ないで / ずに Japanese Grammar Lesson
Grammar Type: Phrase
Essential Meaning: Without doing X / Not do X, and do Y
- Verb Negative Stem + ないで
- E.g. 話さないで [Without speaking / Do not speak]
- E.g. 食べないで [Without eating / Do not eat]
- E.g. 行かないで [Without going / Do not go]
- Verb Negative Stem + ずに
- E.g. 話さずに [Without speaking]
- E.g. 食べずに [Without eating]
- E.g. 行かずに [Without going]
- Exception: する = せずに [Without doing]
- ないで basically translates to “Without doing X“, “Not do X”, or “Don’t do X” depending on the context. ないで can only be used with verbs.
- When a verb ending with ないで expresses something that one is expected to do, the translation is “Without doing X” or “Without having done X“. The sentence implies some level of surprise or amusement over the fact that someone was expected to do X, but didn’t. In other words, the negative aspect is emphasized.
- E.g. ナンシーは昨日朝ごはんを食べないで学校へ行った。[Yesterday Nancy headed to school without having eaten breakfast.] The expectation was that Nancy would eat breakfast before heading to school, and the fact that she didn’t is noteworthy / surprising.
- When no such expectation to do something exists, the translation of ないで is simply “Don’t / Doesn’t / Didn’t do X” depending on tense and number. In this situation, ないで acts as the negative て-Form and simply connects the negative clause to the main clause.
- E.g. 中田さんは大阪に行かないで京都に行った。 [Mr. Okuda didn’t go to Osaka; he went to Kyoto (when there is no expectation of him having gone to Osaka).]
- When used with the imperative て-form, ないで translates to “Don’t do X.”
- E.g. 食べないで！ [Don’t eat!]
- When paired with auxiliary words such as ください [Please], て欲しい [To want], てもらう [To receive], ておく [To do in advance], et cetera, ないで is interpreted as the negative て-Form.
- E.g. やかましくしないでもらいたい。[I want you to not make any noise.]
- When ないで is used to connect two distinct clauses, ないで can be replaced by ずに as long as the sentence retains a conjunctive structure (e.g. Clause 1, AND Clause 2). The other differences between ないで and ずに are that (1) ずに is used more common in written language and formal speech, and (2) する verbs are conjugated as せずに rather than as しずに.
- E.g. ナンシーは昨日朝ごはんを食べせずに学校へ行った。[Nancy went to school without eating breakfast.]
- E.g. 中田さんは大阪に行かずに京都に行った。[Nakata-san didn’t go to Osaka; he went to Kyoto.]
- E.g. 辞書を使わずに読んでください。[Please read the book without using a dictionary.]
- E.g. まだあるから買わずにおきました。[Because I already had one, I put it back without buying it.]
- E.g. *まだ帰らずにください。[???] This is an imperative sentence with only one clause, and therefore no reason for a conjunction. ずに does not make sense.
- E.g. *電話せずにください [???] This sentence makes no sense for the same reason as above.
- なくで can replace ないで, but only in situations when the ないで is used conjunctively and the ないで clause indicates some cause for human emotion (e.g. happiness, surprise, shame, etc.) that is indicated in the main clause.
- E.g. 僕は英語が話せなくて恥ずかしかった。[I wasn’t able to speak English, so I was embarrassed.] Being unable to speak English is the cause of the embarrassment that the speaker expresses in the main clause.
- E.g. スージーが遊びに来なくて助かった。[Susie didn’t come over to play, so I felt relieved.] Susie not coming over is the cause of the speaker’s relief.
- Eg. *一郎は帽子を脱がなくて部屋に入った。[Ichiro entered the room without taking off his hat.] No emotion is conveyed in this sentence, so なくて is unacceptable.
- The expression “X is not Y, but is X” is expressed with なくて and not with ないで .
- E.g. 私は学生じゃなくて先生です。[I’m not a student; I’m a teacher.]
やかましくしないでもらいたい。[I want you to not make any noise.]
ナンシーは昨日朝ごはんを食べないで学校へ行った。[Nancy headed to school without having eaten breakfast.]
中田さんは大阪に行かずに京都に行った。[Nakata-san didn’t go to Osaka; he went to Kyoto.]
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