Do あえて〜なかれ、あえて〜ことなかれ and あえて〜ず mean the same and can be used interchangeably or is there any difference in usage? I don't know very well the difference in meaning and nuances between them.

On the one side, Vる + なかれ means "must not do something" according to jisho, so I don't know why sometimes こと is added before なかれ so that you can have あえて〜なかれ and あえて〜ことなかれ.

On the other side, あえて〜ず seems to be used to express a negative imperative, for example, the titles of these books, 敢えて出社せず (Don't dare to go to work) and あえて誤解をおそれず (Don't be afraid of being misuderstood). so あえて〜ず seems to mean the same that あえて〜なかれ and あえて〜ことなかれ.

Apart from what is mentioned above, I can't find much more information about these patterns. Are they used only for book titles or they can also be seen in regular sentences? If so, could you please give me some examples with あえて〜なかれ、あえて〜ことなかれ and あえて〜ず?

1 Answer 1


なかれ is an archaic way of speaking, found in texts such as prophecies, translations of Shakespeare, fairy tales, and ancient spells in fantasy worlds. Unless you want to intentionally imitate these styles, you should not use it yourself. It is sufficient to understand its meaning. ~するなかれ and ~することなかれ are almost the same, but the former feels older and more orthodox to me. See also: Grammar of "なかれ"

~ず is a common expression in modern standard Japanese. あえて誤解をおそれず can be used without any issues in a normal formal text. See: What is the difference between the negative forms -ず and -ぬ? However, in classical Japanese, ず was also used as the predicative form (終止形), so you may see ず appearing at the end of an archaic sentence. Its meaning is the same as ない. Either way, it does not have a negative imperative meaning (i.e., "Don't").

あえて is simply an adverb with the same meaning as English "dare". It means something like "doing even though it's unnecessary" or "doing even after considering the risks". It is not something to be paired with なかれ or ず for memorization. あえて~するな corresponds to "Don't dare ~" or "Don't do ~ unnecessarily", and あえて~しろ just means "Dare do ~" or "Do ~ daringly". As an exception, if you're doing 漢文訓読, あえて~ず is said to have a special meaning, but you don't need to worry about it unless you're studying kanbun seriously. Most Japanese people learn about this once in high school, but they usually forget it by the time they graduate.

TLDR: Unless you're seriously studying old materials, focus on memorizing the usage of あえて and ず individually. Don't try to use なかれ except when you're doing some roleplay.

EDIT: If 敢えて出社せず and あえて誤解をおそれず are book titles, there are two ways of interpretating them:

  1. ず is the old predicative form, and the author intentionally imitated old literature. If this is the case, 敢えて出社せず = 敢えて出社しない = "I dare not wend unto the office!".
  2. ず is simply the continuation form of ぬ; 敢えて出社せず = 敢えて出社せずに = 敢えて出社しないで = "Daringly choosing not to go to the office...".

Assuming they are book titles, I personally feel 敢えて出社せず is 1, while 敢えて誤解をおそれず is 2. If it's 敢えて出社するなかれ, it's an negative imperative, "Dare thou not wend unto the office".

  • Thank you very much for your answer. It has been very helpful. :)
    – Rick
    Apr 7 at 15:55
  • Then, just to confirm, interpreting -ず as -ない, the correct translations of the book titles referred as examples in my question would be 敢えて出社せず (I don't dare to go to work) and あえて誤解をおそれず (I dare to not be afraid of being misuderstood; or directly, I'm not afraid of being misunderstood), wouldn't they?
    – Rick
    Apr 7 at 16:01
  • 1
    @Rick See the edit.
    – naruto
    Apr 8 at 1:04

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