Can somebody explain the difference between these two expressions?

I have pasted the definitions and some examples from 日本語表現文型辞典 to help but they seem to come down to the same thing. (When can one be used but not the other and why?)

といい=も= both...and:speaker gives evaluations by enumerating several examples to show that result is the same from all angles

eg: 運動といい、勉強といい、僕は何をやってもダメだ I am no good at sports, study or anything.

といわず=も=not only..., but:strongly emphasizes by listing several examples that cannot be distinguished. Also can mean everywhere, always, all etc

eg: 日本人は子供といわず、大人といわず、漫画をよく読む。 The Japanese, adults and children alike, often read comics.

手といわず足といわず、子供は体中泥だらけで帰って来た。 They came home covered in mud from their finger tips to their toes.

NB These are my translations using what I think are equivalent colloquialisms.

  • I wonder if both of these expressions are derived from the "speaking" いい - 言う ?
    – yadokari
    Dec 21, 2012 at 5:05
  • 2
    They almost certainly are.
    – ssb
    Dec 21, 2012 at 5:31
  • 2
    大辞林 has entries for といい and といわず confirming that it's 言い in both cases, so we don't need to put it to a vote :-)
    – user1478
    Dec 21, 2012 at 9:32

3 Answers 3


The two answers given earlier are both basically correct. Since you already have a basic grasp of the two similar phrases, I'll just highlight the difference in nuance here.

"A といい B といい C" lists two examples A, B of things to which C applies. Typically, A and B are equally qualified as good examples. And generally the speaker is implying that there are more examples like these. But there are no other connotations unless it's clear from context.

"A といわず B といわず C" also lists two examples A, B of things to which C applies. The biggest difference is that this expression assumes a certain class or category in which A and B belong. And all other items in this category, if exist, are also qualified as C. Also, this expression is more emphatic in that the speaker is saying that A and B are by no means special examples that deserve a remark (because everything in the assumed category is qualified as C). The reason that this expression takes the negative form of the verb 言う is because of this sense of "no need to specifically mention A or B."

So, "A といい B といい C" is clearly better if you want to say that A and B are just a couple examples of the many other things but wouldn't go as far as to say that everything of the same kind is C. This doesn't mean that you can't use this expression when actually everything is qualified as C, however. It's simply that, unlike "A といわず B といわず C," it doesn't always mean everything is C.

"A といわず B といわず C" is best if it's clear what the assumed category is and also if you do mean that everything in this category is described as C. So, the example sentence "日本人は子供といわず、大人といわず、漫画をよく読む" given in the question is talking about the Japanese people in general; what it says is almost like, "Kids? Of course. Adults? You don't say. The Japanese love manga. No exception."


Let me work with your two examples above:

  1. 運動といい、勉強といい、僕は何をやってもダメだ。
  2. 日本人は子供といわず、大人といわず、漫画をよく読む。

The pattern ~といい~といい from the first sentence is roughly equivalent in meaning to ~も~も and can list several unrelated things.

The pattern ~といわず~といわず from the second sentence is different in that it samples several things from the same whole and tries to make a statement about the whole.

In the first sentence, the "I" is trying to say he can't do anything. But he has to say it by listing the items in a positive way. ~といわず~といわず on the other hand needs a "universe", a category (usually specified by は as the topic of the sentence) that contains the examples, here 日本人.

The ~といい~といい of the first sentence can be turned into a sentence with ~といわず~といわず by placing 運動 and 勉強 in some category, e.g.




does not work, because there is no unifying concept for 運動 and 勉強.

Trying to express the nuances in English, I would maybe put it as

both ... and ... (and many more)

both ... and ... (and all the others, too)

  • Thanks. Your answer is very helpful but are you sure the following does not work?: 僕は運動といわず、勉強といわず、僕は何をやってもダメだ
    – Tim
    Dec 23, 2012 at 12:15
  • @Tim I don't think it does. ~といい~といい (or ~も~も) sounds more natural for a possibly infinite list. 何をやっても is just too broad for ~といわず~といわず to work.
    – Earthliŋ
    Dec 24, 2012 at 6:32

My interpretation of the explanations in the 日本語表現文型辞典 is slightly different. This answer could be incomplete and missing important details, so I hope someone else can write a more comprehensive answer, but based on the information available to me right now:

For 〜といい〜といい in the 日本語表現文型辞典:

"It's used when the speaker wants to say 'however you look at it, it's ...' in regards to a certain matter/thing, presenting a few examples when the speaker wants to give an evaluation/opinion."

And it puts it under the primary heading "〜も〜も".

The 日本語文型辞典 says it's used to present two nouns as examples, and it frequently (though I don't think always) carries the nuance of that it's not just those two, but others as well. It says a similar thing to the 日本語表現文型辞典 in that it's used in sentences of criticism or evaluation with special feelings (like being amazed, admiration, resignation etc).

From this, I'd translate the above as:

Both exercise and study, no matter what I do I'm hopeless.

The progressive dictionary also has a definition for 〜と言い, and defines it as "both...and...", or "neither...nor..." in a negative sentence.

For 〜といわず〜といわず in the 日本語表現文型辞典:

"Giving a few examples, you use it when you want to emphasize 'without discrimination to ... or ..., everywhere (every time, every one, everybody, etc)'"

And it puts it under the primary heading "〜も〜も区別なく".

The 日本語文型辞典 says something very similar, saying it repeats nouns which represent a part/section of something (so I presume the nouns represent a smaller subsection of a larger category), and expresses "without discriminating, all".

I think to represent this, you can append an appropriate "every*" word to the sentence, the progressive dictionary has an example of this.

From this, I'd translate the above examples as:

Talking of the Japanese, no matter whether they be adults or children - everyone - reads Manga often.

It doesn't matter whether on the hands or feet - everywhere - the child returned home completely covered in mud.

  • I will have to read this a couple of times but the progressive dictionary examples were interesting and suggest meaning is similar to やら (another expression I don't feel I've mastered.)
    – Tim
    Dec 24, 2012 at 3:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .