Unintended Actions

Sometimes we do things that we didn’t mean to and there are a couple ways we can express actions that we did not intend to take.

We can use the noun for intention (つもり) to express what was or wasn’t intended.


  1. つもり – intention; plan
  2. 後 【あと】 – afterwards
  3. 買い物 【か・い・もの】 – shopping
  4. する (exception) – to do
  5. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) – to go
  6. 夜 【よる】 – evening
  7. 出かける 【で・かける】(ru-verb) – to go out
  8. ある (u-verb) – to exist (inanimate)
  9. 心配 【しん・ぱい】 – worry; concern
  10. いる (u-verb) – to need
  11. 先生 【せん・せい】 – teacher
  12. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) – to teach; to inform
  1. 後で買い物をしに行くつもりです。
    (I) intend on going to do shopping later.
  2. 夜に出かけるつもりはないので、心配はいりません。
    (I) don’t intend on going out at night so (you) don’t need (to) worry.
  3. 先生に教えるつもりはなかったんだよ。
    (I) didn’t intend on telling the teacher, you know.

You can have no intention using 「つもり」 and 「ない」 as the last example sentence shows. However, in order to describe something unintended (accidental), we need to use verb:「しまう」.

Using 「しまう」 for unintended actions

The verb 「しまう」 has two main definitions: 1) to finish; to do something completely and 2) for something unintended to happen. The latter definition is used for situations when you did something you didn’t mean to do. To use this with other verbs, attach 「しまう」 to the te-form of the verb.


  1. しまった!宿題を持ってくるのを忘れた!
    Oh no! (I) forgot to bring (my) homework!
  2. もう起きてしまった事は仕方ないよ。
    There’s nothing you can do about something that already happened (unintentionally).
  3. 我慢ができないからついつい買ってしまうんですよ。
    (I) can’t resist so (I) unintentionally end up buying (it).

Casual version of 「~てしまう」

In casual speech, the 「~てしまう」 can be substituted by 「~ちゃう」 while 「~でしまう」 is substituted by 「じゃう」. Both 「~ちゃう」 and 「~じゃう」 conjugate just like regular u-verbs.


  1. もう注文しちゃったけど、どうする?
    (I) already ordered (oops) so what should (we) do?
  2. 彼女を元彼女の名前で呼んじゃったよ!
    (I) called my girlfriend by my ex-girlfriend’s name (by accident)!
  3. もう分かっちゃった事は忘れられないでしょう?
    (I) can’t forget something that I already learned (unintentionally) right?

There is also a much less common casual version of 「~てしまう」 and 「~でしまう」 that sounds much more rough and coarse and is usually only used by older males. This version replaces 「~てしまう」 and 「~でしまう」 with 「~ちまう」 and 「~じまう」 respectively. The result is conjugated the same as any u-verb.


  1. また連絡するのを忘れちまったのかよ?
    Did (you) forget to contact (me) again?
  2. 悪い、お前のメールを読んじまったよ。
    Sorry, (I) read your email (by accident).


Kaori: Nice to meet you! (You’re a) student of Japanese, right? (I’m) called Kaori.

John: Ni, nice to meet. I’m John. Why did (you know) I’m (a) Japanese student?

Kaori: (I) happened to (unintentionally) see you taking Japanese class. How many years have (you) been studying Japanese?

John: Um, about 2 years?

Kaori: (That’s) amazing. (You) can talk this much even though (you’ve) only been studying 2 years?

John: No, (I) think I’m not that good yet…

(It’s) not like that. (You) are really good. Things turned out so that I will help (the) Japanese teacher from time to time while (I’m) here so let’s get along (lit: please treat me well). Oh, class is going to start soon (unintended). See you later.

Lee and Alice are walking in the hallway.

Lee: (I) hear Kaori-san is going to help our class’s teacher?

Alice: That’s right. (It) seems she wants to be helpful to everybody.

Lee: (She’s) very kind, isn’t she?

Alice: That’s right. She’s very kind to everybody so seems like boys will (unintentionally) misinterpret (it) so (I’m) worried.

Lee: (It’s) ok. That kind of type isn’t in our class, right? Huh? John, what are (you) doing spacing out in the hallway?

John: (I) may have met (an) angel.

Alice: Huh? What was that?

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