Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (DoBJG) said that both ないで and なくて is used to express the idea that a negative statement is a reason for another statement. To paraphrase,

II. ないで can be replaced by なくて only when the ないで clause indicates some cause for human emotion which is expressed in the main clause. Otherwise, the なくて version is unacceptable, as in [5]. (DoBJG pg. 273)


The most direct presentation of the cause-effect relation is なかったから, and the presentation becomes more indirect in the following order: なかったので, ないで and なくて. (DoBJG pg. 280)

However, Wasabi seems to contradict what DoBJG said,

Be careful; you cannot use ないで and ずに in this context.

Which of the sources above is more correct? Can I use ないで and ずに for expressing reasons?

2 Answers 2


朝七時に起きられずに会社に遅れました sounds a bit awkward to me, but it still seems acceptable.

朝七時に起きられないで会社に遅れました sounds very weird.

  • 1
    I see, thanks. So, ないで and ずに can't be used to express reasons?
    – Jimmy Yang
    Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 8:12
  • 4
    @JimmyYang: I wouldn’t use them to express reasons and wouldn’t understand them as indicating reasons when I hear them.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 15:47

I had the same question after reading DoBJG, Wasabi JPN and even this 日本語の森 video.
What helped me the most, was this explanation I found here:

なくて connects a negative clause ending with ない to a main clause (via the negative て-Form), and it expresses the cause or reason for the action or state expressed in the main clause. This cause / effect relationship is relatively weak compared to phrases such as ないから and ないので.

  • E.g. 先生{せんせい}の説明{せつめい}がわからなくて困{こま}りました。I didn’t understand the teacher’s explanation, so I was troubled. In this example, not understanding the teacher’s explanation is the cause, and being troubled is the effect. This relationship is fairly indirect (i.e. not understanding didn’t necessarily directly cause the speaker to become troubled, but it at least contributed / led to the speaker becoming troubled.)

If there is no causal relationship between Sentence 1 and Sentence 2, ないで is generally a better choice than なくて to connect the clauses in a neutral manner. ないで does not have a causal implication.

  • E.g. 田中{たなか}さんは大阪{おおさか}に行{い}かないで京都{きょうと}に行{い}った。 Mr. Tanaka didn’t go to Osaka; he went to Kyoto. Since this sentence does not express a causal relationship between Sentence 1 and Sentence 2, ないで is more appropriate than なくて.

Apparently it all comes down to the causality. If there is a causal relationship between the 2 clauses なくて is used, if not ないで may be used. Wanted to share with you as it was useful to me and I was really confused.

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