Unfinished Sentences in Japanese Ending with から (Kara)

In Japanese, unfinished sentences ending with から (kara) are common. In these cases, からis used like a sentence final particle like よ (yo) or ね (ne), and it can convey a surprising number of meanings. A whole paper was written on the topic by Hiroyuki Shirakawa of Hiroshima University titled “Unfinished Sentences with Kara [1]”.

In the paper’s abstract, Shirakawa sums the phenomenon up by stating: “Kara is generally said to be a conjunction which indicates reason. But strangely enough, its sentence final use adds to the sentence emphatic implication to express the speaker’s strong will or volition, which is not predictable from its original meaning.”

Meanings of から (kara) when used at the end of a sentence:

  1. A connective to indicate reason
  2. When stating one’s intention
  3. When giving new information
  4. To get someone to do something
  5. To get acquiescence to do something
  6. To stop someone from doing something

One use of から (kara) at the end of a sentence is its more expected use as connective to mean “because”, which connects a reason statement to a situation statement that immediately preceded it. The following is an example: これから寝ます。とても疲れていますから。 (I’m going to bed now. Because I am so tired). I have written more in detail about this use of から (kara) here.

What we will focus on in this article are the interesting nuances of から (kara) when used as a sentence-final particle. In these cases, we will find that the sentences are indeed unfinished, but by specifically using から as the sentence final particle, it hints strongly to the listener what the speaker means and what a logical completion to the sentence would be.

から (kara) for Announcing What One Intends to do

A speaker can use から (kara) at the end of a sentence when they want to announce and emphasize what they intend to do. For example, let’s say you are studying with friends after school, but it’s now time for you to head to your part-time job. You might say the following:

Bye everyone. (Because) I’m going to work now.

By using から (kara) it has the nuance that you are communicating the fact that you are leaving and there is no way around it. But the sentence is left unfinished, the rest is implied and up the listeners to interpret based on the previous context. One possibility might be 「何かようがあったら、後で片付けよう。」 (If you need me for anything, we’ll get to it later).

から (kara) for Giving New or Missing Information

から (kara) can be used in some situations in which the speaker is giving new information. In these cases, it is used like よ (yo). The new information given should be exactly that, new information that the listener was not previously aware of that the speaker wants them to know about. The listener should not be left wondering “why are you telling me this?” or “what about it”? As an example, let’s say you are at restaurant, and it’s getting late. The waiter might say the following:

そろそろラストオーダーになりますから 。
(Because) it’s just about time for last call.

Although the statement is unfinished, it communicates the fact that it will be last call soon, and that you have just a bit of time left to decide to make another order or not. One possibility to finish the sentence might be 「お知らせ申し上げます。」 (I wanted to let you know).

から (kara) for Trying to get Someone to do Something or Convince Someone of Something

から (kara) can be used at the end of an unfinished sentence when trying to get someone to do something or convince them of something. For example, you may have had the following exchange with your mom at one point:

お母さん: 勉強せず、ゲームばかりやって、大学に入れなくなるよ。困るから! 
Mom: If you only play video games and never study, you’ll never get into university. (Because) it’s such a worry for me…!
あなた: もう、分かってるよ。今度からもっと勉強するから。
You: I got it already. (Because) I’ll study more from now on.

In this exchange your mom is trying to get you to stop playing video games and study more. Her unfinished sentence might be finished as 「勉強しなさい!」 (Get to studying!). You are trying to convince your mom that you will. Your unfinished sentence might be competed as 「説教するなよ!」 (Stop lecturing me!).

から (kara) for When You Want to Get Someone’s Acquiescence to do Something

Similar to the usage mentioned above, から (kara) can be used at the end of an unfinished sentence when trying to get someone’s acquiescence or permission to do something. Let’s say you are going to the library and your kid sister really wants to go with you. You’re worried she might be a bit of a nuisance. She can sense this, so she might ask you if she can come along in the following way:

あたしも図書館に行きたい。連れていてくれる? あたし、静かにするから。
I want to go to the library too. Will you take me with you? (Because) I’ll be quiet.

Your little sister’s use of から (kara) is to try to get you to acquiescence to bring her to the library. Again, the sentence is unfinished but could be completed as 「心配しないで。」 (don’t worry). Or perhaps a more natural translation might be “I promise I’ll be quiet”.

から (kara) for Stopping Someone from Doing Something

から (kara) can be used at the end of a sentence when trying to stop the listener from doing something. For example, early on when I was learning Japanese, I was at the shinkansen museum in Nagoya with some Japanese friends. I was thirsty an pulled out my water bottle and they said:

Ah, (because) drinking and eating are not allowed.

Although the sentence is unfinished, the meaning is still the same as if it were finished, which might be 「控えてくださいね。」 (Please refrain from doing so).

By completing all the sentences in the various situations above, it could be said that から (kara) is still being used as a connective to indicate a reason. But when sentences are left unfinished by cutting them short at から, it is interesting to see how versatile から becomes. In various situations, just the simple use of から implies the rest of the sentence which the listener should be able to understand from the context.

Besides から, two other common connectives used at the end of unfinished sentences are けど (kedo) and が (ga), which I have written about here. Also, there are many unfinished sentences that end with particles. For example, you’ll often see in advertisements sentences ending in the particles に (ni) and へ (he) which I have written about here, and the also the particle を (wo) which I have written about here.

As you study Japanese more, you will find that unfinished sentences are an important part of the Japanese culture itself, which I have written more about here.


[1] Shirakawa, Hiroyuki (1991). Unfinished Sentences with Kara. Bulletin of the Faculty of Education, Hiroshima University. Part 2, pp.249-255

Colten Dumonceau

My goal is to provide information that will help you learn Japanese as quickly and effectively as possible. I have spent more than ten years learning Japanese, mostly self-taught, from absolute beginner to an advanced level. I believe its possible to go much faster than I did. Please let me share with you the best learning strategies I have uncovered.

Recent Posts