This is from one of the readings in 中級から学ぶ日本語 workbook (Ch.16), about a man who has just retired and is sitting back with a beer thinking about how hard he worked and whether it was all worth it. There are a couple of sentences in there that use the ず form which are confusing me:

There were also those terrible times when I had to go away on business three times a month. それでも別に不満には思わず人の倍働き、今日定年を迎えたのだ。

I'm guessing it means something like, 'Yet, without being aware of my dissatisfaction, and working twice as hard as others(?), today I welcome in my retirement.' But I'm not sure if 別に不満には思わず modifies 人 as in 'a person who is dissatisfied without knowing', or if there are three clauses in there 1) not realising my(?) dissatisfaction, 2) working twice as hard as a normal person (??), 3) welcome in my retirement.

I would think 'I'm quitting! But if I quit, what could I do? The world is a tough place, I have to support my family.' These thoughts troubled me. だれにも言わず、だれにも言えず、苦しんだ。

Does this mean 'Not telling anyone, and not being able to tell anyone, I suffered through it'?

  • ず is similar to ない, but it's used more in writting other than daily speaking. So 言わない and 言わず has similar meaning.
    – Eric
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 18:43
  • Can I ask where those translations came from? edit: Never mind, it's probably just because you didn't post the rest of it and I somehow thought that they wrote that as the translation of the below line. Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


Sorry but both Eric Wang and e2r2i2k2 are incorrect. 言わず is similar to 言わないで, not 言わない (unless it's placed at the end of a sentence). And this 思わず is a negative adverbial which modifies 働き. ず never modifies a noun.

ず ≒ ずに ≒ ないで
( 思わず = negative of 思い )≒ 思わずに ≒ ( 思わないで = negative of 思って )

So the sentence means: "Having worked twice as hard as others without feeling unhappy in particular, today I'm having the day of retirement".

  • 2
    Additional info: When modifying a noun, "-ぬ" is used. It is the attributive form for "-ず" in old Japanese, and it is still in use, especially in fixed expressions. E.g. "思わぬ" (unexpected) as in "思わぬ収穫"(unexpected harvest[figurative]), "取らぬ狸の皮算用" etc. "別に不満には思わぬ人" would mean "people who don't/didn't feel unhappy in particular". It has some old-fashioned atomosphere however, and today, it is more common to use "-ない" instead. (Expect for fixed expressions -- you can't say "取らない狸".)
    – Yosh
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 6:19
  • @isayamag Can you also help to explain difference between and ずに, when to use each.
    – Eric
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 9:12
  • 1
    Well, you can think these three words (ず/ずに/ないで) almost identical, except that ず is formal, ないで is colloquial, and ずに is somewhat semi-formal. I mean, ずに is sometimes heard in conversations while ず is hardly heard. / To be more strict, there are tendencies on some phrases. For exapmple ~ずいる (to stay not ~ing) is very rare. Almost always alternative ~ずにいる (or ~ないでいる) is used even in writings.
    – isayamag
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 22:16
  • 1
    And yes, unlike ずに, ず can stand at the end of a sentence. It's a classical version of normal negative ending ない (e.g. 木を見て森を見ず = 木を見て森を見ない, as you know).
    – isayamag
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 22:32
  • The Routledge Japanese grammar explains that ず alone joins sentences together and is akin to "not..., and...", "not..., but...", while ずに is plain and simple "without ~ing". Here I seem to gather that the two are equivalent instead?
    – fedmest
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:02

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