Excerpt from A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar:

Consider the difference in the sentences below:

[a] 昼間遊ぶ代わりに夜遊ぶつもりだ。
I intend to play at night instead of having fun in the daytime.

[b] 昼間遊んだ代わりに夜勉強した。
I played in the daytime, so (to make up for it) I studied at night.

[c] 昼間遊んだ代わりに勉強するつもりだ。
I played in the daytime, so (to make up for it) I intend to study at night.

[d] 昼間遊ぶ代わりに夜遊んだ。
I played at night instead of playing in the daytime.

I shall generalise the sentences to the form [X]代わりに[Y].

For [a] and [d], X and Y are regarding the same activity (遊ぶ). So when used with 代わりに, Y occurs while the action is not performed at X.

For [b], X and Y are separate activities (遊ぶ and 勉強 respectively). When used with 代わりに, both X and Y have the activity carried out.

I think where I'm having trouble understanding is becoming evident. There seems to be a missing construction where X and Y are separate activities, and only Y is carried out.

I'm trying to convey "I studied at night instead of playing in the daytime" (The action of playing is not carried out).

I know that there are ~ないで and ~ずに that does approximately the same thing, but they create sentences that are "Without X, do Y" which does not have the nuance that "instead" creates, which is "Do Y in place of X"

(Question) Can 代わりに do what I'm trying to do? If yes, how? Or must I use a different word altogether?

1: A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar, Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui (ISBN4-7890-0775-8)

3 Answers 3


If you want to say “I studied at night in place of playing in the daytime” using 代わりに, then you can use 昼遊ばなかった代わりに夜勉強した. However, I cannot imagine the context where studying at night can replace playing in the daytime, and therefore these sentences (both the English one and the Japanese one) look unnatural to me. If there is such a context, then both sentences will become natural in that context.

  • After some thought and saying the sentence out loud multiple times to myself it does seem highly unnatural. Must be lack of sleep.
    – Flaw
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 12:27

There are two different usages for 代わりに, and the problem comes from mixing them up. You cannot distinguish them syntactically. Just look at the meaning to distinguish them.

  • 'X instead of Y'  (X is done; Y is not done)

    'play during the night instead of playing during the day'

  • 'X in exchange for Y'  (X and Y are done)

    'study during the night to make up for playing during the day'

Once you notice these usages, it might not look unnatural that there is no construction meaning that X is not done and Y is done.

  • But the problem comes when I try to form "X instead of Y" with two activities. With 昼間遊ぶ代わりに夜勉強する the meaning turns out to be "in exchange for" even though the sentence looks syntactically similar to the first one (the only difference being different activities). Is there no way to express "instead" for the second sentence?
    – Flaw
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 10:43
  • @Flaw In ordinary context, my second sentence means 'in exchange for', but as long as you come up with an appropriate context, it can mean 'instead of'. Can you think of one?
    – user458
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 10:56
  • Assume that daytime has passed, it's in the evening. And no playing during the day has occurred. Then the sentence is said. Then it must be the case of "instead" instead of "exchange" since it's the only contextually possible thing. But if daytime has not passed, then it is ambiguous?
    – Flaw
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 11:00

I believe this works: "I studied at night instead of playing in the daytime" 昼遊びをしなかった代わりに夜に勉強しました。

Although it sounds a little strange to me because "studying at night" seems like it doesn't make a good replacement for "playing in the daytime" mostly because they take up different time slots.

Here's a more fitting example from alc. Note the contrasting connection between the two activities which makes 代わりに fit well.

見学料をとられなかった代わりに、写真1~2枚なら買ってあげよう、と私は思った。 In place of the entrance fee, I figured I would buy one or two photographs to help them out.

  • 2
    遊びしなかった is ungrammatical.
    – user458
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 10:12
  • They may not contend directly for a shared "time slot". But they do contend directly for "intention" of the person. If the person's intent can only hold one of the activities, then "instead" can also be used.
    – Flaw
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 10:19
  • @sawa thanks for catching that mistake. I fixed it, but I believe it doesn't affect the main content of the answer.
    – jlptnone
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 10:40
  • 1
    I agree with sawa that 遊びをする is awkward in this sentence. It would be natural with some modifier to 遊び (such as こういう遊びをする) or a compound word ending with 遊び (such as ボール遊びをする), but 遊びをする in isolation as in your example before sawa’s edit is unnatural. Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 20:35
  • 1
    Although there is a compound word 夜遊び (read as よあそび), 昼遊び is not a standard word. Therefore, 昼遊びをしなかった can be only interpreted as 昼、遊びをしなかった where 昼 is used as an adverb which modifies する (し in しなかった). Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 23:02

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