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「子供たちに仕事ですか?」

「心配しなくても危険な仕事とかじゃないから」

I was reading a web novel and came across this sentences. For the second sentence, should I parse it as "心配しなくてもいい" and "危険な仕事とかじゃないから" as another clause? Because this makes more sense to me than just ても. Using a grammar guide as reference, なくてもいい means "do not have to do ~" or "it is all right if ~". In this case, my rough translation of the sentence is "It is all right if you do not worry because I am not giving the children dangerous work to do". (I am not sure if the author intentionally dropped the いい portion of なくてもいい though).

This makes more sense than using "ても" which means "even if/although". If I were to use this, it will be something like "even if you do not worry, I am not giving the children dangerous work to do", which makes less sense than the former.

Could anyone check if my understanding is correct or not? Thanks!

2 Answers 2

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Using a grammar guide as reference, なくてもいい means "do not have to do ~" or "it is all right if ~".

This is an expression that follows from putting the parts together. The な comes from a negative ない conjugation, which is put into the connective form なくて. も is the usual non-contrastive topic marker: は is like "for this topic, on the other hand", where も is "also for this topic / in this case". いい here is the usual i-adjective "good". "you don't have to do X" is a meaning that comes from smoothing over "it is also good in the case where you don't do X" into something that is actually reasonable to say in English. (Since English doesn't have an intrinsic topic structure, the awkward translation uses extra words to approximate those semantics.)

The ても in 心配しなくても indeed functions like でも which is usually analyzed as a single particle. The trick here is that - at least as far as I've been able to figure out - the で in でも derives from the continuative form of だ, the copula. So, in the same way that XでもYです can mean "it's Y even if it's X", we could use some other verb in place of a copula: XしてもYです "it's Y even after doing X". And we can negate that, per the usual conjugation rules: XしなくてもYです "it's Y even after not doing X", or more naturally, "it's Y even if (you) don't X".

As noted, 心配 has other glosses besides "worry", such as "care for" or "look after". Thus: even if you don't look after the kids (perhaps, help them out with the work?), the work won't be dangerous for them (more literally, "(it) won't be something like dangerous work (for them), so...").

If it instead said 心配しなくてもいい, the いい would complete a predicate, and there would be nothing that works to connect it to the rest. We could possibly parse it as two separate sentences, with the から at the end of the second implying that it's an explanation for the first. "You don't need to worry. After all, it's not dangerous work for them." However, completely dropping a word like that, without some indication of a pause, seems unlikely to me. も followed by more words pretty strongly implies that も is a topic marker for the rest, not for some implied predicate.

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Although the primary meaning for 心配 is "worry" or "concern", it can also mean "care; help; aid; assistance​" (see 2. here). Therefore, the sentence could be understood using this alternative meaning as follows:

心配しなくても危険な仕事とかじゃないから。 Even if you don't assist/help/look after them, it's not like a dangerous work [i.e. if you leave them do it on their own].

So, the ても would be "even if/although" as you comment in the last paragraph.

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  • "Although the primary meaning for 心配 is "worry" or "concern", it can also mean "care; help; aid; assistance​"" I don't know that those are necessarily really different meanings, but more like the usual issue where words in different languages will encompass different ranges of shades of meaning. The concepts of helping someone out, caring for someone, and worrying (about what would happen if the person is not helped) seem pretty closely related to me, actually. Jan 15, 2023 at 9:39

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