I tried looking up in dictionaries but ~ないことには is not listed, neither in the entry for こと nor in the entry about ない.



Is there any difference in usage, formality or nuances?


In Seiichi Makino's and Michio Tsutsui's A dictionary of advanced Japanese grammar (DAJG) , it seems that ないことには can replace なければ only in negative predicates.

For your example I have bolded the negative part of the predicate:

  • 一度会ってみないことには、彼にこの仕事を任せられるかどうかわからない
    Unless you meet him, you will not know whether or not to entrust this job to him.

  • 一度会ってみなければ、彼にこの仕事を任せられるかどうかわからない
    If you do not meet him, you will not know whether or not to entrust this job to him.

Now let's try to change the sentence a little:

  • 今日会えないことには、インタビューは後日に変更する。*
    *denotes unacceptability

  • 今日会えなければ、インタビューは後日に変更する。
    If you do not meet him today, I will reschedule the interview.

  • (あなたが)会わないことには、私が会うから大丈夫です。*
    *denotes unacceptability

  • (あなたが)会わなければ、私が会うから大丈夫です。
    If you do not meet him, I will so it will be okay.

DAJG says that the main predicate has to either be explicitly negative (conjugated to negative), or use implicitly negative words like 無理だ, 不可能だ in order to use ないことには.

  • 勉強しないことには、試験の合格は無理です。
  • 勉強しないことには、試験の合格は不可能です。
  • 勉強しないことには、試験の合格は難しいです。

なければ however may take on both positive and negative predicates.


  • Makino, S., & Tsutsui, M. (2008). A dictionary of advanced Japanese grammar. pg. 303-305 entry for nai koto ni wa
  • That make sense, thank you. I am still trying to find a parsing that would make ないことには appears (naturally) as a conditional. Maybe I am misunderstanding how に works here. – 永劫回帰 Nov 1 '16 at 13:13
  • 1
    I think you can try "unless" – Flaw Nov 1 '16 at 13:13
  • I wait a bit before accepting your answer but I doubt I can get something better. Thanks. – 永劫回帰 Nov 1 '16 at 13:23
  • I also have that book so I had a glimpse in it after you submitted your answer. (I had only been searching in monolingual dictionaries because sometimes they include etymology explanations). About your example sentences I would just change 変更 to 延期 and 私が合う to 私が会う – 永劫回帰 Nov 1 '16 at 13:32

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