Some examples:

  1. "Children aren't meant to be working in factories; they should be in school!". I thought "子供たちが工場なんて所で働くのは子供っぽいじゃない" or ”〜で働くべからず。”

  2. A: "Today I filled everyone's water bottles in the office!"; B: "Uh, you're not really meant to do all that.". I thought "そういうことじゃ、役割にはないだろう" or some such usage of 役割.

I think the connotation in the above in the usage of 'meant to be' is along the lines of "You, as a student or an office worker or a child, or whatever, have this pre-ordained/socially established set of things you ought to be doing but you are doing things that veer off this course."

Are there more general ways of conveying this in Japanese or is it highly context dependent?

  • 1
    While it's not all that difficult to place the fragments you provided into actual sentences, I think this question might be clearer if you gave full Japanese sentences for these translation candidates you're suggesting. Also, while I don't have a full answer for you, I feel like おかしい often captures some of the nuance in English's "not meant to ". – Mindful Feb 25 at 7:50
  • First thing that comes to mind is はず. 子供は工場で働くはずがない. Or perhaps more naturally 子供は工場で働かないはずなんだ – Alchemist Mar 22 at 11:26

I don't think there's just one term that could be used for all translations, as you said, it is highly contextual.


This is used to describe something that you wouldn't expect of the subject. Your example with child labor, though grammatical, is unnatural. It's like saying, "Working in a factory is so un-child-like." (By the way, っぽいじゃない is not the negative of っぽい. It forms a tag question.)


This means mustn't/shouldn't. So in your example it is fitting. Although, please note that べからず is literary/archaic.


This means "not one's job" or "not in one's duties". Again, this would work for certain cases.


Other possible translations I could think of off the top of my head would be:

  • はずではない: こんなはずではなかった It wasn't supposed/meant to be like this.
  • もの・ことではない: 人間は海の生き物ではない Mankind isn't built for living/meant to live in the sea. (Very loose translation, but works for literary contexts/dramatic effect)
  • 運命ではない: 私たちは結ばれる運命ではないかもね Maybe we weren't destined/meant to be together.

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