When I listen to Japanese people speak, I usually hear them say ないで{HLL} and なくて{HLL}, with the pitch drop always placed on な, no matter the verb. But I might just be hearing things wrong.

However, I would assume that the pitch accent pattern for these forms change depending on the verb you use, depending on whether it's accented or not.

For example, for unaccented verbs, it would be ないで{HHH} and なくて{HHH}. And for accented verbs, the pitch drop would be where it usually is when the ない form is used (e.g., for the verb 食べる{LHL}, you would say, 食べないで{LHLLL} and 食べなくて{LHLLL}).

So, what exactly is the rule for these forms?

1 Answer 1


For unaccented verbs, the accent falls on な.

  • 行く  いく{LH}  → いかないで{LHHLL} いかなくて{LHHLL}

  • 開ける あける{LHH} → あけないで{LHHLL} あけなくて{LHHLL}

For accented verbs, the accent falls on the mora preceding な.*

  • 書く  かく{HL}  → かかないで{LHLLL} かかなくて{LHLLL}

  • 食べる たべる{LHL} → たべないで{LHLLL} たべなくて{LHLLL}

*If the mora preceding な is ん due to the sound change ら→ん, the accent shifts one mora leftward.

  • 分かる わかる{LHL} → わからないで{LHHLLL} → わかんないで{LHLLLL}

              わからなくて{LHHLLL}   わかんなくて{LHLLLL}

Edit: The following is not correct.

In addition, for some accented verbs whose stems end in a sequence of two vowels (Martin lists about twenty), the accent optionally shifts one mora leftward.

  • 考える かんがえる{LHHHL} → かんがえないで{LHHHLLL} かんがえなくて{LHHHLLL}


        かんがえる{LHHLL} → かんがえないで{LHHLLLL} かんがえなくて{LHHLLLL}


  • 1
    [かんがえる]{LHHHL}、 [かんがえないで]{LHHHLLL}、 [かんがえなくて]{LHHHLLL}、 [かんがえる]{LHHLL} とは言いますけど、[かんがえないで]{LHHLLLL}、 [かんがえなくて]{LHHLLLL} とは言わないですね・・
    – chocolate
    Jan 3, 2020 at 14:33
  • @Chocolate Martin says in footnote 8 on p.24 that the accent shift also occurs in "the negative forms" (kotaenai, kotaenakatta, etc.). I'm assuming that the ないで and なくて forms behave the same way as the なかった form, but maybe that is not the case. Do people not say こたえなかった{LHLLLLL}?
    – jukbot
    Jan 3, 2020 at 14:50
  • 1
    – chocolate
    Jan 3, 2020 at 14:51
  • 1
    – chocolate
    Jan 3, 2020 at 15:06
  • Hm, so it seems there are more exceptions.
    – jukbot
    Jan 3, 2020 at 15:08

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