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What's the exact difference between なくては and なくてはいけない?

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なくてはいけない

  • なくては (unless) + いけない (not good) = necessary
  • Connects to a verb to mean that you must verb

寝{ね}なくてはいけない
I have to sleep.

なくては

  • Doesn't have いけない
  • Can imply なくてはいけない on its own, usually in the form of なくちゃ:

    行{い}かなくちゃ
    I gotta go. (lit: If I don't go.)

  • Almost always used with a negative verb, but can also work like this:

    契約{けいやく}を守{まも}ってくれなくては困{こま}る
    You must keep to your agreement. (lit: I'll be troubled if you can't keep to your agreement.)

  • When used with kanji (無{な}くては), doesnt usually attach to a verb and usually defines what can't be done:

    この辞書{じしょ}が無{な}くては済{す}まされない
    I cannot do without this dictionary. (it's the truth)

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