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日本人は英語を学ばずとも暮らせる環境に居ます。 Japanese people are in an environment where they can live without having to learn english.

Is the とも in this sentence one word or is it two words: と and も ? I guess it is one word as I see it in this sentence as well:

一方、日本語の文字は、漢字を学ばなくともよいなら世界でもっともやさしいといわれています。 On the other hand, written Japanese is one of the easiest in the world if you do not have to learn kanji.

Would anyone care to explain the とも and how it is used in these sentences?

  • +1 didn't know you could have とも after ~ず form – Mark Hosang Sep 22 '11 at 4:37
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It is this とも, specifically the first definition. Originally two particles, now arguably one word. "X とも" basically means "Even if X" in cases like this.

  • 日本人は [英語を学ばずとも暮らせる] 環境に居ます。
    Japanese people are in an environment where [they can live even if they don't learn English].

  • 一方、日本語の文字は、 [漢字を学ばなくともよい] なら世界でもっともやさしいといわれています。
    On the other hand, Japanese characters are said to be the easiest in the world if [you don't have to learn kanji].
    On the other hand, Japanese characters are said to be the easiest in the world if [it's OK even if you don't learn kanji].

(The second translation in that last one is intentionally overliteral to show the "even if".)

  • thank you for your answer matt. I have one question about your translation of the first sentence, though. 日本人は [英語を学ばずとも暮らせる] 環境に居ます。 Japanese people are in an environment where [they can live even if they don't learn English]. doesn't the "even if they don't learn" imply that somewhere there is an environment where Japanese people have to learn english in order to live? sorry if this is quibbling over a minor point but it seems to me that your english translation is slightly odd. Maybe it sounds that way to me just because you were emphasizing the grammar to show it clearly. – yadokari Sep 22 '11 at 16:37
  • Yes, it is intentionally stiff to show the "even if" part. There is indeed an implied contrast with "environments [where people cannot live without learning English]" (although of course "live" is a translation of "暮らす", not "生きる", so the implied meaning isn't that people who don't learn English will die in such environments). A more idiomatic rendering might be "In Japan, you can get along just fine without learning English" or "No-one needs to learn English to live in Japan." – Matt Sep 22 '11 at 20:47
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This usage of とも is the one explained in this Wikipedia article on Japanese particles:

To mo (no kanji): "even if, even though; at the ...-est; whether; [emphasis]"

In 学ばずとも, 学ばず is the negative form of 学ぶ using the 〜ず conjugation, which often used with 〜に to mean "without doing X", e.g. 学ばずに means "without learning", thus 学ばずとも means "even without learning".

As for 学ばなくとも, I'm going to use this dictionary@goo page as the basis to say that it is similar to 〜ても, thus "漢字を学ばなくともよいなら" is equivalent to "漢字を学ばなくてもよいなら".

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