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I found this construction in a couple of places:

母を失ってまでモチベーションが続かない

君の歌詞を盗んでまで、彼女が唇の動きを真似るメリットがない

人を殺してまで得られる自由

Focusing on the third example, the subtitles is "A freedom that I can attain through murder", and automatic translation (which I know can be unrealiable, but in this case confirms the subtitles) is "Freedom that can be gained by killing people".

I know this construction means "even; will go as far as to", and I found this question in which the structure is explained as weighing the worth of actions; trying to read the structure itself, I think it means "Going to the point of doing... to", like "Going to the point of killing people, to be able to get one's freedom".

Using the worth angle from that answer, should I read it as "A freedom that can be attained going as far as killing people", or maybe (with similar meaning, but more stress on worth) "A freedom that is worth killing people to be able to obtain", and the translation given above adapt this in a more natural English wording?

Following this reasoning, the other examples would mean:

母を失ってまでモチベーションが続かない: My motivation can't keep going as far as to take the mother's body (so going on with the motivation isn't worth the death of the mother).

君の歌詞を盗んでまで、彼女が唇の動きを真似るメリットがない: There is no gain in her copying the motion of the lips, to the point of stealing your lyrics (like "What's the point of stealing your lyrics just to lip sync them?"; as context: character A wrote lyrics, character B published video with lip synch - but no audio - of those lyrics without A knowing, and the speaker is speaking about that).

These were from a book, so no subtitles to rely on.

So, can the part with てまで be seen as a (potential) cost to get the following part, like stealing lyrics to lip sync (which seems absurd to the character, hence the negative); and freedom at the cost of killing people?

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I think overall your understanding is correct.

  • 人殺ししてまで得られる自由

means, as you understand it correctly, freedom attained by (going as far as) committing a murder (or several murders).

  • 君の歌詞を盗んでまで、彼女が唇の動きを真似るメリットがない

is easier to understand if you parse it as ( 君の歌詞を盗んでまで、彼女が唇の動きを真似る ) メリットがない so that it would translate as There is no merit of copying her lip motion by (going as far as) stealing your lyrics* (although I cannot clearly make sense of it).

In these, Aしてまで can be understood as meaning doing A is a (potential) large cost.

A direct example would be

  • 1000円払ってまでその映画を見たくない

means I don't want to see the movie by paying as much as 1000 yean (e.g. because it is available on amazon prime).


On the other hand, without further context, I'd understand the first example as even after my mother's death, I cannot keep the motivation. It could mean by going as far as losing mom if doing so entails something good for the speaker's motivation. But it looks less likely.

The usage still has some sense of "limit" in common with the other two, but 母を失って is not something that is done hoping for some benefits.

A less ambiguous example is:

  • 70過ぎてまで働きたくない I don't want to work even after the age of 70
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  • As context for the mother's sentence, there are her future husband and daughter speaking (not sure which says the sentences); the daughter is speaking from the future, asking her future fater not to be born, since her mother will die due to her birth.
    – Mauro
    Mar 12 at 8:56
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    @Mauro Whose motivation for what is mentioned here, the speaker's or the father's (assuming the daughter is speaking)? There could be also some casual omission like 母を失(うリスクを負)ってまで = by going as far as running the risk of losing Mother.
    – sundowner
    Mar 12 at 9:18
  • The daughter is trying to convince the father to stop his relationship with the mother, so the mother won't die giving birth; my understanding was indeed that the daughter wasn't willing to lose her mother, and the father in the end agreed (for a while). By the way: should I understand 得られる as passive, or potential? I was thinking about potential ("that can be obtained through"), but now I'm wondering if it isn't passive ("the freedom is obtained"). (Not sure why, I can't tag you: I tried writing @ sundowner - without space - but it disappeared when I posted the comment).
    – Mauro
    Mar 12 at 10:04
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    @Mauro If the motivation refers to a general will to life, then the sentence would mean I don't want to live (or be born) by going as far as sacrificing mom's life. Re: 得られる, it can be either or even both: freedom that is obtained/obtainable/to be obtained. That said, the most neutral reading is potential. If it is talking about a particular freedom obtained by someone, then passive is more likely. (Either way, it does not affect meaning too much.)
    – sundowner
    Mar 12 at 12:37

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