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犬は電車に乗ってはいけません。

Does this sentence mean something like this: "The dog can't get on the train"? Is いけません the negative potential form of 行く?

  • Not for beginners, but it actually can be parsed as negative potential of 行く. In that case it'd mean "the dog isn't able to go by train (but possible in other ways)". – broccoli forest Oct 4 '16 at 14:42
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The pattern here is 〜てはいけません which means "not allowed to", "must not", or indicates something is prohibited. (I'm almost positive it is not the negative potential of 行く, but someone can correct me on that if I'm wrong).

  • 犬は電車に乗ってはいけません。 → Dogs are not allowed (to get) on the train.
  • あの部屋に入ってはいけません。 → You must not go into that room.
  • あきらめてはいけないよ! → Don't give up! (lit., "You mustn't give up!"

Other similar prohibitive forms are 〜てはなりません and 〜てはだめ(です).

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「犬は電車に乗ってはいけません。」

I think this is actually an unusual or specialized expression, mostly used in 2 situations.

  1. possibly a warning or rule to be read by young children (and their parents).

  2. it sounds like it is to be read by dogs themselves. So it'd be in an Anime or story in which dogs can talk and read. -- perhaps a modern version of 『のらくろ二等兵』、『のらくろ一等兵』

Actual signs prohibiting dogs in parks are usually worded like this :

「犬等の散歩禁止」 の 看板

「公園内に犬や猫を入れないで下さい」

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