519 - ~なくて (since)

If you're studying for the N4 test, then you should already be able to conjugate verbs into their て-form.

So if you see some verbs like these:

食べる(たべる // to eat
飲む(のむ // to drink
鳴る(なる // to ring
会える(あえる // to be able to meet
出来る(できる // to be able to do
乾く(かわく // to get dry


...then you should be able to conjugate them into these:

食べて(たべて // eat [and]
飲んで(のんで // drink [and]
鳴って(なって // ring [and]
会えて(あえて // be able to meet [and]
出来て(できて // be able to do [and]
乾いて(かわいて // get dry [and]


However, what if I asked you to put these into their negative て-forms?

I'm guessing that you'd start by giving me these conjugations:

食べないで(たべないで // without eating; don't eat[!]
飲まないで(のまないで // without drinking; don't drink[!]


But after that, we would run into a problem, because in most situations all of these sound quite strange:

鳴らないで(ならないで)
会えないで(あえないで)
出来ないで(できないで)
乾かないで(かわかないで)


Why do they sound strange? Well, I've spent the last several minutes with Rei trying to figure that out... and we're having a very hard time explaining it.

Here's the best I could come up with:

~ないで is mostly (only?) used for commands/requests and when saying "without doing ~"

This is why 食べないで and 飲まないで sound so natural: They both work great at commands/requests and when saying without doing. For example:


朝何も食べないで出勤した。
あさ なにも たべないで しゅっきん した。
I went to work without eating anything this morning.
Literally: “morning + nothing + without eating + going to work + did.”


それ飲まないで
それ のまないで!
Don't drink that!
Literally: “that + don't drink!”


Since the meaning of "without ~ing" only works with verbs under our control, ~ないで doesn't sound right with verbs like, for instance, 鳴る... unless you're an alarm clock or something.

Similarly, you wouldn't tell your alarm clock "Don't ring!" So the command-meaning of ~ないで doesn't work here either.

Well, maybe some of you do say "Don't ring!" to your alarm clock, but I'm guessing your alarm clock isn't listening.

We do see verbs like 鳴る used with the other negative て-form, though: ~なくて!


JLPT N4: ~なくて (since; the fact that)

One of my lovely grammar books puts it this way.

"To express negation in cases showing reason, なくて is used."

Do you guys understand explanations like that? They confuse me. Let's try rephrasing it...

V なくて means "not VERB, so" or "not VERB, and" when giving a reason for something.

An example:


アラームが鳴らなくて、寝坊してしまった。
アラーム が ならなくて、 ねぼう して しまった。
My alarm didn’t go off, so I overslept.
Literally: “alarm + が + didn’t ring (and), + oversleeping + ended up doing.”


The fact that my alarm did not go off is what caused me to oversleep. Since we're talking about the cause of something, we use ~なくて and not ~ないで.

Does that make sense?
Answer Option #1: Yes!
Answer Option #2: Not really, but I'll just pick it up naturally over time.

I'm glad to hear that you're so positive about your Japanese studies.


Here are the verbs we saw before in ~なくて form:

鳴らなくて(ならなくて // not ring [and]
会えなくて(あえなくて // not be able to meet [and]
出来なくて(できなくて // not be able to do [and]
乾かなくて(かわかなくて // not get dry [and]


Now let's see these in some examples. Because examples always teach better than I do...



最近あんまり会えなくてごめんね。
さいきん あんまり あえなくて ごめん ね。
Sorry (that) I haven’t been able to see you much lately.
Literally: “recently / lately + not much + cannot meet (and) + sorry + ね.”
Note: The speaker might, for example, be a girl talking to her boyfriend.



いとこの結婚式に出席できなくて、とても残念だ。
いとこ の けっこんしき に しゅっせき できなくて、 とても ざんねん だ。
I’m really disappointed that I won’t be able to attend my cousin’s wedding.
Literally: “cousin + の + wedding (ceremony) + に + attendance + cannot do (and), + very + disappointing + だ.”



この時期は洗濯物がなかなか乾かなくて、大変です。
この じき は せんたくもの が なかなか かわかなくて、 たいへん です。
Laundry just doesn’t get dry during this time of year, and it’s a real pain.
Literally: “this + time / season + は + laundry + が + just won’t + not get dry (and), + difficult / tough + です.”
Note: This is talking about how laundry hung up to dry stays damp because of the wet weather.


Success! You made it to the end. Sorry if this lesson confused you a bit. If it's any consolation, it confused Rei and me, too.




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