Can someone highlight the similarities and differences between all terms that have a meaning of "can't help but …" ?


I can't help but feel it was a scam.

Hearing his story, I can't help but feel sympathy for him.

I can't help but worry about my own kids.

Seeing his suffering, I can't help but feel like helping.

  • ~てならない: This is usually used with 気がして, 思われて, 考えられて, or sometimes negative feelings such as 腹が立って, 恐ろしくて, かわいそうで. It means "cannot help feeling ~" or "some emotion/feeling spontaneously occurs to me".
  • ~てたまらない: たまらない on its own means "unbearable", so this explicitly describes how the said feeling is troubling you. 恐ろしくてならない and 恐ろしくてたまらない are interchangeable, but the latter sounds you are very afraid.
  • ~ないではいられない, ~ずにはいられない: These tend to sound more proactive and emphatic. 助けないではいられない usually means you do want to help someone, not reluctantly nor passively. As compared to passive ~と思われてならない, ~と思わないではいられない is usually a way to emphasize your way of thinking is correct. In other words, 思われてならない is closer to "I kind of feel ~", whereas 思わないではいられない is closer to "I must say ~". The difference between ない and ず is very small in this case.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.