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I was taught that these two phrases are interchangeable and have the same meaning.

However, I recently wrote a few practice sentences using this grammar point and they were corrected to use ずには instead of ないでは

The sentences I wrote were:


However, both of these were corrected to:


I was under the impression that both were acceptable and can't find anything stating otherwise. Is there something in particular with these sentences that they can only use ずには? Or am I completely missing something?

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My grammar book has them listed under the same heading. The only thing I can think of is that you can't use them talking about a 3rd person, but that applies to both of them so it's not a difference. – istrasci Aug 25 '11 at 4:26
〜ないではいられなかった just doesn't sound right to me. 〜なくてはいられなかった sounds a little better in your examples, but not as good as 〜ずにはいられなかった. It's probably an idiom thing. – Zhen Lin Aug 25 '11 at 5:58
I've never even seen なくてはいられなかった... D: – phirru Aug 25 '11 at 6:00
@phirru: 7 million results on Google for "なくてはいられ", and 4.4 million for "ないではいられ". – Zhen Lin Aug 26 '11 at 1:47

IMO both of these sentences are correct.


As a native speaker, the sentences did feel a bit odd to me at first. This is probably because ずには is much more frequently used than ないでは. Perhaps this is because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.

My layman advice is to stick to ずには.

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Both are same meaning.

「動ーない形」  + 「ないではいられない」 e-g(1).彼のもの真似を見るとおかしくて、笑わないではいられない。

「する」 +「せずにはいられない」



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I don't see how these are different usages. You answer is a little unclear. – istrasci Aug 25 '11 at 5:06
@istrasci : sorry if my answer is unclear – ZarNge Aug 25 '11 at 8:52

I would think it would be degree of politeness/formality where ずに seems more polite/formal.

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~ずに might be slightly more formal than ~ないで, but there is no difference in politeness. – Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 26 '11 at 1:20

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