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My wife is studying for the JLPT exam, and came across the following question:


She narrowed the choices down to:

  1. すわらずに
  2. すわらないと

Or another similar question:


  1. ならず
  2. ならない

In both cases, the two answers seem "correct". According to the answers 1 is correct is both cases, but many people suggested number 2 seems better.
What is the difference between ずに and ない-form? Why would the ない-form be wrong here?

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We've also found What is the difference between 〜ないではいられない and 〜ずにはいられない, but it didn't quite explain it. – Kobi Nov 24 '12 at 10:13
You might also be interested in this question: japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/235/… – snailplane Nov 24 '12 at 10:18
The answer for the first question should be すわらずに or すわらない"で" – user1016 Nov 24 '12 at 11:43
Isn't it 「あの花は5日"に"(ならない)とさきません」??? – user1016 Nov 24 '12 at 11:46
I did a bit of Googling, and it appears that the second example may be 「あの花は5月に_____とさきません。」. Is this correct? Source: cn.explore.ne.jp/study/nihongo/zhenti2007.html – rintaun Nov 26 '12 at 22:09
up vote 8 down vote accepted

~ず and ~ない mean essentially the same thing, as they are both negative forms (i.e. they both mean "not"). ず is more of a written or formal style, while ない is spoken or standard.

However, the examples in your question actually revolve around ~に and ~と, as it's a grammar usage question. Let's take a look at your examples:


座【すわ】らずに is the correct answer here, and has several close analogues that could be used as well:

  • 座【すわ】らなくて
  • 座【すわ】らないで
  • 座【すわ】ることなく

The nuances may vary slightly between these, but they all fit in the sentence grammatically, which is what these questions are designed to test.


In this example, the time (5月に) is the hint and the key is the と after the blank. Though ~ず can be followed by と, it ends up having the same meaning as ~ずに, so the answer has to be ならない, as ~ないと deals with time.

But why?

Though the meanings of ~ず and ~ない are basically the same, the meanings diverge when they become ~ずに and ~ないと.

  • ~ずに means basically "without doing ~" (~に just turns this into an adverb, just like the で in ~ないで)
  • ~ないと on the other hand, means "when not doing ~" or "if [it] doesn't ~" (~と in this case means "when" or "if")
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大辞林 has an entry for the collocation ずと: dic.yahoo.co.jp/… – snailplane Nov 26 '12 at 20:47
This sort of makes sense, thanks. On the second sentence, you say the answer should be ~ない because と follows it, but our book says the answer is ならず. We looked again for the answer, and it does look like you are right. Thanks! – Kobi Nov 26 '12 at 21:26
@snailplane I stand corrected. I'll remove that from my answer. So ~ずと has the same meaning as ~ずに, according to that entry, am I understanding that correctly? Interesting. – rintaun Nov 26 '12 at 21:54
I think the ~~ずと is old/archaic. (We still use 「言わずと知れたこと(だ/を/よ)」「~~せずとも~~ (though this is not ~ずと but ~ずとも)」etc., but these sound literary. We'd say 「言わなくても分かることだ/を」「~~しなくても~~」in normal conversation.) – user1016 Nov 26 '12 at 22:36
@Chocolate Yeah I got that sense from the other samples I investigated, too. Thanks for the heads-up! – rintaun Nov 27 '12 at 0:37

[ずに] is a conjunction particle that is used when you want to say "without (usu. doing something). [話さずに without speaking] [食べずに without eating].

[ない] is a used for negation.

[2時間、座らずに立って話しました。2hrs. of talking [standing] without sitting]

I hope that helps.

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I don't think ずに is normally referred to as a particle. 大辞林 says it's a collocation of ず (an auxiliary verb used for negation) and the particle に. My 集英社国語辞典 says the same thing. – snailplane Nov 25 '12 at 3:41
Correct, it is not a particle, though it is a conjunction. Thank you for that correction. – フレヂィ Nov 25 '12 at 7:52

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