609 - ～てしまう ([unfortunately] ended up)
JLPT N4: ～てしまう ([unfortunately] ended up)
This should have been one of our very first N4 lessons.
I say that for two reasons:
(1) Sentences with ～てしまう are used in practically every lesson we write.
(2) I'm always getting emails asking about this grammar point, usually from people that have gotten terrible explanations from their Japanese teachers.
Hopefully we can clear up a lot of everyone's confusion with one in-depth look at ～てしまう.
First things first, you should be extremely familiar with conjugating verbs into their て-form before you even attempt to learn ～てしまう. You'll see why as we get into this lesson. If you are still feeling uncertain about your ability with て-form, please check this lesson: [NDL #510] - Basics: て-Form.
With that, we can get started...
The (1st) Meaning of ～てしまう
We end verbs with ～てしまう when we want to express that an action or occurrence is disappointing, unfortunate, regretful, unwanted, and so on.
Because of this, when I write literal breakdowns for verbs that have been conjugated into ～てしまう form, I'll often put "(unfortunately) VERB," or something of that nature.
Here is our first example:
いとこ に かりた ディーブイディー を なくしてしまった。
I lost the DVD that I borrowed from my cousin.
Literally: “cousin + に + borrowed + DVD + を + (unfortunately) lost.”
The verb 失くす (なくす) means "to lose (something)."
So the phrase "DVDを失くす" means "to lose the [a] DVD."
The plain past tense of 失くす is 失くした (なくした), "lost (something)."
So why couldn't we just have said "DVDを失くした" in the sentence above?
Well, we could have:
いとこ に かりた ディーブイディー を なくした。
I lost the DVD that I borrowed from my cousin.
Literally: “cousin + に + borrowed + DVD + を + lost.”
...but if we just say 失くした, then the sentence sounds a bit emotionless. The speaker does not seem to really care that she lost her cousin's DVD.
By using ～てしまう with the verb 失くした, giving us 失くしてしまった, our English translation doesn't change, but the nuance of the sentence does. The speaker is indicating that she feels bad about losing her cousin's DVD, is indicating that did not intend to lose it.
Why does ～てしまう add this nuance of regret or disappointment to verbs?
I believe the answer lies in this verb: しまう.
Dictionaries have a whole mess of meanings they ascribe to this verb:
しまう = to put away; to put back; to keep; to store; to finish; to stop; to end; to put an end to; to bring to a close; to finish...; to do ... completely; to close (a business, etc.); to close down; to shut down; to shut up.
When used in isolation (i.e. not attaching to another verb as it is in this lesson), you are most likely to see しまう being used to mean "to put away."
For example, we could say:
しょるい を つくえ に しまった。
I put the documents into the desk.
Literally: “documents + を + desk + に + put away.”
I don't think it's a stretch to see how "to put away" means "to finish" or "to end."
Along those lines, it is worth noting that the meaning of ～てしまう that we're looking at in this lesson is often translated as "end up (doing)."
The translation of "end up (doing)" doesn't really work in the example with the lost DVD that we saw above―in fact, I think it rarely sounds natural in the translation of a sentence with ～てしまう. There are some sentences in which it might be OK to use this translation. Take the following sentence, for example:
デート を ちょくぜん に キャンセル して、 かのじょ を かんかん に おこらせてしまいました。
I canceled a date with my girlfriend at the last minute, and it made her really mad.
Literally: “date + を + just before + に + cancel + do (and), + girlfriend + を + very (angry) + に + (unfortunately) made (her) angry.”
I don't think it would be absolutely terrible to translate this sentence as "...and I ended up making her really mad."
It sounds like over-translating to me, but maybe it's all right.
(By the way, if you're having trouble understanding the above phrase, it may help to know that the verb 怒る (おこる // to get angry) is being translated into the causative form, 怒らせる (おこらせる // to make [someone] angry). See this lesson for more info: [NDL #582] - JLPT N4: ～させる (induce to).)
Can you guess why I translated the above sentence as "...and it made her really mad" and not "...and I made her really mad" ...?
The answer might seem simple: Putting "...and I made her really mad" in the above sentence would give it the (somewhat awkward) nuance that the speaker intended to make his girlfriend mad, yeah?
Thanks to the ～てしまう ending (here conjugated into the polite past tense, ～てしまいました), we know that the speaker did not intend to make his girlfriend angry. Accordingly, I went with "...and it made her really mad." I suppose we also could have put, "...and she got really mad" or something like that, but I wanted to subtly point out that we have a causative verb being used (怒らせる // おこらせる // to make [someone] angry).
What do you think? Is all of this making sense so far?
If so, maybe try this dialogue on for size:
どうして はいしゃ に いく んですか。
Why are you going to the dentist?
Literally: “why + dentist + に + go + んですか.”
は が おれてしまった んです。
I broke [chipped] my tooth.
Literally: “tooth + が + (unfortunately) broke + んです.”
At first glance, the above usage of ～てしまう might seem entirely the same as the two examples we saw earlier.
There is a slight difference I want to point out, though.
In our first two examples―the one with the lost DVD and the one with the angry girlfriend―the speaker was performing the action (=was the agent of the verb) attached to しまう.
But in this dialogue, the speaker is not performing the breaking of the tooth. Rather, "the tooth broke." In other words, here we are using an intransitive verb (折れる // おれる // to break; to fracture), where as in the previous examples we were using transitive verbs (失くす // なくす // to lose [something]) (怒らせる // おこらせる // to make [someone] angry).
(For more on transitive verbs (=他動詞 [たどうし]) and intransitive verbs (=自動詞 [じどうし]), check out this lesson.)
I'm pointing out this stuff about transitive and intransitive verbs in order to illustrate that ～てしまう can be used when you do something that you did not intend to do or when something happens that you did not want to happen.
