I though かねない could be used instead of かもしれません, but only when the sentence conveys a negative notion or danger. That being said, I find it difficult to understand why is it used in the sentence below:


This is an abstract from an Attack on Titan novel, so if the notion that "if Eren's ability was true, this could change the tide of the war against the Titans" were true, the かねない structure couldn't be used in this context, as the そんなこと本当に可能なら clause would be definitely beneficial for the speaker of the given sentence.


This is an old question that was bumped to the homepage by the Community.

To be honest, I have never read or heard ~兼ねない used in a sentence that does not indicate something negative from the speaker's point-of-view. However, after reading the sentence in question and doing some research (and being a fan of Attack on Titan, if that helps), I found out that ~兼ねない simply means something that could happen, something that is not unlikely to happen, or something that is capable of being done, regardless of a negative connotation. Consider the following definitions:


Weblio definition

quite capable of ...; might happen; not unlikely to

Kotobank definition


Goo definition


Next, let us see how its opposite is defined to gain more information:


Weblio definition

〈ためらう〉 hesitate to do; be unwilling [reluctant] to do

〈できない〉 cannot do; cannot [【形式ばった表現】 can ill] afford to do; be not in a position to do; be unable to do

Kotobank definition


Goo definition


From the above, I think it is clear that neither ~兼ねない nor ~兼ねる needs a negative connotation to be grammatical.

Now let us go back to the sentence in question. I can't post images right now, but checking the internet it looks like this sentence was spoken by Hanji, one of the good guys and a superior officer of Eren, the protagonist. Below are the original sentences and the ones before and after it.


だから…一刻も早くエレンの力を試したい。今度は恐れずに試そう。 硬化の能力はもちろん巨人化の詳細な情報を。 特に…巨人を操ったかもしれないって…すごい可能性だ。 もし本当にそんなことが可能なら、この人類の置かれている状況がひっくり返りかねない話だよ! だから!グズグズしていられない!早く行動しないと…いけない!…だけどまだエレンにはしばらく身を潜めておいてほしい…

Sources: 1, 2

To conclude, Hanji is saying that if it is really possible that

Eren (could control the Titans),

then the current situation that mankind is in could be reversed. She is not saying at all that this possibility is something that is negative from her point-of-view, as she is one of the good guys who are trying to protect mankind. In fact, from the sentences before and after, we can see that it is something positive for her

as she is looking forward to testing Eren's (other) potential power.

  • 1
    First of all, thank you for giving this question a shot after all this time. Back at the time I remember I consulted the "A Handbook of Japanese Grammar Patterns for Teachers and Learners". It explicitly stated that examples as such: 私のこどものこの病気はなおりかねない。 are ungrammatical and to be frank, something in the above sentence really strikes me as odd. I've encountered several examples in JLPT testing materials where there where various choices including かねない or かもしれない and it would be really weird if かねない could be interchangeable to that extend. Sep 13 '18 at 9:34

Is changing the tide of the war against the Titans beneficial for humankind? If not, it would make sense.

The meaning of しかねない is as you said. I think "この人類の置かれている状況が引っくり返ること" is bad for humankind.

  • Humanity is losing and is inside walls. Eren's ability to control the Titans out of the walls can only be perceived as good. Eren is sort of the chosen one so I can't comprehend how in any context would him, being able to control the Titans, bad. In addition, the speaker of this sentence is even a military official from Eren's side and is saying the sentence in front of Eren and the rest officials, so backstabbing or betrayal is not an option in my opinion. Jan 17 '18 at 9:21
  • We need more sentences before and after this sentence. Jan 17 '18 at 12:59

I’m not familiar with this “negative notion or danger” nuance, but here’s what the dictionary says:

(動詞の連用形の下に付いて)…しないとはいえない。…するかもしれない。 「あいつならやり-・ない」 「秘密をもらし-・ない」 → 兼ねる

(from Sanseido’s Daijirin via kotobank)

Maybe the negative outcome is from the Titans’ point of view? I.e. “the humanity just might be able to turn this situation over”

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