I was listening to a song and the singer said 気づけないでいた, but I wonder why she didn't say 気付けなかった. is there a difference?

  • Lifted out of context, there's not much we can say. Please provide more context so we can help you.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jun 17 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


気づけないでいた is composed of 気づける + ない + (て)いた, so it contains the potential form and the past progressive form. This phrase describes a continuous state of not being able to notice something over time. In other words, something should have been noticed, but it remained unnoticed for an extended period. The speaker had been ignorant of something for quite some time.

On the other hand, 気づかなかった simply means the speaker didn't notice something at a particular moment. Since the potential form is not used, it says nothing about whether they should have noticed it in the first place.

  • 気づかなかった。
    I didn't notice it (at that moment).
  • 気づけなかった。
    I couldn't notice it (at that moment).
  • 気づけないでいた。
    I had been unable to notice it (for a long time).
    I remained ignorant of it.

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