JLPT N3 Grammar You Need to Know: How to Use ～ないで, ～ず, and ～ないうちに
In this blogpost, we will discuss how to conjugate and use the grammar patterns ～ないで ~naide, ～ず ~zu, and ～ないうちに ~nai uchi ni. We have decided to group these grammar patterns together because they are all roughly JLPT N3 level patterns*, and because they all involve negative tense Plain Form verbs!
These three grammar patterns are all quite common, so even if you are not particularly studying for the JLPT right now we still recommend giving them a look – if you are a consumer of Japanese media, you will likely come across these grammar points in something you are reading, watching, or listening to sooner rather than later.
If you would like to review the conjugation pattern for negative tense Plain Form verbs before checking out the grammar points in this blogpost, you can click here to view our blogpost on Plain Form!
*The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or 日本語能力試験 Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken) is one of the most-used language skill level tests for non-native speakers/learners of Japanese. The administrators of the JLPT do not release official grammar lists and so it is difficult to make 100% definitive statements about which level of the JLPT particular grammar points belong to, but generally speaking these grammar points are N3 level (although they do sometimes appear in N4 or N2 study materials as well).
To view a list of our articles about study tips, grammar, and so on for the five levels of the JLPT, click here!
How to Use ～ないで ~nai de
This grammar pattern is quite easy to put together. Just take any* Plain Form verb, conjugate it to be negative tense Plain Form, and add で de to the end of the verb (*it needs to be a transitive/active verb (click here to read more about transitive verbs), but most of the time you will intuitively use a transitive verb with this pattern so don’t worry about this stipulation).
The grammar pattern ～ないで ~nai de has two main semi-related but semi-separate uses, and is therefore sometimes listed under two different JLPT levels (usually N4 and N3).
The first use is to say “Please do not [verb].” You can say “Please do not [verb]” either by using ～ないで ~nai de as it is, or by adding ください kudasai (please) to the end (the former can come across as quite casual; the latter comes across as more on the polite side).
Kare no adobaisu ni kiku.
I will listen to his advice.
Kare no adobaisu ni kikanai de.
Don’t listen to his advice.
Kare no adobaisu ni kikanai de kudasai.
Please don’t listen to his advice.
Because seeing a grammar pattern used with real-world contextualization is very important to learning and completely understanding that grammar pattern, we are including in this blogpost some example sentences from Japanese media. Here is an example of the ～ないで ~nai de pattern from the song “Candy Baby” (the opening theme to the “Ouran High School Host Club” anime) by Chieco Kawabe:
Fuzakete naide yo / Hontou no kimochi wa oshiete kurenai no?
Don’t joke around! / Will you not tell me your real feelings?
The second use of ～ないで ~nai de is to say “I [verb 2] without [verb 1].” I have labeled the first verb “verb 2” because in the Japanese sentence this verb often comes second, and the “without [verb 1]” part often comes first.
Kare no adobaisu o kikanai de moto kareshi ni renraku shita.
Without listening to his advice, I contacted my ex-boyfriend.
Here is an example of this pattern from an Asahi Shimbun review of an episode of the TV drama “Good Doctor:”
Iyo wa Takigawa Ryouhei (Riku Hagiwara) ga suki na no da ga hazukashikute koe o kakeru koto ga dekinai de ita.
Iyo likes Takigawa Ryouhei (Riku Hagiwara), but is embarrassed and remained unable to talk to him (more literally, “unable to talk to him, she was” — or, if we read the sentence backwards, “she was (いた) without being able to (できないで) talk to him (声をかける).” Oftentimes, reading a Japanese sentence backwards is an excellent strategy for comprehension!).
I like to think of the two uses of ～ないで ~nai de in terms of each other, which I also think makes them easier to remember. When you are using ～ないで ~nai de to say “Please don’t [verb],” you can think of it as “Please without [verb].”
How to Use ～ず ~zu
The ～ず ~zu grammar pattern is used somewhat similarly to the second application of ～ないで ~nai de: “I [verb 2] without [verb 1].”
To make a verb ～ず ~zu form, first conjugate it to negative tense Plain Form, and then remove the ない nai at the end of the verb and replace it with ず zu. Easy peasy!
Note: Though this grammar pattern is oftentimes listed as just ～ず ~zu, the ず zu is usually followed by a に ni (or at least an implied に ni).
Kawa chan wa ryoukin o harawa zu ni hakubutsukan ni haitta.
Without paying the fee, Kawa-chan entered the museum.
One note for ～ず ~zu form is that (unlike ～ないで ~nai de form, which has no real irregularities) the irregular verb する suru does conjugate irregularly for this pattern. する suru and verbs that end with する suru change from する suru to せず sezu, rather than from する suru to しず shizu as one might expect.
Kawa chan wa benkyou sezu ni tesuto de hyaku ten toreta.
Without studying, Kawa-chan was able to get 100 points in the test.
Here is another example, from the song “HANDS UP!” (the 16th opening theme for the anime “One Piece”) by Kota Shinzato:
Tomarazu ni saa ikou!
Without halting, come on, let’s go!
And an example from an Asahi Shimbun (one of the most widely read newspapers in Japan) article:
Kore kara mo kansha no kimochi o wasurezu ni itai
I want never to forget my feelings of gratitude (literally, “From this [moment] on, I want to be without forgetting [my] feelings of thanks”).
How to Use ～ないうちに ~nai uchi ni
The general usage for ～ないうちに ~nai uchi ni is in saying “Before [verb phrase] occurs, [rest of sentence];” although as you will see the application for “Before [verb] occurs” is broader in Japanese than in English. Sometimes, ～ないうちに ~nai uchi ni may end up translating similarly to ～ないで ~nai de or ～ず ~zu sentences because of the way English tends to be phrased, but the nuance of ～ないうちに ~nai uchi ni is different from the other two in that it implies not that something did not happen at all, but rather that something happened before/while something else was/was not happening.
No additional conjugation is needed for using this grammar pattern! It is just a negative tense Plain Form verb, followed by うちに uchi ni. By the way, you may be familiar with うち uchi as meaning “house/home” or (if you have spent time in Osaka) as meaning “I/me,” but in this case うち uchi would be written with the kanji 内, which means “inside” (うち uchi in this grammar pattern is almost never written in kanji, however).
Shiranai uchi ni tomodachi ga oogenka shita.
Without me knowing, my friends had a big fight (more literally, “While I was not aware/in the know about it, my friends had a big fight.“)
Ikkagetsu tatanai uchi ni oubo shite kudasai.
Please apply before one month passes.
Some real-world context examples!
First, from “Nakatta Koto ni Shite Hoshii” (a Hatsune Miku song):
Kizukanai uchi ni toshi o totta
Without me noticing, I’ve gotten older
From later in the same song:
Kizukanai uchi ni yoru ga aketa yo
Without me noticing, the night has broken
This example is the title of a recent Japanese film:
Ko-hi- ga samenai uchi ni
Before the coffee gets cold
It should be noted that ～うちに ~uchi ni does not have to be used after a negative, or even necessarily a verb. You can also form the following type of sentence, and the meaning of the ～うちに ~uchi ni pattern does not change.
For example, from the title of a book for Japanese parents:
Shougakusei no uchi ni oboete okitai sukoshi muzukashii kotoba
Sort of difficult words one wants one’s [child] to learn while they are still an elementary school student
That’s all on JLPT N3 grammar for now!
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