Language | WELL SAID

Using 'kaneru' incorrectly is something we simply cannot do

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writers

Sono jōken dewa, o-hikiuke shi-kanemasu.

It would be impossible for us to accept.

Situation 1: Mr. Okubo and his client Mr. Hashimoto are negotiating a contract.

橋本: この条件でお引き受けいただけますと、大変ありがたいのですが。

大久保: 申し訳ありませんが、ちょっとその条件では、お引き受けいたしかねます。

Hashimoto: Kono jōken de o-hikiuke-itadakemasu to, taihen arigatai no-desu ga.

Ōkubo: Mōshiwake arimasen ga, chotto sono jōken de wa, o-hikiuke itashi-kanemasu.

Hashimoto: We would greatly appreciate it if you would accept under these terms.

Okubo: I have to apologize, but I’m afraid we cannot accept those conditions.

The verb かねる is slightly complicated. It translates as “being unable to” and is often attached to a verb (X) in its masu-stem form (the masu-form with ます removed). The verbs used with it express the speaker’s attitude, such as 賛成(さんせい)する (to agree), and when combined with かねる the pattern shows the speaker cannot do X: 賛成しかねる therefore means the speaker finds it impossible to agree. Other verbs that can be used are: 引(ひ)き受(う)ける (to accept), 答(こた)える (to answer), 言(い)う (to say), 納得(なっとく)する (to consent) and so on.

In Situation 1, Mr. Okubo could say お引き受けできません instead, but in dealing with a customer using できません (cannot) would be too direct. Thus, the Xかねる pattern tends to be used in formal situations and not with friends and family:

そのような質問(しつもん)にはお答えしかねます。 (I cannot answer such kind of question.)

Situation 2: Mr. Okubo returns to the office to report to his boss, Ms. Yamani, on what happened with the client.

大久保: OK商事会社が、契約について無謀な条件を要求してきました。

ヤマニ: あの会社ならやりかねないと思っていました。あそこの強引なやり方は有名ですから。

Ōkubo: OK shōji-gaisha ga, keiyaku ni tsuite mubōna jōken o yōkyū shite-kimashita.

Yamani: Ano kaisha nara yarikanenai to omotte-imashita. Asoko no gōin’na yarikata wa yūmei desu kara.

Okubo: About the contract, OK Commercial Co. wound up demanding audacious conditions.

Yamani: When it comes to that company, I wouldn’t put it past them (it’s not that they wouldn’t do that). Their forceful way of doing things is well-known.

The pattern Xかねない isn’t simply the negation of Xかねる. It is used when the speaker is suspicious that someone will do something (X) or is the kind of person that would do something. The pattern is often used, even in casual conversation, when the speaker doesn’t trust a person or their actions:

ものすごく興奮(こうふん)していて、なぐりかかってきかねない勢(いきお)いだった。 (He was so agitated, I thought he would strike out at me with all his force [I thought he wouldn’t not strike out].)

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Mita and Mr. Sere are talking with their friend from university, Mr. Noguchi, who got a job in the company that their friend in common, Mr. Tanaka, established.

三田: 野口(のぐち)、田中(たなか)の会社(かいしゃ)をやめたってうわさを聞(き)いたけど、うそだろ?

野口: それが…。1年(いちねん)でやめちゃったんだ。田中のやつ、うまいことばかり言って、実(じつ)はかなりブラックな会社だったんだ。

三田: そうか、やっぱり。田中ならやりかねないよな。昔(むかし)から口(くち)のうまい男(おとこ)だった。

セレ: うーん、そうだったかなあ…? 給料(きゅうりょう)がオファーと違(ちが)っていたの ?

野口: 給料はよかったけど、勤務(きんむ)時間(じかん)がね。出勤(しゅっきん)も退勤(たいきん)も好(す)きな時間にしていいって言われて…。

三田: それなのに、残業(ざんぎょう)が多(おお)すぎたとか? うん、田中ならやりかねない。

野口: いや。10時(じゅうじ)から5時 (ごじ)まで働(はたら)いて、ジムに行(い)ってから帰(かえ)るという生活(せいかつ)パターンにしていたんだ。そうしたら、仕事(しごと)がどんどんたまってしまって、やめざるをえなくなったんだ。田中のせいだよ。

セレ: ん…? [ひとりごと]何(なん)だかぼくは、野口くんの意見(いけん)には賛成しかねるなあ…?

Mita: Noguchi, I heard a rumor that you quit Tanaka’s company. It’s not true, is it?

Noguchi: Now that you mention it … I quit within a year (of being there). That Tanaka, he talks a good game. In reality, it was a pretty black (shady) company.

Mita: Really? Just as I thought. I wouldn’t have put it past him (Tanaka). He has been a smooth-talking guy for a long time.

Sere: Huh, well is that so? Were the salaries different from those that you’d been offered?

Noguchi: The salary was good, but the work hours (were a problem). I was told I could clock in and out any time I liked, but…

Mita: Despite that, you had too much overtime, right? Yup, I wouldn’t put that past Tanaka.

Noguchi: No. I got in the pattern of working 10 to 5, then went to the gym and home. And so, my work steadily piled up and I had to quit. It’s Tanaka’s fault.

Sere: Huh…? [To himself] For some reason, I can’t agree with Noguchi’s opinion.