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I know that 頑張らないと would mean "I have to work hard" (as if I am forced to work hard). What if I see someone (my friend) working hard and I am motivated to work hard too. In this case, would 頑張らないと or 頑張らなくちゃ be ok? Or is there a better phrase? 頑張らなくちゃ sounds very forced to me.

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I guess in the context you describe

私も頑張らなくちゃ
私も頑張らないと

would work fine, because it's understood that you are "forcing" yourself to work, which is just one way to express your own motivation.

But you could just as well use

私も頑張るぞ
私も頑張ろう

(Here 私 is just a place holder for a context-appropriate personal pronoun, for example 僕 or こっち could also work.)

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  • Isn't 頑張ろう the volitional form of 頑張る? That means 頑張ろう would mean "Let's work hard" rather than "I will work hard"? – Newbie Apr 17 '20 at 5:49
  • @Newbie Yes, in the context of being with other people, 頑張ろう (or 私たちも頑張ろう) can express the intention of working hard as a group. This can be translated as "Let's work hard". But you can use it for a single person, in which case it just doesn't really make sense to translate it with "Let's". – Earthliŋ Apr 17 '20 at 8:56
  • Thanks. Can I take it as 頑張ろう (or any other verb in volitional form) can either mean "Lets work hard" OR it can mean "I will work hard", depending on the context? – Newbie Apr 17 '20 at 9:03
  • Yes, that's right. – Earthliŋ Apr 17 '20 at 11:02
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Your examples are the shortened sentences, Japanese language is fond to omit the part which is not necessary, unlike French or Spanish needs to say all.

The original sentences are:

頑張らないと -
あなたは頑張らないといけません ≒ あなたはそれを頑張ってしないといけません

頑張らなくちゃ -
あなたは頑張らなくてはいけません ≒ あなたはそれを頑張ってしなければいけません

Which provides almost no difference at all to me. Only the 頑張らなくちゃ sounds a lot softer or a feminine way.
And 〜しないと has a better way to translate in English, 'Do or not'.
Good(?) example,

'Dodge or hit your head!'  
避けないと頭を打つぞ!

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