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So I was looking at a lesson from the "Complete Guide for Japanese" written by Tae Kim about how to express making an effort towards something. In that lesson, there is a short comic that starts with the next sentence:

アリス:知ってた?仕事もしないし、学校にも行かない何もしない人達をニートというらしいよ

Tae Kim provides the next translation;

Alice: Did (you) know. (I) hear (that you) call people (who) don’t do things like go to work or go to school NEET.

There are 2 thing that I am having difficulty understanding. The first one is why 何もしない translates to "don't do things like..". Wouldn't it have to translate into something like "do nothing" or "don't do anything"? The entire translation being something like:

Alice: Did (you) know. (I) hear (that you) call people (who) don't work, don't go to school (and) don't do anything NEET.

The second thing, and most probably related with my first question, is why 学校にも行かない何もしない is a sole phrase? If my interpretation of the comic it's okay, shouldn't 学校にも行かない and 何もしない be 2 diferent parts of the list of things that makes a NEET and be separated by a coma like with 仕事もしないし on that same sentence?

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  • The dialog in the link which is the sentence you are wondering has no comma isn’t it? This is not what you are mainly asking though. I think the distinction between with and without comma is the difference more conversational(I.e rhythmical) or more grammatical(I.e orthographical). Probably you should add comma to split the phrases, but it is a matter of taste to some extent. Jul 18 at 3:12
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That English translation is not very literal. As you said, 何もしない means "not to do anything".

In your case, you can think two relative clauses are nested like this:

[ 学校にも行かない [ 何もしない人達 ] ]

[ [ people who don't do anything ], who don't even go to school ]

Alternatively, you can think this is a list of independent relative clauses. This is not common, but occasionally happens in pompous or stilted sentences. For example, compare the following three sentences:

  1. 真のリーダーとは、常に周囲に気を配り、決断ができ、人を成長させる人のことである。
    A true leader is one who is always aware of his or her surroundings, can make decisions, and develop others.
  2. 真のリーダーとは、常に周囲に気を配って、決断ができて、人を成長させる人のことである。
  3. 真のリーダーとは、常に周囲に気を配る、決断ができる、人を成長させる人のことである。
    A true leader is one who is always aware of his or her surroundings, who can make decisions, and who develops others.

They all mean the same thing. Sentence 1 and Sentence 2 each has only one long relative clause with three verbs. Sentence 3 has three independent relative clauses, which is not common but might sound cooler.

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I guess the author (of the website) takes the sentence as follows:

(A) NEET = 何もしない人々 where 仕事をする or 学校に行く are examples of things they don't do,

whereas you take the sentence to mean

(B) NEET = (仕事しない + 学校に行かない + 何もしない)人々.

Both are not too different and I am not sure which is more natural. Anyway it looks like the author tries to translate the sentence interpreted in (A) and (probably) to do the translation in word-by-word manner as much as possible, which resulted in a confusing sentence.

A full translation (with minimal change to the original) would be something like 'you use a term NEET to call those people who don't do such things as going to work or going to school' (Still awkward, but hopefully you see what I mean.).

You can of course translate it using do nothing, e.g: 'those people who do nothing, that is, those who neither work nor go to school'

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