I stumbled upon the sentence "その時私たち三人が互いに見合わせた目といったら、顔といったらありません" in a bilingual short story book, it's being translated as "We exchanged glances, our expressions incredulous", but I can't really make sense of "目といったら、顔といったらありません", it feels like something is being omitted. For context: The protagonist and his two friends were forced by a current offshore and are now struggling to get back. Right after the sentence, face and eyes are described. Can someone help me out?


1 Answer 1


といったらありません itself seems covered standardly in grammar like this. ありません is a polite form of ない. The whole phrase means something is beyond description, positive or negative.

But normally the preceding word is either an adjective or its nominal version (or something quantifiable). The following are more regular examples.

  • この問題の難しさといったらない
  • この問題は難しいといったらない

Both mean literally The difficulty of this problem is beyond description or simply This problem is extremely difficult.

Now the use of the phrase in the sentence of the question is a little irregular, but you can think of 目 / 顔 as a contraction of 目の様子/顔の様子 = how eyes/faces look (like).

Thus it means We three people looked at each other then, and how the eyes looked like and how the faces looked like are indescribable. It depends on the context in what sense they were indescribable - possibly very weird or dirty or looked extremely happy.

  • I have a question. Both 目といったら and 顔といったら share ありません?
    – Nameless
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 23:30
  • 1
    @Nameless Yes, they do.
    – sundowner
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 0:05

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