I am studying Japanese grammar and believe that ならでは generally translates to "uniquely applying to" or "special to" the noun that proceeds it. I can translate most example sentences but had difficulty translating the below sentence:


My tentative translation of this sentence is: "This is not the same taste that is special/unique to my mother's handmade food."

Does this seem like a reasonable way to interpret this sentence?

  • 1
    If it helps, replace ならでは with でなくては. ならでは is from the old copula なり (ならずしては -> ならずては -> ならでは), so it would translate to でなくては with the modern copula である. That's not to say they're interchangeable because they may have different affinities with different words and expressions. Answering for future learners. Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 9:23

1 Answer 1


On my phone so this will be an abbreviated answer, but ならでは has two (related) usages:

1 (多く「ならではの」の形で)ただ…だけ。「日本ならではの習慣だ」. 2 (多く、下に打消しの語を伴って)…でなくては。…以外には。「下町ならでは見ることのできない光景」

You are probably trying to apply meaning 1, but it’s meaning 2 here (as can be seen by the accompanying negative). It is indeed odd that the meanings are almost opposite one another, but I think it can be sort of unified if you think of #1 as ならでは(できない)→以外には(できない)→だけが(できる). I don’t know if that’s the etymology but it seems possible. Perhaps it’s useful to imagine an abbreviated ない or できない after the ならでは.

This makes your sentence mean something like

“This taste doesn’t exist outside of my mother’s homemade cooking” (loose translation)

  • ならでは is actually Old Japanese for “じゃないと、じゃなくては” if that helps anyone. なり(copula, =である)->ならず(=ではない)->ならで(=でなくて)->ならでは(=でなくては). で is the Old Japanese て form of the negative particles ず/ぬ. Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 20:02

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