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.

1 Answer 1

  • ~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.

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