your first example sentence would be translated as something like: "I knew it was my little sisters, but I ate the whole cake anyway!" – user2457072 Jun 4 '16 at 23:11

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