In the context of a very well fortified place,

what does 入る者なく出る者なし mean?

It seems like it would mean: none may enter, none may leave, but I'd like to make sure, and understand the naku form better.

So I'm pretty sure naku is the adverb form of nai, which is nonexistence. Nashi means "without".

I've also considered naku might be a shortened nakute in the sense of naide/zuni.

Taking these meanings, the sentence would mean: no person enters without leaving, but that doesn't make sense in context. Just based on context, something like none who enter may leave would make sense.

The more I think about it, the more I get confused. Any help?

1 Answer 1


These are two separate clauses.

{入る者なく} + {出る者なし} [Nobody enters] + [Nobody leaves]

As you suggested, なし can mean 'without' in some contexts, but its basic meaning is ないこと. In this case it just serves as a negative construction.

From Steve Wright's Quora answer: Both -naku and -nakute are used to continue a line of thought, but -naku draws a line or distinction between clauses, while -nakute aims to suggest a connection, sometimes even a cause-and-effect relationship between the clauses.

As this sentence is using the continuative form to bridge the clauses, なく is appropriate:

「入る者なく出る者なし。」 'Nobody enters, nobody leaves.'

As far as negative sentence endings go, ない, ないこと, なく, and なし can all be used. The choice of which is often determined by tradition (convention) in set expressions, personal choice, and nuance.

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