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Could someone explain the difference between the following two expressions:

恐ろしさといったらなかった

恐ろしいといったらなかった

I am struggling with the first which my text book tells me means とても恐ろしかった. Why is the さーform of the adjective used in favour of the normal 恐ろしい?

Another sentence that gave me a problem, together with my best guess of the meaning is the following:

飛行機の窓から見えたオーロラの美しさといったらなかった

The aurora I saw from the plane's window was too beatiful for words

Would the following sentence mean the same?

飛行機の窓から見えたオーロラが美しいといったらなかった [~美しかったといったらない?]

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If this follows the same rules as the form と言ったらありはしない (or ありゃしない), then I've definitely seen it used with the regular form of adjectives... or that's all I've seen it used with <_<; Stumped here –  Hyperworm Sep 11 '12 at 13:08
    
@Hyperworm Same grammatical rules: both may attach to either a noun (phrase) or adjective (phrase). Semantically as well they are the same, but "to ittara ari wa sinai" is restricted to negative sentences while "to ittara nai" is not. –  Dono Sep 11 '12 at 13:43

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

…といったらない means “… is extraordinary.” Examples from Progressive J-E Dictionary:

突然のことだったから,驚いたといったらなかった It was quite unexpected, so you can imagine how surprised I was.
それを聞いたときの彼の顔といったらなかった His face was a study when he heard it.

As you can see, it can take both a clause and a noun. In your case, both 恐ろしいといったらなかった and 恐ろしさといったらなかった are grammatical.

I personally feel that using a clause is colloquial, and in formal context, I would say

突然のことだったから,驚いたことといったらなかった

instead of the former example from the dictionary, but I do not have anything to back up my feeling.

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My books tend to emphasize the A-い/na〜 construction and then mention that V/N construction is also possible: However you have made it plain how this (usually?) works with a noun which largely clears up my main problem. I have added a little bit more to my q in response to comments but this helps a lot. –  Tim Sep 11 '12 at 15:14
    
@Tim: About the オーロラ examples, I definitely prefer …の美しさといったらなかった. Now thinking about it, …が美しいといったらなかった even sounds ungrammatical to me, but I am not sure if this is because it is really ungrammatical or because I have been thinking too much about it. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 11 '12 at 16:07
    
Your preferance does not surprise me because that is the original sentence. The other is me trying to get the measure of the expression - it seems correct, based on my books' "rules", but it takes a while to grasp how and when to use these "higher level" expressions. –  Tim Sep 11 '12 at 23:01

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