Grammar Info
N3 Lesson 1: 7/23

ない内(うち)に
before it becomes, before ~ occurs, without

Unfavorable result

Structure
Verb[ない]+ うちに + Phrase
Details
Register Standard
使用域 一般
無い
Information
In contrast to うちに, which is often used to express the ‘optimal’, or ‘best’ time within which something should occur, ないうちに expresses the time within which something ‘does not’ occur, and results in (or causes) something negative, or will cause something negative if not dealt with. This means that ‘before (A) happens (B)’, or ‘without (A) happening, (B).
うちに will be paired with verbs in their ない (negative) form, before the (B) phrase highlights something that ‘is done to prevent (A) from happening’, or ‘happened unfortunately during (A)’.
  • こうき君(くん)、全然(ぜんぜん)会(あ)わないうちに、凄(すご)く大(おお)きくなったね!
    Kouki-kun, you have grown so much during the time we haven't met. (Since the last time I saw you)
  • また電話(でんわ)かけ忘(わす)れるところだった。忘(わす)れないうちに電話(でんわ)しておかなきゃ
    I was just about to forget to make a phone call again. I should call before I forget.
Fun Fact
前(まえ)に and ないうちに are used in very similar situations, with the primary difference being that ないうちに focuses more on unfavorable results.
  • 出(で)かける前(まえ)にバイオリン練習(れんしゅう)ないといけない
    I need to practice playing my violin before I go out.
  • 知(し)らないうちに家(いえ)の前(まえ)にあるラーメン屋(や)潰(つぶ)れていた
    Without realizing it, the ramen shop in front of my house went out of business.
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気(き)づかないうちに、列車(れっしゃ)が出発(しゅっぱつ)してしまっていた。
Without realizing it, the train had started to depart (without me).
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私(わたし)が知(し)らないうちに友達(ともだち)が離婚(りこん)していた。
Before I knew it, my friend was divorced.
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まだ親(した)しくならないうちに、同僚(どうりょう)が辞(や)めてしまった。
Before we became close, my co-worker quit.
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Books
[AIAIJ] An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese
Page 208