Grammar Info

N2 Lesson 3: 20/23


Unless you do something


Verb[ない] + ことには + Verb[ない]

[い]Adjective[ない]+ ことには + Verb[ない]

[な]Adjective. + でない + ことには + Verb[ない]

Noun + でない + ことには + Verb[ない]


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About ないことには~ない

ないことには~ない is a 2-part structure in Japanese that is used to express that 'unless you do (A), (B) will not happen or exist'. This is a combination of ない, こと, に, は, and then something followed by ない in the (B) part of the sentence. Literally, it just means 'within the situation of (A) not being a thing, neither will (B)'.
This structure may appear with verbs and い-Adjectives in their ない forms, or nouns followed by でない.
  • ヘルメットを(かぶ)ないことには、この工事(こうじ)現場(げんば)には(はい)ない
    You cannot enter this construction site unless you wear a safety helmet.
  • ジェットコースターが(あぶ)なくないことには(たの)しくない
    Roller coasters are no fun, unless they are dangerous.
  • 何事(なにごと)一生懸命(いっしょうけんめい)ないことには(なに)上手(うま)くなれない
    You won't get good at anything, unless you try your best in everything you do.
  • 許可書(きょかしょ)ないことには、ここへは(はい)ません
    Unless you have a permit, you cannot enter beyond this point.
In sentences that use ないことには~ない, (A) can be considered the condition for (B) being able to occur or proceed.
Caution - Occasionally, ないことには will be seen in sentences that do not finish with a word in the negative form. In these cases, ないことには implies that not being in the state of (A) will negatively affect (B). This translates similarly to 'without (A), unfortunately (B)', and often has structures like しまう following (B).
  • 漢字(かんじ)がかけないことには、このテストは(むずか)しすぎるかもしれません。
    Unfortunately, this test may be too hard if you are unable to write kanji.
  • 高速(こうそく)使(つか)ないことには()()わせ時間(じかん)(おく)れてしまう。
    Without using the highway, I am going to be late.




    Unless married couples get along, things won't go well.


    You won't know if you can do it or not unless you try.


    Unless I finish my thesis, I won't really calm down.


    Unless you shave your facial hair, you cannot go to work.


    Unless we put the documents in order, we cannot present them to the other party.

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      ないことには~ない – Grammar Discussion

      Most Recent Replies (3 in total)

      • FredKore


        Just thinking… Is this point somehow related to なくてはいけない? Sounds like they could be related. Like this…

      • Slysoft


        Am I correct in thinking that this structure could be boiled down to simply ないと?

        For example, the first review sentence is「夫婦では仲良くしないことには、うまくいかない。」but to me, you could just say「夫婦では仲良くしないと、うまくいかない。」and it means the same thing. The second review sentence,「やってみないことには、出来るかどうか分からない。」similarly could be said「やってみないと、出来るかどうかわからない。」and carry the same meaning to me.

        Obviously this isn’t the first or last time there’s many ways to say the same thing, but is this a correct assumption? There was nothing suggesting ないと in the related grammar section of the lesson.

      • wct


        According to the grammar point for なし, the word/vocab 無し (なし) is equivalent to ない事 (ないこと):

        About なし

        Although it is used almost exclusively as a suffix, なし is actually a noun that means ないこと ‘thing without’. …

        So, that would seem to imply that this grammar point, ないことには~ない, would be equivalent to a similar (identical?) hypothetical grammar point なしには~ない. Is that correct?

        Because when I checked on Jisho, I found several sentences for なしには (sentences), and they all followed the pattern of ending with a negative, i.e. なしには~ない.

        Is this correct, that ないことには~ない is equivalent to なしには~ない (simply because なし is equivalent to ないこと)?


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