The most standard way of saying “to have to” in Japanese is to say, “if you don’t do (x) then things can’t go well” or “if you don’t do (x) things won’t become”. And we actually have three ways of constructing this logic, each of which follows a double negative pattern to create the expression of “must do”.

【Verb: Neg. conditional ~ば】【いけない or ならない】

【Verb: Negative】といけない

【Verb: nakute te form】は【いけない or ならない】

掃除そうじをしなければならない。
I have to tidy up.
掃除そうじをしないといけない。
I have to tidy up.
彼女かのじょ電話でんわしなくてはならない。
I need to phone my girlfriend.
ごめん!今日きょう無理むりね。しなければいけない用事ようじがあるのよ。
Sorry! Today’s impossible. I’ve got a task I need to do.

Note the effeminate omission of the auxiliary verb and のよ at the end.

今朝けさは、銀行ぎんこうかなければなりませんでした。
This morning I had to go to the bank.

This can seem like a tongue-twister at first. In casual conversation there are a couple of ways to abbreviate the phrase. Firstly, the conditional form なければ can be shortened to なくちゃ or なきゃ.

プレゼンがあるので、準備じゅんびしなくちゃいけない。
I have a presentation so I need to prepare.
明日あした8時はちじから電話会議でんわかいぎがあるからなきゃいけない。
Tomorrow I have a conference call from 8 oclock so I’m got to get to sleep.

Alternatively, you can use a more simple word like だめ in place of “to go” or “to become”.

試験しけんがもうすぐだから勉強べんきょうしなきゃだめだよ。
The exam is right around the corner so you’ve got to study.

Or simply drop the final verb altogether.

やらなきゃ。
I have to do it.
友達ともだちだから本当ほんとうのことをわなきゃ。
They’re your friend so you need to tell them the truth.
社員しゃいん入社にゅうしゃするまえ健康診断けんこうしんだんけなくてはいけません。
Employees must take a health check-up before joining the company.

One other way to express requirement is to modify the adverbial noun 必要ひつよう.

留学生りゅうがくせい区役所くやくしょ登録とうろくする必要ひつようがあります。
Foreign students need to register at the ward office.

To form the negative expression we take the te form structure and turn the first clause into the affirmative.

【Affirmative te form】は【いけない or ならない】

Typically いけない is used..

試験中しけんちゅう携帯電話けいたいでんわ使つかってはいけません。
During the exam you are not permitted to use a mobile phone.

The kanji 中 means “middle” and can often be added to other words to mean “during”.

電車の中では携帯で話してはいけない。
Speaking on the phone is prohibited inside the train.
それは決して忘れてはいけないことだよ。
That is something must absolutely not forget.
You May Also Like

Comparing the Ways to Express Similarity & Hearsay

よう, みたい, そう, らしい, and っぽい can all seem like much of a muchness at first. They are…

The Strong Suggestion: べき

We have already met one way to make a suggestion. タバコをやめた方ほうがいいです。 It’s better that you quit smoking. べき…

The Connecting Particle (と)

The most basic usage of the connecting particle と is—wait for it—to connect things. When used to connect…

Japanese Grammar, Vocabulary, Kanji Quizzes

There are two types of quizzes below: (1) multiple choice and (2) free-form answers which require you to…