578 - なしに

Have you ever had a 梨 (なし), or as they call it in English, an "Asian pear?"

Specifically I'm referring to pyrus pyrifolia.

They look like this:

...and they're delicious, especially if you refrigerate them and then cut them up into pieces.

I see them every now and then in stores in the US, but the ones in Japan tend to be much bigger than the ones in the States. The same is true of dragon fruit in the US―it's so disappointing compared to the giant dragon fruits I ate in Vietnam. T_T

I originally learned that 梨 (なし) just meant "pear," and in my first few years of speaking Japanese I mistakenly used this word when referring to 洋梨 (ようなし), or "Western/European pears." That is, these types of pears:

Imagine my surprise when I also found out that なし is an N1 grammar point!

Well, なし, that is...


JLPT N1: なしに (without)

When you want to say "Do A without doing B," you can say "B なしに A."

Here's an example:

今日は朝から休憩なしに働いています。
きょう は あさ から きゅうけい なしに はたらいています。
I've been working since this morning without taking any breaks.
Literally: “today + は + morning + from + rest / break + without + have been working.”

In the example above, A is "taking breaks" and B is "working."

taking breaks なしに working
= working without taking breaks

But we didn't actually say "taking breaks," did we?

All we said was 休憩 (きゅうけい), which means "a rest," "a break," etc.

What gives?

Well, that is because 休憩 is a noun that expresses an action.

In other words, 休憩 is a noun that can be followed by する. A する-NOUN, if you will.

And that fits one of our accepted patterns for forming なしに sentences:


する-NOUNなしに


There's one other pattern that we can use, too:


V ることなしに


Here's an example of that one:

彼は少しも勉強することなしに、テストに臨んだ。
かれ は すこし も べんきょう する こと なしに、 テスト に のぞんだ。
He took the test without studying for it at all.
Literally: “he + は + a little bit + も + studies / studying + do + こと + without, + test + に + faced / attended.”


Pretty straightforward, wouldn't you say?

If we want to make it a bit more complicated, though, we can try to explain the specific function of なしに.

I'll give it a shot:

Usually when you do A, you also do B. For example, when you work, you usually take breaks. Or when you have a test, you usually study for it, even if only a little bit.

But there are unique occasions in which you do A without doing B―in other words, when you "B なしに A." For example, you work without taking a break, or you take a test without studying even a little bit. These are situations in which we can use なしに.

Speaking of which, なしに can be used in both spoken and written Japanese. It's not super common, but it's not rare, either. In most situations, you can probably just get away with using ~ないで instead:


今日は朝から休憩しないで働いています。
きょう は あさ から きゅうけい しないで はたらいています。
I've been working since this morning without taking any breaks.
Literally: “today + は + morning + from + rest / break + not do (and) + have been working.”


彼は少しも勉強しないで、テストに臨んだ。
かれ は すこし も べんきょう しないで、 テスト に のぞんだ。
He took the test without studying for it at all.
Literally: “he + は + a little bit + も + studies / studying + not do (and), + test + に + faced / attended.”


But there's no harm in trying out なしに every now and then, either. It'll help you to remember it.


Three examples, and then we'll be finished:

断りなしに、たばこを吸うのは失礼だよ。
ことわり なしに、 たばこ を すう の は しつれい だ よ。
It’s rude to just start smoking without saying something first.
Literally: “notification + without, + tobacco / cigarettes + を + smoke + のは + rude + だよ.”


この映画はなしには見られない。
この えいが は なみだ なしに は みられない。
You can’t watch this movie without crying.
Literally: “this + movie + は + tears + without + は + cannot watch.”


千鶴さんはレッスンに通うことなしに、独学でギターをマスターした。
ちづる さん は レッスン に かよう こと なしに、 どくがく で ギター を マスター した。
Chidzuru-san mastered guitar by herself without taking lessons.
Literally: “Chidzuru-san + は + lesson + に + attend / commute to + こと + without, + self-study + で + guitar + を + mastering + did.”


If you can read this lesson multiple times なしに and still master it, then you're smarter than most of us!