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I am trying to translate the English expression "left to their own devices"/"left to themselves"/"in a vacuum" into Japanese, and the best I could come up with would be something involving 「ひとりで」, but I am trying to describe a group of people who I am treating as a unit (effectively 一族). Is there any way to say "alone" when talking about a group of people (in this case 四人), as in "without the influences/presence of an out-group"?

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    放っておく can be used for leave (someone) alone. 私をほうっておいて! Leave me alone. Weblio has 'leave (someone) alone' as: 〈人...を〉かまわずに[そのままにして]おく; 〈...に〉干渉しない. You can say 二人で for two people alone; probably 四人で for four people alone. 気ままに園児を遊ばせる is the closest I could find in linguee. Here it means the children are left to their own devices to play. – Robert May 19 '17 at 1:48
  • I found other sentences with 'left to themselves' in the sense of no supervision 世話が不行届き; 監督が無いと; 野放し. Perhaps there is no phrase covering all uses of 'left to their devices' and the best translation will come after seeing the whole sentence and finding the appropriate fit. – Robert May 19 '17 at 1:56
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Where ひとりで/1人で works, 4人で also should work. 4人だけで might be better if you want to indicate 4人 is a small number. A more generic and neutral expression would be 自分たちだけで, but I'm not sure if this is usable for the sentence you have in mind. 孤立して or 隔絶して might be even better in certain contexts (e.g., living in an desert island).

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After poking around I found this webpage with a translation of 'left to his own devices'.

To quote the site:

(助言や援助を与えないで)人を思うようにさせておく

There are possibly other translations that could be used in context, but that seems to be adequate as a general translation.

Other specific examples are:

あの男は放任しておいたら酒を飲んで死んでしまう

If left to himself, he will drink himself to death. (Weblio)

気ままに園児を遊ばせる

Children are left to their own devices to play. (Linguee)

私をほうっておいて!

Leave me alone! (Weblio)

...監督が無いと.../...世話が不行届き...

Left to themselves (i.e. no supervision). (Weblio)

The best translation will depend on what fits with the whole sentence.

  • I found other ways of saying 'the (e.g. four) alone' but they might carry connotations of being lonely or isolated and don't necessarily have the nuance of 'left to (their) devices', which suggests a lack of interference. Other phrase stress this lack of outside meddling or supervision but are two strong as a natural translation, unless you're also stressing the same point in English. The right Japanese seems to depend on context and nuance and maybe can't be translated in a simple blanket way. – Robert May 19 '17 at 3:46
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“独自{どくじ}に” might fit best. Other possibilities are “自分{じぶん}たちの裁量{さいりょう}で” or “自力{じりき}で”. If you provide us a whole sentence, it would be easier to answer.

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