Consider these:

  • 遅かれ早かれ

  • 良【よ】かれ悪【あ】しかれ

What is the underlying grammatical make up of this ~かれ~かれ pattern (if any)? Is this pattern productive(i.e. can be extended to arbitrary words)?


The 〜かれ appearing here is the imperative form. I suspect this exact construction is no longer productive in modern Japanese as adjectives are no longer thought of as having imperative forms; however, the dictionary offers this modern rephrasing of 善【よ】かれ悪【あ】しかれ:


So in some sense the abstract construction of "imperative + imperative" to mean "be it ... or ..." still survives. (The "be" appearing in the English version might also be construed as an imperative, but it's probably a subjunctive.) The thesaurus (for want of a better word) lists some alternatives:

  • ~にしろ…にしろ
  • 〜にせよ…にせよ
  • 〜にしても…にしても
  • Interesting point mentioning the parallel in English and subjunctive used in this way. It might be even better to say that what you described as imperative form of adjective is subjunctive. – user458 Jan 28 '12 at 13:55
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    Why is the declension of the adjective い instead of く? For い-adjectives to be used with a verb isn't it usually ~くする/~くなる? What is my misconception? – Flaw Jan 30 '12 at 1:24
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    @Flaw: Yes. But I think we might say that zero-nominalisation has happened here. (〜にしろ can also be used with the attributive form of verbs, so.) – Zhen Lin Jan 30 '12 at 7:22
  • I think that may deserve a question on its own. I shall start drafting a question. Also, what is "zero-nominalisation"? – Flaw Jan 30 '12 at 7:47
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    @Flaw: Nominalisation refers to the process of turning a word, or more generally a phrase, into a noun or noun phrase. For example, こと and もの are nominalisers for verb phrases. Zero-nominalisation is when the nominalisation happens without an overt word. – Zhen Lin Jan 30 '12 at 23:05

For perspective: There are also the expressions




よかろうと悪かろうと be it good or bad

早かろうが遅かろうが be it early or late

I think these expressions are more productive than ~かれ~かれ, although they do have an archaic feel to them.

Also, it might be interesting to know that よかれ is commonly used in the sense "good intentions" or something like that:

よかれと(思って)したことが裏目に出た I did it with good intentions but it backfired on me

~かろう, although slightly archaic, is still sometimes used instead of ~いだろう

それはおかしかろう! (You have to admit) that's strange! 

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