第150課: ~てしまう

~てしまう is an extremely important ending. It is often described as showing perfected actions or things done on accident, but what does this actually mean and is there more to it? This lesson will discuss the nuances that it has as well as important variants used in every speech of it.  


 Spelling and Other Meanings 

The verb しまう either means “to end” or “to keep/put back”. In 漢字, you might see it spelled as 仕舞う, 終う, or 了う. As you can imagine, the latter two spellings are perfect fits for its meaning of “to end”. The only time when you should take this verb literally when after て is when there is an intentional pause. Then, you have to be careful about what other possible homophonous phrases fit–especially when listening.

Take for instance this classic demonstration in Japanese linguistics concerning this very thing.

1. 変態な本を読んで、しまった。
   I read a perverted book, and (then) I put it up.

2. 変態な本を読んでしまった。
  I accidentally read a perverted book.

 The 3 Nuances of ~てしまう

So, what is ~てしまう? It sadly doesn’t have one meaning. There are basically three ways it is used. Intonation plays a role in discerning whether しまう is supplementary or not. When supplementary, you get the pattern ~てしまう, which has one of the three meanings below.

1. To show a sense of regret/surprise when you did have volition in doing something, but it turned out to be bad to do. This can also be sarcastically and cleverly used in a positive attitude while still being natural. Sexual relations come to mind. 
2.  To show perfective/punctual achievement. This shows that an action has been completed. It should not be used with something like ~そうだ, which is a nonfactual speech modal.
3. To show unintentional action–“accidentally”. Often used with adverbs like うっかり (absentmindedly) and ぐうぜんに (unexpectedly).

Clarification Notes:

1. Statives (verbs that show state not action) can be used with ~てしまう too. However, they are not perfective in any sense. When put together, the perfective is never expressed. Rather, it goes back to point 1.  
2. It’s important to view these usages as instances of the same thing interpreted differently in context because there are cases where more than one reading is possible. At times, all three can be meant together. In  “うっかり花瓶を割ってしまった”, the act of breaking the vase is perfective. It could have been accidentally broken. Plus, you could feel regret over having broken it.


1. スープはめてしまっている。
   My soup has gotten cold.

2. あの子供はのろのろと椅子いすからがった突然倒とつぜんたおれてしまったよ。
   That kid over there suddenly collapsed after he rose up sluggishly from the chair.

3. 恋人こいびとたちは二人サンバおどらなくなってしまった。
   The couple ended up not dancing the samba together.

4. 花瓶かびんこわしてしまって、ばつのがれたい。
  I accidentally broke the vase, and I hope I don’t get punished.
  More literally: I accidentally broke the vase, and I want to escape punishment. 

5. 窓めなかったので、風邪いてしまいました。
  I didn’t close the window, and so I caught a cold.  

6. 夏服なつふく押入おしいれにしまった。
   I put my summer clothes in the closet.

7. 明日までにレポートを書いてしまいます。
  I’ll finish writing the report by tomorrow.

8. お金を使ってしまった。
   I regrettably used the money.  

Practice: Translate the following.

1. 宿題をしてしまいました。
2. I ate them all.
3. 僕の車が故障してしまった。
4. 眠ってしまった。
5. To keep information back.

~ちゃう & ~じゃう

~てしまう may be contracted to -ちゃう (playful) or -ちまう (vulgar/mature men). These forms are voiced as ~じゃう and ~じまう respectively when て is used with certain 五段 verbs. 

 食べてしまう → 食べちゃう 見てしまう → 見ちゃう 呼んでしまう → 呼んじゃう
 読んでしまう → 読んじゃう 死んでしまう → 死んじゃう ばれてしまう → ばれちゃう
 着てしまう → 着ちゃう 切ってしまう → 切っちゃう してしまう → しちゃう

Grammar Note: The use of slang and polite speech is usually improper, but there are times when these casual forms are used in familiar polite speech, but this would be most common by children and women than men. 


9, 見る見るうちに老人ろうじんになっちゃった!
In the blink of an eye, I turned into an old person!

10. ガソリンがれちゃった。最寄もよりの(ガソリン)スタンドまでっててもらえる?
      I ran out of gas. Could you tow me to the nearest gas station?

11. そのんじゃいました。 
      I finished reading that book.

12. 犬くるっちゃった。
      The dog went crazy.

13. 中国語かとっちゃった。
       I mistook it for Chinese.

14. 財布さいふれちゃったよ。
      I forgot my wallet.

15. どうして空き地にし{てしま・ちゃ}わないのか。 
      Why won’t they make it into an empty lot? 

16. 不注意ふちゅういからカップをおとしちゃった。
       I accidentally spilled the cup due to carelessness.

17. とてもかったから、火傷やけどしちゃった。
      Because it was very hot, I accidentally scalded my mouth.

 関西弁: ~て(し)もた

The 関西弁 version is so commonly seen in manga and anime that not mentioning it would do you a disservice. しまった and しもた share the same origin. ~た instead attached to the 終止形. This produced しまうた. The vowel sequence au simplified to a long o in Western dialects, and this was then shortened in this phrase and many others. The し is then dropped in even more colloquial speech.  

18. 忘れて(し)もた!
      I completely forgot!

19. 買うて(し)もた。
      I accidentally bought it.

関西弁の音便 (Kansai Dialect Sound Change): かって → こうて.


  This phrase is equivalent to “end up; wind up; (come down) to”. はめ may be written in 漢字 as 羽目 or 破目. はめ  in this case actually means “bind” as in an awkward situation. 

20. 彼は言いなりになるはめになった。
      He ended up giving in to him. 

21. 僕罰金ばっきん支払しはらうはめになった。
      I ended up paying a fine. 

22. ねずみはおぼれるはめになった。
      The mouse ended up drowning.

23. 疑うはめになる。
     To come to suspect. 



1.    I (have) completed by homework.
2.    全部食べてしまった。
3.    My car broke down.
4.    I accidentally slept.
5.    情報をしまっておく。