648 - なくして

Here are the English translations of the example sentences that we're going to see in this lesson:

- If I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
- A marriage cannot last without some degree of compromise.
- Living on this world would not be worthwhile without love.
- Had it not been for her help, I never would have been able to run a full marathon.

Looking at those, can you guess what sort of grammar topic we're covering in this lesson?

Maybe? Sort of?

Well, let's take a look:


JLPT N1: なくして (if it weren't for; without)

なくして is used when saying that a desirable thing would be difficult or unlikely without something.

It follows a pattern like this:

A + なくして + B
↓ ↓
Without A, B. // If it weren't for A, then B.

A will be something desirable.
B will be an undesirable outcome (often in the form of "desirable outcome would not happen").

As is usually the case, this will probably make a lot more sense if we just look at some examples.

Here's our first:


あの時の経験なくして今の私はない。
あの とき の けいけん なくして いま の わたし は ない。
If I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Literally: “that + time + の + experience + なくして + now + の + I + は + there isn’t.”


A = experience at that time
B = my current self would not exist

experience at that time なくして my current self would not exist
Without the experience at that time, my current self would not exist.
→ → If I hadn't had that experience, I wouldn't be the person I am today. // It it weren't for that experience, I wouldn't be the person I am today.


Considering that this is an N1 grammar point, I'd argue that it's not very difficult. Hopefully you think so, too. (If not... uh... sorry...)


👷 工事 👷

NOUNなくして(は)
without NOUN; if it weren't for NOUN

What's that は doing in there?!

Well, sometimes なくして will be followed by は. The meaning is the same.

Like in this example:


いくらかの妥協なくしては、結婚生活は続かない。
いくらか の だきょう なくしては、 けっこん せいかつ は つづかない。
A marriage cannot last without some degree of compromise.
Literally: “to some extent / some + の + compromise + なくしては, + married life + は + does not continue.”


Can you use なくして in everyday speech?

Well, it's pretty stiff-sounding. You're more likely to come across it in written Japanese than in daily speech.

If you want to make phrases like this when speaking Japanese, you'd be better off using a conditional form like this: [NDL #484] - JLPT N4: ~たら (if).

Still, we'll want to at least be able to understand sentences using なくして. Sentences like this one, for instance:


なくしてこの世界は生きるに値しない。
あい なくして この せかい は いきる に あたい しない。
Living on this world would not be worthwhile without love.
Literally: “love + なくして + this + world + は + live + に + is not worth it (=value + doesn’t do).”


Or this one:


彼女の助力なくしては、フルマラソン完走はあり得なかっただろう。
かのじょ の じょりょく なくしては、 フルマラソン かんそう は ありえなかった だろう。
Had it not been for her help, I never would have been able to run a full marathon.
Literally: “she + の + assistance / support + なくしては, + full marathon + running the (entire) race + は + was impossible / couldn’t happen + だろう.”


Hopefully someday you'll find yourself writing "NDL なくしては、I never would have aced JLPT N1." ^_^