I have read in several sources that it is grammatically incorrect to use は (topic particle) in relative clauses. However, I am almost certain that I have seen constructions like the following:


Is this technically incorrect? Should it be 学生でない? Or is this は not considered the same particle that is forbidden in relative clauses?

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    "it is grammatically incorrect to use は (topic particle) in relative clauses." <-- You can say 「学生でない人」「安全でない場所」「私に解けない問題」「論理的にあり得ること」「日本で手に入らない商品」「日本で簡単に手に入るもの」etc.. but maybe it's not what your sources are talking about.. cos these は's are the contrastive particle は, rather than the topic particle は.. – Chocolate Feb 6 '19 at 17:20
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    You can show a counter-example of an abstract noun: 私は空は青いことを知っている, whose は is topical / thematic. For tangible nouns, however, it certainly doesn't seem compatible to thematic は. – user4092 Feb 7 '19 at 9:25

I think that using ではない in relative clauses is correct because ではない as a whole is the negative conjugation of です, and not a set of particles.

That said, I'm aware that the construction Aではない (meaning not to be A) comes from Aでは ない (the quality of A does not exist) in a more literal sense, but I'd look to the verb as a unit rather to parsing it down to particles. At the end of the day, when we say 学生ではない男子 we mean the boys who are not students.

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