I'm translating a manga in which one character use a very slangy or contracted way of speaking while the others talk more standard-like. I've already encountered the stem+ん as a short form the negative stem+ない. But what is the -せん attached to 苦労. I think it'd been translated as "there's no problem" but I'd like to know the grammar behind it. Thanks

2 Answers 2


Actually, you've already got the right answer! The verb in question is する, and one of its negative stems (未然形) is せ〜, as in せず, せぬ, and as you've just discovered, せん. The other negative stem of する is the well-known し〜. Note that these are not interchangeable: **せない is ungrammatical, as is **しず.

The only verbs that have this extra negative stem are する and its relatives. The auxiliary verb 〜ます would be one of them if **〜ましない were grammatical, but it is not.

  • Thank you to all。So it'd be a variant of 苦労しない. About the character he often use words like 言っとろ or 言っとらん that seems to be contractions of 言っている  and 言って いない? (i'm not sure on this). The other character tries, among other things, to teach him good manners. So I have a character that speaks extremely rough and slang-ish and the other that uses a quite polite male speach (and sometime cute and female,like all the の at the end of the sentences). Anyway I've never heard before, in my classes, of these alternative stems of する。
    – Shizuka
    Sep 8, 2012 at 18:01
  • Oh, then the character is probably speaking some dialect. 言っとらん comes from 言って+おらん, which counts as Western Japanese or old-folk speak in my mind.
    – Zhen Lin
    Sep 8, 2012 at 19:26
  • Yes actually he is a demon enclosed in a cave in the western part of an imaginary country. So probably the author made him use a language both old and dialectal.
    – Shizuka
    Sep 8, 2012 at 20:40
  • 5
    しず is ungrammatical in standard dialect. However, if you go to Aichi, Gifu or Nagano prefecture, it is common to use 緊張しずに, etc. instead of 緊張せずに.
    – Jesse Good
    Sep 8, 2012 at 20:43

Other samples from this character in your manga would be helpful to confirm this, but my guess is that せん is equivalent to しない (and possibly derived from せぬ, see Zhen Lin's comment below). Then, 苦労せん means something like "don't worry" or "don't fret". This is really part of the group of dialects from 'Western Japan'. In particular, [九州弁]{きゅうしゅうべん} uses せんで for しないで or せんでいい for しなくていい etc.

  • 2
    I wouldn't say "contraction" of しません. せん has a long history – possibly even longer than the now-standard しない. If anything, it is a contraction of せぬ.
    – Zhen Lin
    Sep 8, 2012 at 14:36
  • Okay, that sounds more reasonable, thanks.
    – Earthliŋ
    Sep 8, 2012 at 14:43
  • 2
    せん is very much alive as a dialectical alternative for しない down here in Kyushu
    – ssb
    Apr 25, 2013 at 12:14

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