I was so surprised to read:


(paraphrase) When one finally wants to truly fulfill the obligation to his/her parents, they often have already passed away.

(note): I would have said "親たち", but that is not the real question I have. anyway...

I had expected:


How about this example sentence:


This example is not a "set phrase" and uses "なし" for an animate thing

  • That such a massive paraphrase was requited means that sentence is more of a "set phrase"?
  • "無し{なし}" is used for both inanimate things and animate things?
  • 1
    親たち isn't really valid for 'one's two parents', it means more of 'a group of parents (necessarily several families' worth)'. Outside of very modern uses with personal pronouns, たち can't be used for just two people.
    – Sjiveru
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 16:14
  • 3
    Interesting, you'd never call your parents 親たち, but you would call your two children 子供たち, or your siblings お姉ちゃんたち, 弟たち, etc. I wonder why that is.
    – mirka
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 17:51
  • 1
    @mirka Because you can have any number of siblings, but most people generally only have no more than two parents?
    – JAB
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 22:02
  • @Sjiveru Your explaining "親たち" is amazingly useful. I've said "親たち" so many times (and was never corrected).
    – david.t
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 1:25

2 Answers 2


There's two reasons.

Historically, 無し (modern ない) wasn't the negative form of ある but an adjective in its own right (meaning 'absent', and valid for any subject). The negative form of ある was あらず. Naturally, these words meant mostly the same thing, and over time あらず was fully replaced (in Kantou Japanese at least) with ない, which later went on (in Kantou Japanese only) to be incorporated into other verbs as the negative marker -ない.

Also historically, あり (modern ある) was used for both animate and inanimate subjects. Modern いる (historical ゐる) was a verb meaning 'sit, stay' that became first an honorific and then an animate version of あり.

The necessity of using いない with animates is a result of a combination of two things: いる restricting ある to inanimates; and ない being reanalysed as the negative form of ある, invalidating its use with animate subjects. なし here is a leftover of historical uses of what became ない, and so it doesn't matter whether the subject is animate or not.

(also, いなし is not a word; the historical negative 終止形 is first -ず and later -ぬ (the old 連体形), and thus the historical negative form of ゐる would be ゐず.)

  • Shower thought: this might actually be 亡し, a totally different adjective meaning 'dead'.
    – Sjiveru
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 17:11

1. first one's answer is yes, this case なし as uses as passed away is no same uses in normal japanese.

e.g.死人に口なし direct meaning is "corps won't talk" more sentenced meaning is "to kill someone is the best way to keep a secret" this なし is similar to 親はなし but not just a same.

2. second one's answer is yes. not so think that difficult,なし uses really close as "nothing" or "lacks of". 用なし means "nothing to use". 文なし means "lacks of money". Looks similar and complicated but both gives meaning of "less for purpose"d

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