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I am quite familiar with Noun じゃない and Na-adj じゃない - in both cases, they negate the noun or na-adjective, and じゃ is a colloquial form of では; ない is the plain form of ありません.

I also know that じゃ conveys the meaning of "well" or "with that" (though that's probably too formal).

せんせいじゃない ・ すきじゃない

じゃ、また。 ・ じゃ、はじめましょう。

However, what happens when じゃ is moved in front of the noun or na-adjective? For instance, in the song エアーマンが倒せない (Airman ga Taosenai / I cannot Defeat Airman) the following is heard (0:40):

タイム連{れん}打{だ}も試{ため}してみたけど 竜{たつ}巻{まき}相{あい}手{て}じゃ意{い}味{み}が無{な}い

I attempted the Time Barrage glitch, but against the tornado it is meaningless!

I would have written 竜巻相手に意味が無い myself.

Could it be that じゃ means に here?

Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opADNvgeZYY

Lyrics: http://www.animelyrics.com/doujin/nekokan/airman.jis (in kanji, but includes a link to romaji/ english lyrics)

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As you said yourself, じゃ is just the colloquial form of では。If the sentence was written more "properly" it would be:

相手では意味が無い

See: では・じゃ

  • I have trouble understanding the usage of じゃ here as it doesn't seem to be negating 相手; it seems to be negating 意味. So I take it the usage in this case is "well / well then"? If I see 相手では意味が無い my mind automatically translates it as "against the tornado, well, there is no meaning". Is this accurate? – rhyaeris Jan 16 '16 at 16:56
  • @rhyaeris では is the context particle + topic particle together. It can kind of carry a "As for X, well.." tone but not always. The negation here is only expressed by 無い which negates 意味. Please see here: selftaughtjapanese.com/2015/02/26/… – strawberry jam Jan 16 '16 at 18:07
  • I agree じゃ(では)is definitely not doing any negation here, but rather it is a pattern that is often used with negative sentences. It definitely doesn't feel like "well" to me. See my full answer. – Locksleyu Feb 3 '16 at 12:35
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+50

The は particle is frequently when expressing negative things, not just in the case of "ではない" (じゃない) but in a form like form "XはYがない".

While there is some nuance difference, I think for the most part "には意味がない”,"では意味がない”, and "は意味がない” have a similar meaning. You can do a web search and see that they are all used in similar situations.

However, in the specific case of "相手では(じゃ)意味がない”, I feel that there is some sense of the feeling of "with", and the english translation of the example sentence could have been "but with the tornado it is meaningless" (though using "against" is clearly better). Stating just "相手は” seems to me to say something more like "but the tornado is meaningless". This is just my gut feeling, however.

(This is my first post on the board. I'm the author of the blog referred to one of the other answers which is how I found this page. よろしくお願いします (^^) )

  • oh my, owner of selftaughtjapanese.com? It's an honour meeting you here! :) こちらこそ よろしくお願いします!your blog post was helpful, but I never could wrap my head around one last detail: that one would choose to use では instead of just は, because in my head で is strictly for methods (tools) and "location[s] where... action[s]... are being performed". 相手 did not seem to fit either of these categories. – rhyaeris Feb 3 '16 at 12:58
  • 日本語では読めません and 飛行機では行けますよ make sense to me, for example, but 日本では、公園が多い did not because there doesn't seem to be a method or a place for an action. – rhyaeris Feb 3 '16 at 13:00
  • Nice to meet you as well. で has a a great many meanings, the one you mention is only a small tip of the iceberg, though it's a good place to start since it is easy to understand and can be used in many situations. – Locksleyu Feb 3 '16 at 13:01
  • rhyaeris - In the case of "日本では公園が多い" the meaning of "で” is different than in "日本語で話す”. The former means more like "には” and can be translated as "In Japan, there are many parks". – Locksleyu Feb 3 '16 at 13:03
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    Thanks very much rhyaeris! Glad to know this is such a nice community (: – Locksleyu Feb 3 '16 at 14:24

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