あかん (akan) is one of the most essential words in the Kansai dialect. Basically, it means “bad” or “you shouldn’t/can’t …”, and it is a synonym of “駄目 (だめ)” in the standard Japanese. For instance, if you say to your parent that you want to skip school for no reason, he/she would answer “あかん”, meaning “No, you can’t”. Similarly, when you find something bad or unacceptable, you can say “これ/それはあかん“, or more casually, “こら/そらあかん“, meaning “This/That is so bad/unacceptable“.
In a more complex sentence, あかん is often used in the following two patterns:
1. Verb (nai form) ＋な＋あかん
This is a variant of the more standard expression “Verb (nai form)＋ないといけない/ないと駄目だ”, meaning “have to do …” or “should do …”. It is often used when you talk about something you have to do, or when you advise someone to do or not to do something.
明日 (あした)までに宿題 (しゅくだい)をやらなあかんわ
I have to do my homework by tomorrow.
You should also eat vegetables.
You have to study more
＊Nai-form of “(勉強)する” is “し”, but “せ” is used exceptionally in the Kansai expression.
2. Verb (ta-form)＋(ら)＋ あかん
This is a variant of the more standard expression “Verb (ta-form)＋ら＋いけない/だめ”, meaning “It’s bad if you do …” or “you shouldn’t do …”. It’s usually used when you give a warning to someone. In a casual conversation, “ら” before “あかん” is omitted sometimes.
You shouldn’t sleep during class.
You shouldn’t go to the beach now.
Synonyms: 駄目 (だめ),
Synonyms in English: you can’t, bad