I would like to know the difference and usage (frequency, oral/written) for てばかりはいられない with regards to てはいられない

Both seem to be pretty close:

人生そんなに長くないのだから待ってばかりはいられない。 Life is short so I can’t wait forever.

どんなに辛くても、泣いてばかりもいられない。 No matter how tough it is, I can’t keep crying.

明日は早く起きるので、いつものように遅くまでテレビを見てはいられない。I have to wake up early tomorrow, so I can’t watch TV until late as usual.

  • 1
    You're asking some good questions, but this site doesn't have many people who are able to answer them. This is your fifth question in less than 24 hours. Can I respectfully suggest that you slow down your question rate a little. Particularly at weekends, the rate of answering is slow (perhaps people are enjoying a well earned break). Your questions are likely to slip down the list and be missed before they get answered. Fewer questions at a time will also reduce the burden on those that do the answering. Thanks. Mar 15 '20 at 13:11
  • Oh thank you for your remark. I will take it into account. Sorry, I did not mean to put some kind of pressure. And thanks for explaining how the site works.
    – Makoto
    Mar 15 '20 at 13:13
  • And I am grateful for all the help I already received.
    – Makoto
    Mar 15 '20 at 13:19

I think it may make things clearer to look at てばかりいられない as a combination of two separate grammar points: てばかりいる and ていられない.

ていられない, as you seem to know, expresses the inability to continuously be in some state, or to continue being in that state. I couldn't find a good site for this in English, but here is a pretty simple explanation in Japanese. A simple example might be:


I can't wait any more than this

てばかりいる is used to describe doing nothing but a certain thing, typically with critical or negative connotations. Here's a simple explanation. A simple example might be:


If you're always looking at your smartphone, your eyesight will get worse

Consequently, てばかりいられない expresses the inability to (continuously) do just one thing. So translations for your examples might look something like this:


Life is short, so I can't just keep waiting forever


No matter how hard it gets, I can't just keep crying

In both cases, ばかりいられない is expressing the fact that the speaker can't keep doing nothing but these specific actions at the expense of other things. Just 待っていられない or 泣いていられない would suggest that the speaker simply couldn't wait or couldn't cry for any significant period of time, whereas the actual implication is that the speaker can't continue to do nothing but crying or waiting. Again I couldn't find a great explanation in English, but here's one in Japanese.

  • Great explanation, and thank youbfor the links
    – Makoto
    Mar 15 '20 at 19:24

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