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~おう means "let's do something", while てしまう seems to mean completion of an action (A dictionary of basic japanese grammar). In Nihongo so-matome n3 there is this example: 今日は飲んじゃおう! which they translate to I'm going to have a drink!. What exactly does ~てしまおう mean?

I've seen some google results for this question, but they were on reddit and few other websites I can't access from this network.

marked as duplicate by naruto, macraf, user3856370, 永劫回帰, broccoli forest May 15 '17 at 1:54

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  • Well, no, but it's next to an explanation that じゃう is a conversational form of  てしまう so I thought じゃおう is the same as しまおう – Xyzk May 10 '17 at 17:47
  • Actually, you're completely right. It is a short conjugation form of てしまう + a volition ending (I was confusing it with a different form). – virmaior May 10 '17 at 18:02
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    I think I often see this combination with a nuance like "I know I shouldn't, but I'm gonna do it". – melboiko May 10 '17 at 19:28
  • @naruto I see, it probably doesn't make much sense with drinking. How about 「やりかけた仕事を早速やってしまおう」? Does it mean will of doing work completely? – siikamiika May 10 '17 at 20:24
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    @siikamiika 「賞味期限が明日だから、今日飲んでしまおう」 would mean "I'd finish drinking". 「明日はテストだけど、今日は飲んでしまおう」 would mean "I'd drink anyway (even though it may result in bad consequences)". – naruto May 10 '17 at 20:34

The te-form is used for stringing verbs together to combine their meanings:

飲[む]{L} + しまう→飲[んで]{LL} + しまう→飲んでしまう

しまう usually means "to complete something", but what it actually means depends on context. In an answer to an earlier question, its combined meaning with 飲む is explained as "drinking without thinking about consequences". An example of 〜しまう meaning "to complete something" (from naruto's comment):

It'll expire soon, so better drink it all today

The volitional form is used to mean things like will, invitation, doubt or presumption. Here, しまう is conjugated to the volitional form and because the sentence starts 「今日は」, you can guess that it means the speaker's will to do something.


If you view 飲んでしまう as "drink unresponsibly", then 飲んでしまおう will become "I'll drink unresponsibly/anyway".

For comparison, volitional without 〜しまう:

飲[む]{L}→飲[もう]{LL} (I'll drink, let's drink)

In Japanese, te-form + aux is often contracted when it connects to frequently used auxiliary verbs like 〜しまう or 〜いる. 飲ん[でしま]{LLL}う becomes 飲ん[じゃ]{LL}う and 言って[い]{L}る becomes 言ってる. The contracted form conjugates to the volitional form just like the longer one.


  • Your answer seems fine but someone downvoted it and now I don't know if there is an error in it that I can't see so I'm scared to upvote. – Xyzk May 10 '17 at 22:09
  • @Xyzk There was an error when it was downvoted, but I'm not sure if it's completely fixed now. Anyway, I tried to explain the general rules of using the 〜おう form and しまう but apparently it isn't so obvious at least with these words – siikamiika May 10 '17 at 22:16

First, ~てしまう doesn't so much mean completion as to do something in an unrewindable manner.

Second, volitional forms (~おう) stands for invitation or volition, in other words, it means either "let's do it" or "I'll do it". (When it's accompanied with sentence ender よ or ぜ, it's invitation only.)

Combination of them expresses encouragement for decision against some hesitation. As for your example, 今日は飲んでしまおう implies that you shouldn't care of extra problems that could happen after it.


Just to clarify,「〜おう」is called the volitional form, and though it is often translated as "Let's do ~", it is also used to express individual intention. When used in the individual context, as far as I understand it, it expresses a strong intention to do/achieve something. You'll often hear it used in male speech and followed by 「ぜ」.

Example: やろうぜ! I'll do it (for sure)!

Combined with 「〜てしまう」it basically means going all out or doing something fully. Here's another example:

私は何もかも言ってしまおう。I will let myself loose.

Another clarification: while しまおう and じゃおう mean the same thing, they are not interchangeable. They are dependent on the て form that a particular verb takes. For example, 言う becomes 言ってしまおう becomes 言っちゃおう, but because 飲む becomes 飲んで, and で is a softer sound than て, the conjugation is also softer, hence it becomes 飲んじゃおう, not 飲んちゃおう. However, when using the more polite form, it remains 飲んでしまう, not 飲んでじまう. Hope that helps.

  • So for example 食べてしまおう would mean something like "I will eat as much as I can"? And 走ってしまおう would mean something like "I will run (until I'm completly exhausted)"? – Xyzk May 10 '17 at 22:07

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