I've come across a construction, こそ...め, that I don't know how to translate.

Specifically, め, which I know is the [已然]{いぜん}[形]{けい} of む, since it comes after [未然]{みぜん}[形]{けい} inflections, is being used terminally. I don't know how to interpret this.

I have a few example sentences from classical literature:





As well as from the [仰]{あお}げば[尊]{とうと}し:

[思]{おも}えばいと[疾]{と}しこの[年月]{ねんげつ} [今]{いま}こそ[分]{わ}かれ いざさらば

What exactly does こそ...め mean? And also, can the [已然]{いぜん}[形]{けい} always be used terminally for any verb, or is this just a quirk of む?

1 Answer 1


This 未然形+む is the same 未然形+む that evolved into the volitional form 未然形+う used in modern Japanese (hint: the meaning changes based on what person your subject is (1st, 2nd, or 3rd)). You can find its uses here. This こそ is being used in a similar sense as in modern Japanese, i.e. to emphasize a particular portion of the sentence.

In classical Japanese, こそ before a verb triggered it to take the 已然形 in certain cases (look up 係り結び), much like ぞ and や force 連体形. Confusingly it doesn't take the usual こそ…已然形 meaning of (modern) こそ…けれども (and I can't answer as to why). Maybe someone will be willing to go through your examples and explain what each one means, but you should be able to figure it out yourself with the links I gave.

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