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I'd like to say "I unfortunately had to return (because of COVID)". I wanted to use "nakereba" plus "chau". Does (COVIDのせいで)帰らなければなちゃいませんでした work?

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しまう is usually used with verbs that describe an action or a change of state. It may be used with いる, which is stative, but that’s when you regret your action, or no-action, that puts you in a certain state as a result.

[V ない-form]-なければならない refers to a state (where you have to do something) and doesn’t go well with しまう as it is.

One option is to add しまう to the verb.

帰っちゃわなければなりませんでした。(more formally 帰ってしまわなければなりませんでした。)

However, this doesn’t quite sound like the speaker regrets the situation. It sounds to me more like the act of 帰る is complete in some sense.

Another option is to convert the state into a change of state by adding なる and then add しまう to it.

帰らなければならなくなっちゃいました。(more formally 帰らなければならなくなってしまいました。)

This sounds like the speaker regrets the change that resulted in a situation that forced them to go home.

However, 帰らなければなりませんでした already conveys a sense of regret because it sounds like the speaker is describing the situation as something they have no control over.

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No, your sentence is not grammatical. What is that な before ちゃう supposed to be? ちゃう must follow the 連用形 of a verb, and な is not even a verb.

If you want to use the ~ないといけない construction, you can use ちゃう after the main verb before ない.

帰っちゃわないといけませんでした。

But this sounds wordy, and I feel 帰らないといけませんでした should be enough. If you are speaking politely, you can add 残念ながら, too.

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  • @aguijonazo So we made different guesses as to what this な is supposed to be :) I thought it was ない.
    – naruto
    Sep 24 at 2:05
  • @aguijonazo Oh, I missed it, but then the answer has to be 帰っちゃわなければなりませんでした? There is no ~くなる.
    – naruto
    Sep 24 at 2:08
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As @aguijonazo and @naruto have both noted, ~ちゃう just doesn't fit with the ~なければならない construction.

To express the sense of "unfortunately, I have to XYZ", I'm used to hearing speakers add 「[残念]{ざんねん}ながら、…」 or 「[生憎]{あいにく}、…」 (more formal) on the front. Depending on circumstances, a speaker might instead say something like 「[面倒]{めんどう}なんですが、…」 ("It's a bother, but...") or even just 「[悪い]{わるい}けど、…」 ("It's bad, but..."). Various expressions are possible.

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