I encountered the following multiple-choice question on page 114 (question 1 in section 1) of my JLPT N2 grammar textbook 「新完全マスター文法 日本語能力試験N2」:

この自転車は(   )しょうがない。

a 古くて   b 乗りにくくて   c 気に入って

I chose 「c 気に入って」, but the answer given was 「b 乗りにくくて」.

My textbook explains ~てしょうがない on page 112 as




Out of the three options, 「c 気に入って」 is the only one that looks like the speaker's emotion (話者の感情) to me, but the other two make sense to me as well:

(a) (?)この自転車は古くてしょうがない。

This bicycle is so old.

(b) この自転車は乗りにくくてしょうがない。

This bicycle is so hard to ride.

(c) (?)この自転車は気に入ってしょうがない。

I like this bicycle so much.

What are the differences among the three options that make 「b 乗りにくくて」 the right answer and the other two incorrect? What am I missing here?

1 Answer 1


しょうがない, or 仕方(が)ない, literally means there is no way or means. Therefore, the underlying meaning of 〜てしょうがない is something like you have a certain feeling or emotion so strongly that you don’t know how to deal with it.

古い is a property of the bicycle. You are just an observer and have no control over its degree. 古くてしょうがない sounds weird for this reason.

乗りにくい may also be a property of the bicycle, but it’s more subjective. You are the one thinking it is hard (for you) to ride. How much you think that is up to you. So, 乗りにくくてしょうがない sounds natural.

気に入る is an emotion, but a passive one. It might have to do with its etymology. Something “comes into” you. It’s not thought to be something you have control over. Though some people might say 気に入ってしょうがない is acceptable, it doesn’t quite sound natural. Besides, the particle after 自転車 should be が.

(?) この自転車が気に入ってしょうがない。

Curiously, 好きでしょうがない sounds less bad. I guess you are a more active agent here.

You can also use しょうがない with (〜て)ほしい or 〜たい.



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