I was taught that these two phrases are interchangeable and have the same meaning.

However, I recently wrote a few practice sentences using this grammar point and they were corrected to use ずには instead of ないでは

The sentences I wrote were:

  1. 知り合いにそっくりだったので、話しかけないではいられなかった。
  2. まだ子供なので、許さないではいられなかった。

However, both of these were corrected to:

  1. 知り合いにそっくりだったので、話しかけずにはいられなかった。
  2. まだ子供なので、許さずにはいられなかった。

I was under the impression that both were acceptable and can't find anything stating otherwise. Is there something in particular with these sentences that they can only use ずには? Or am I completely missing something?

  • My grammar book has them listed under the same heading. The only thing I can think of is that you can't use them talking about a 3rd person, but that applies to both of them so it's not a difference.
    – istrasci
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 4:26
  • 〜ないではいられなかった just doesn't sound right to me. 〜なくてはいられなかった sounds a little better in your examples, but not as good as 〜ずにはいられなかった. It's probably an idiom thing.
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 5:58
  • 5
    I've never even seen なくてはいられなかった... D:
    – phirru
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 6:00
  • @phirru: 7 million results on Google for "なくてはいられ", and 4.4 million for "ないではいられ".
    – Zhen Lin
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 1:47

3 Answers 3


IMO both of these sentences are correct.

  1. 知り合いにそっくりだったので、話しかけないではいられなかった。
  2. まだ子供なので、許さないではいられなかった。

As a native speaker, the sentences did feel a bit odd to me at first. This is probably because ずには is much more frequently used than ないでは. Perhaps this is because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.

My layman advice is to stick to ずには.


I would think it would be degree of politeness/formality where ずに seems more polite/formal.

  • 3
    ~ずに might be slightly more formal than ~ないで, but there is no difference in politeness. Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 1:20

Both are same meaning.

「動ーない形」  + 「ないではいられない」 e-g(1).彼のもの真似を見るとおかしくて、笑わないではいられない。

「する」 +「せずにはいられない」



  • 4
    I don't see how these are different usages. You answer is a little unclear.
    – istrasci
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 5:06
  • @istrasci : sorry if my answer is unclear
    – ZarNge
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 8:52

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