This sentence came up, translated as:

スカートは試着して買わないと心配だ = I get worried if I don't try on skirts before buying them

To me it says something like 'if I try skirts and don't buy them then I'm worried'

Could someone clarify this please? I have no clue how they got to that translation.

  • 3
    Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/30515/5010
    – naruto
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 12:01
  • thanks but I understand that linked article much more than my question, although i still learnt something from your answer in there :D
    – Jack D
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 14:41
  • 2
    actually maybe i do understand but i mean how would you know if it wasnt what i wrote though? or if the students did their homework and didnt go to school?
    – Jack D
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


V1て + V2 usually means "V1 and (then) V2", in which case V1 and V2 are just two actions placed in parallel. However, you may know V1て + V2 sometimes means "does V1 before V2" or "does V2 with/while/by/after V1". In such cases, V1 is essentially an adverbial modifier that expresses how V2 happens.

  • 箸を使ってご飯を食べます。
    I eat meals using chopsticks.
  • 私は黙って彼の話を聞いた。
    I listened to him silently.

What happens when a sentence like this is negated?

  • 箸を使ってご飯を食べません。
    I don't eat meals using chopsticks.
    (I do eat meals, but without using chopsticks.)
  • 私は黙って彼の話を聞かなかった。
    I did not listen to him silently.
    (I did listen to him, but not silently.)

You can see "not/ない/ません" is negating the adverb part ("using chopsticks", "silently"), not the main verb itself! Here, "eat" and "listen" happen anyway even though they are (directly) preceded by "not".

So this is what is happening in your example, too. ない is negating the adverbial V1 part, not the main verb (V2), even though ない is placed directly after V2.

When V1 is adverbial depends purely on the context. In the following sentence, V1 is not adverbially modifying V2, so ません just negates the verb before it, V2:

  • 彼は水だけ飲んでご飯を食べません。
    He drinks only water and doesn't eat meals.

You have to get used to this "adverbial V1" pattern through many examples. Here are more examples of adverbial V1:

  • 勉強をして(から)テストを受けた。
    I studied before taking the exam. / I took the exam after studying.
  • 勉強をして(から)テストを受けなかった。
    I did not study before taking the exam. / I took the exam without studying.
  • 歩いて学校に行く学生
    students who walk to school
  • 歩いて学校に行かない学生
    students who don't walk to school
    (Not "students who walk and don't go to school". Compare: コンビニで働いていて学校に行かない学生 "students who work in a convenience store and don't go to school")
  • 彼は酒を飲んで運転したが彼女は酒を飲んで運転しなかった。
    He drank and drove, but she did not drink and drive.
    (She drove, but not under the influence of alcohol.)
  • 歯を磨いて寝なかった。
    I did not brush my teeth before going to bed. / I went to bed without brushing my teeth.
  • 試着して(から)スカートを買った。
    I tried on the skirt before buying it. / I bought the skirt after trying it on.
  • 試着して(から)スカートを買わなかった。
    I did not try on the skirt before buying it. / I bought the skirt without trying it on.
    (This is technically ambiguous; it can also mean "I tried on the skirt, but did not buy it" depending on the context.)

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