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「むかしっからなァ、ただより高いものはないっていうことわざがあるんだぞっ。」
From the old days there's a saying that "nothing costs as much as what is given to us".

I've taken the translation of ただより高いものはない straight from the dictionary, but I can't get this meaning when I analyse the sentence. I read something like "compared to expensive things there are no free things" (obviously nonsense).

Can the sentence be analysed grammatically such that it has the intended meaning? I can't make it work. Or must I just accept that it is a set phrase and move on?

Perhaps a separate question but I'll try asking anyway: I wasn't sure about my translation of むかしっからなァ. In particular why there is a っ in it.

  • It sounds like you're mistaking which word より binds to – oals Dec 14 '16 at 20:06
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ただより高いものはない is a proverb that means "Nothing is more expensive than free things." In other words, it says free things can be the most costly/risky thing because there is usually some catch for a free offer.

This sentence follows the basic grammar of comparing two things in Japanese:

  • 高い: expensive
  • ただより高い: more expensive than (being) free
  • ただより高いもの: a thing that is more expensive than (being) free
  • ただより高いものはない: there is not a thing that is more expensive than (being) free

Here ただ is not a conjunction nor an adverb but a noun (no-adjective) that means free. ~より is not an adverb but a particle similar in purpose to English "than ~".

昔っから is just a colloquial pronunciation of 昔から, which sounds masculine and dashing. The っ at the end of the sentence is for the same purpose. This accent is typically heard in so-called "Tokyo dialect" (aka 江戸訛り/べらんめえ口調).

  • I see. Thanks. I think I was confused by the lack of a word like もっと. I guess this is the implied default option. – user3856370 Dec 15 '16 at 8:41

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