I'm hoping that you've already realized this, but ～てしまう phrases are formed by attaching the verb しまう to the て-form of another verb.
V て ＋ しまう
to (unfortunately) VERB
It is especially common for しまう to then be conjugated into the past tense. We already saw this happen in plain past tense (しまった) and in the formal past tense (しまいました). But other conjugations of しまう can be used too, depending on the sentence. So don't be surprised if you come across it being translated into ます-form (しまいます), plain present [dictionary] form (しまう) or て-form (しまって).
In the following example, しまう is appearing in て-form:
さいふ を おとしてしまって、 いえ に かえれません。
I lost my wallet, so I can’t go home.
Literally: “wallet + を + (unfortunately) dropped / lost (and), + house + に + cannot return home.”
Note: Although the Japanese technically says "I dropped my wallet," the meaning is "I lost my wallet (by dropping it somewhere)."
Casual Modification #1: ～ちまう・～じまう
～てしまう is an extremely common ending for verbs in Japanese.
As such, it is no surprise that there are ways to shorten it in casual speech.
The first such change we're looking at is ～ちまう and ～じまう.
These are casual modifications of ～てしまう and ～でしまう, respectively.
Remember at the beginning of this lesson when I said that you should be very comfortable with the て-form before attempting to learn ～てしまう？ Now we're getting into why I said that.
If you know your て-form conjugations, then you also know that some て-form verbs actually end in -で and not -て.
Specifically, verbs ending in -む, -ぬ, and -ぶ become -んで, and verbs ending in -ぐ become -いで.
For more details, you'll want to review this lesson: [NDL #510] - Basics: て-Form.
～てしまう becomes ～ちまう.
～でしまう becomes ～じまう.
This sort of makes sense if you think about it: てし → ち and でし → じ.
For example, below we have sentences using the verbs 遅れる (おくれる // to be late) and 踏む (ふむ // to step on).
Here they are in sentences:
いそげ いそげ。 おくれちまう ぞ。
Hurry up. We’re gonna be late.
Literally: “hurry ([=command]) + hurry ([=command]). + (unfortunately) be late + ぞ.”
あ～あ。 また いぬ の うんこ ふんじまった よ。
Oh, man. I stepped in dog poop again.
Literally: “[sound of annoyance or disappointment]. + again + dog + の + poop + (unfortunately) stepped on + よ.”
Now, the real question on everybody's minds: How often do people use ～ちまう and ～じまう？
Well, it depends.
While it is common to hear these endings, most people reading this probably won't ever need to say ～ちまう or ～じまう.
The reason is that these endings aren't very "clean-sounding" (whatever that means), and they are somewhat associated with rough, middle-aged men.
So unless you're a middle-aged Japanese man who is looking a bit rough around the edges, I don't think you need to be using ～ちまう or ～じまう.
However! You absolutely do need to know and use the next colloquial modification we're looking at.
Colloquial Modification #2: ～ちゃう and ～じゃう
I wouldn't be surprised if your Japanese teachers or textbooks completely skip over ～ちまう・～じまう, mostly because they don't want you to start using it.
I wanted to introduce that first, though, as it helps us to see why the most common casual ending of ～てしまう is ～ちゃう・～じゃう.
We can just add one more row to the verbs we saw above:
In other words, we have:
～てしまう → ～ちまう → ちゃう
～でしまう → ～じまう → じゃう
～ちゃう・～じゃう is used all the time in casual Japanese.
You don't just need to be able to understand these verb endings. You should be able to conjugate them in your sleep.
If you have a teacher, tutor, or language exchange partner, then I recommend trying the following exercise:
Step #1: Your teacher says a verb in dictionary form.
Step #2: You have to conjugate the verb into ～ちゃう・～じゃう form as quickly as you can.
Step #3: Repeat for other verbs.
I think it's worth doing that for an entire 40-50 minute lesson. You want these conjugations to feel like second nature.
Don't have a teacher? Then make a spreadsheet or something and quiz yourself!
This list will help:
買う（かう // to buy）
*行く（いく // to go）
*The て-form of 行く is irregular.
抜く（ぬく// to extract; to pull out）
脱ぐ（ぬぐ // to take off [e.g. shoes]）
押す（おす // to push; to press）
立つ（たつ // to stand）
死ぬ（しぬ // to die）
遊ぶ（あそぶ // to play）
飲む（のむ // to drink）
座る（すわる // to sit down）
食べる（たべる // to eat）
起きる（おきる // to get up; to wake up）
する（to do; to make）
来る（くる // to come）
＜(*_*)＞ Too much list. Make stop please.
Oh, and read the following example sentences, too...
どうした の？ ころんじゃった の？
What’s the matter? Did you fall down?
Literally: “what’s the matter / what’s wrong + の? + (unfortunately) fell down + の?”
こらこら、 おなか を だして ねると、 かぜ ひいちゃう よ。
Hey now, if you sleep with your stomach out like that, you’ll catch a cold.
Literally: “hey, + stomach + を + stick out (and) + sleep + と, + (unfortunately) catch a cold (=cold + catch) + よ.”
Note: The regulation of one's body temperature, especially one's stomach, gets a lot of attention in Japanese medicine, which is why this speaker is saying this. I remember being confused the first time I was told something like, "Don't eat too much watermelon. It'll lower your body temperature."
また おかし たべちゃった。 ダイエット ちゅう なのに...。
I went and ate candy again. I’m supposed to be on a diet…
Literally: “again + candy / confections + (unfortunately) ate. + diet + -in the middle of + although (=なのに).”
In the next lesson, we'll look at a slightly different usage of ～てしまう.
Yeah, we're not done yet. Sorry...