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In my JLPT N2 book I'm learning the grammar point 抜きにして. I'm trying to understand the nuance between using 抜きにして and 抜きでは when discussing not being able to do something without a person.

One of the example sentences is this:

田中さん抜きではパーティーは始められません。

They translate it to:

We can't start the party without Tanaka-san.

In a later question, they give the sentence: この計画は彼を抜きにしては、進められない。I noticed that it's a similar type of sentence, but they used two different forms of this grammar point. What's the difference here?

Perhaps as a way of clearing this up for me, could someone please explain the differences between the following sentences?

  • 田中さん抜きではパーティーは始められません。
  • 田中さん抜きにしてはパーティーは始められません。

And then also:

  • この計画は彼を抜きでは、進められない。
  • この計画は彼を抜きにしては、進められない。

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I found the following in Shonagon (emphasis mine)

る」ことは「信じる」こと抜きには成立していないし、「信じる」ことも「知る」ことを 抜きにしては 成立していないのだと。 

Though it is 抜きは, this suggests that the two are interchangeable to some extent.

A subtle difference is that 抜きでは sounds without while 抜きにしては sounds excluding. So the first of your examples sounds more natural with 抜きでは because it refers to absence of him. For the same reason, 抜きでは sounds natural (and is used) in the following (also from Shonagon, FYI the publication date is 2002):

アメリカの大統領も、人物識見的にかなり問題があるようにも思われるが、彼も親の威光 抜きでは、おそらく現在の地位にはとても到達しえたとは思えない。 アメリカ大統領の宿敵であ

On the other hand, to me, either works equally in the second. (Theoretically) 抜きでは means proceed without him and 抜きにしては proceed excluding him (who was on the project up to some phase). In practice, the meaning are the same proceed the project without his joining it.

Another point may be the nature of the main verb. I have the impression that 抜きでは is preferred by verbs whose meaning is static or instantaneous.


One phrase where 抜きにしては is more common is Xを抜きにしては語れない = can not tell the story without mentioning X.

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    Thank you, that is very helpful! The にしては option adds a feeling of an action, the action to exclude, rather than just being without (action or not). Really thorough write-up, thank you!
    – kusuri
    May 16 at 23:55

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