4

These two forms, ~ないで and the ~な particle seem to have similar meanings. Can someone please explain the difference between the two?

5

The former (未然形+ないで) is a light negative command, the latter (終止形+な) is a strong negative command (prohibition). (終止形+なよ) is often (not always) a friendly / playful command.

~して ⇔ ~しないで

~しろ ⇔ ~するな

宿題をするの忘れないでね (like a mother to her child, "don't forget to do your homework")

宿題をするの忘れるなよ (depending on tone, a friendly, "you'd better not forget to do your homework")

宿題をするの忘れるな (depending on tone, "do not forget to do your homework!")

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