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My wife is studying for the JLPT exam, and came across the following question:

2時間、_____立って話しました。

She narrowed the choices down to:

  1. すわらずに
  2. すわらないと

Or another similar question:

あの花は5日に_____とさきません。

  1. ならず
  2. ならない

In both cases, the two answers seem "correct". According to the answers 1 is correct is both cases, but many people suggested number 2 seems better.
What is the difference between ずに and ない-form? Why would the ない-form be wrong here?

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2 Answers 2

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~ず and ~ない mean essentially the same thing, as they are both negative forms (i.e. they both mean "not"). ず is more of a written or formal style, while ない is spoken or standard.

However, the examples in your question actually revolve around ~に and ~と, as it's a grammar usage question. Let's take a look at your examples:

2時間、_____立って話しました。

座【すわ】らずに is the correct answer here, and has several close analogues that could be used as well:

  • 座【すわ】らなくて
  • 座【すわ】らないで
  • 座【すわ】ることなく

The nuances may vary slightly between these, but they all fit in the sentence grammatically, which is what these questions are designed to test.

あの花は5月に_____とさきません。

In this example, the time (5月に) is the hint and the key is the と after the blank. Though ~ず can be followed by と, it ends up having the same meaning as ~ずに, so the answer has to be ならない, as ~ないと deals with time.

But why?

Though the meanings of ~ず and ~ない are basically the same, the meanings diverge when they become ~ずに and ~ないと.

  • ~ずに means basically "without doing ~" (~に just turns this into an adverb, just like the で in ~ないで)
  • ~ないと on the other hand, means "when not doing ~" or "if [it] doesn't ~" (~と in this case means "when" or "if")
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  • 大辞林 has an entry for the collocation ずと: dic.yahoo.co.jp/…
    – user1478
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 20:47
  • This sort of makes sense, thanks. On the second sentence, you say the answer should be ~ない because と follows it, but our book says the answer is ならず. We looked again for the answer, and it does look like you are right. Thanks!
    – Kobi
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 21:26
  • @snailplane I stand corrected. I'll remove that from my answer. So ~ずと has the same meaning as ~ずに, according to that entry, am I understanding that correctly? Interesting.
    – rintaun
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 21:54
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    I think the ~~ずと is old/archaic. (We still use 「言わずと知れたこと(だ/を/よ)」「~~せずとも~~ (though this is not ~ずと but ~ずとも)」etc., but these sound literary. We'd say 「言わなくても分かることだ/を」「~~しなくても~~」in normal conversation.)
    – user1016
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 22:36
  • @Chocolate Yeah I got that sense from the other samples I investigated, too. Thanks for the heads-up!
    – rintaun
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 0:37
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[ずに] is a conjunction particle that is used when you want to say "without (usu. doing something). [話さずに without speaking] [食べずに without eating].

[ない] is a used for negation.

[2時間、座らずに立って話しました。2hrs. of talking [standing] without sitting]

I hope that helps.

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    I don't think ずに is normally referred to as a particle. 大辞林 says it's a collocation of ず (an auxiliary verb used for negation) and the particle に. My 集英社国語辞典 says the same thing.
    – user1478
    Commented Nov 25, 2012 at 3:41
  • Correct, it is not a particle, though it is a conjunction. Thank you for that correction. Commented Nov 25, 2012 at 7:52

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