I am triing to understand how the following sentence


Could translate into

But this was entirely impractical

It's part of Metamorphosis (Kafka). The narrator wakes up transformed into a bug and is thinking

Why don't I keep sleeping for a little while longer and forget all this foolishness.

I understand the whole meaning of the sentence but i have 2 questions :

  1. 全然そう being marked as the theme of the sentence is bothering me since it's an adverb + a na-adjective and not a noun or a sentence. Can we consider it as a sentence all by itself ? Is this usual and i'm just overthinking it ? Secondly is this a contrastive は ? (would make sense with the previous sentence)

  2. The sentence seems to translate like "but thinks didn't go like that" whereas the translation sounds more hypothetical to me. Is there some kind of conditional implied in the japanese sentence ? Wouldn't a と conditionnal be appropriate ? (like to emphasize the result of an hypothetical thinking)

Thanks for helping me clarify all this ;)

  • 1
    What do you mean by "hypothetical"? There is obviously no "if" both in the Japanese and English versions, so I'm not sure why you're saying the sentence in question sounds hypothetical.
    – naruto
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 10:17
  • 1
    I'm guessing that you mean "全然そうはいかなかった" suggests that some plan was acted upon and failed, whereas "But this was entirely impractical." sounds like the plan was impractical and therefore was not acted upon?
    – goldbrick
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 15:29
  • @goldbrick Yes something like that !
    – xavier
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 19:24

2 Answers 2


全然そう being marked as the theme of the sentence...

You don't seem to be parsing the sentence correctly, I'm afraid.

The 全然 continues to the negative ない in いかなかった. 「全然...ない」 means "not ... at all". For more on the usage of 全然+ない, see:

So you should parse the sentence as:

「全然 + (そうは)いかなかった。」 rather than 「(全然そうは)+ いかなかった。」

And it literally means "(It/things) didn't go that way at all."

The は is the contrastive は, often used with a negative word (~ない). Here it marks the scope of negation. For more, see:


  • 1
    I confirm i didn't parse it the good way ! It now makes sense. But would そうは 全然 いかなかった be possible (and easier to parse) ?
    – xavier
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 19:32
  • 1
    @xavier そうは全然いかなかった is understandable, but 全然そうはいかなかった sounds more natural.
    – chocolate
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 1:24

Keep in mind that the English is not a translation of the Japanese. The English is a translation from German. The Japanese is also a translation from the German. It may help having the English and Japanese side-by-side but don't rely on any deep correspondence there.

It's important to realize that the reason why going back to sleep is impractical is given in the next three sentences.


Notice the final のだ. This is showing that what's been presented is a reason why 全然そうはいかなかった

There's nothing hypothetical here though. He wants to roll back over and fall asleep to forgot the nightmare he woke up into. But he can't do this.


Here は is emphasizing (this is contrastive は) that "that just wouldn't work". Note that は can be tagged onto many different parts of speech, particularly when it's been used to draw a contrast.

  • I know for the side by side translations but wasn't sure if the way i understood the japanese sentence was OK. "Hypothetical" was probably not the good term but when you say "that just wouldn't work" it sounds like conditionnal, not like he tried and it didin"t work
    – xavier
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 19:45

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