The Particle いで

第383課: The Particle いで

In this lesson, we will direct attention to a unique grammar that, although not common, is a demonstration of how older grammar can evolve and survive—even if it becomes dialectical.

As indicated by the title, the grammar pattern to be discussed is ~いで. This derives from the conjunctive particle で, which although largely not used in Modern Japanese aside from set expressions, is equivalent in meaning and usage to ~ないで and  ~ずに. We will first learn about the etymological background that links this ~で with ~いで. Then, we’ll learn about how ~いで remains used today. 

The Origin of ~で & ~いで

The conjunctive particle で is the contraction of the old 連用形 of the negative auxiliary ず, に-, followed by the conjunctive particle て. It may also potentially be the contraction of the ず-連用形 of the negative auxiliary ず in conjunction with て (~ずて), but the etymology would still be the same. This grammar began being used in Early Middle Japanese (794-1185 A.D.). As the particle derives from a negative auxiliary, it attaches to the 未然形 of a verb.  

1. このうらみ、らさおくべきか。
How could I not dispel this resentment?

Grammar Notes:
1. A Modern Japanese rendition of this would be 「この恨み、晴らさないでおけようか。いや、晴らさなければならない」.
2. The べきか of this example is equivalent to できるのだろうか.

2. いかでつきではあらむ。
How is it that one can stand not to look at the moon?

Grammar Note: A Modern Japanese rendition of this would be 「どうして月を見ないでいられようか、いやいられない」.

The pronunciation of the conjunctive particle で was actually /nde/. It is this nasal initial /n/ that became contracted into a nasal /i/, thus rendering the grammar as いで. This grammar began being used in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573 A.D.). Its usage is identical to its predecessor. It too attaches to the 未然形 of a verb.

3. われとてもおんなはらたいであるものか。
I after all am a woman; how could I not get mad?
From 寿ねびき門松かどまつ by 近松門左衛門ちかまつもんざえもん.

Grammar Note: A Modern Japanese rendition of this would be 「私だって女の身、腹が立たないでいられるものか」.

4. わたし子供こども何着なにきいでも、とかくおとこ世間せけん大事だいじ
Even if neither I nor the children have anything to wear, the world will remain important to the men.  
From 心中天網島しんじゅうてんのあみじま by 近松門左衛門ちかまつもんざえもん.

Use in Modern Japanese

~いで remained used throughout Japanese up into the Edo Period (1603-1868). In the literature of this era, it was incredibly common in 落語 (professional storytelling). As Ex. 4 demonstrated, it was also possible to see ~いでも (= ~なくても・ないでも). It was also possible to see ~いでは (= ~ないでは・ずには). These two grammar points also carried over into Early Modern Japanese. In Modern Japanese, all facets of ~いで are no longer common. Speakers that do use this grammar tend to either be older and/or from West Japan where it has held on the most.

5. 試合しあいをせいではとおされぬ。
One will not be let through without playing a match.

6. そんな寿命じゅみょうちぢめるようなゲームをやらいでもいいよ。
You don’t need to play such a life shortening game like that.

7. そんなこともらいでよううわ。
You sure talk for someone who doesn’t even know that!

Dialect Note: よう = よく in dialects of West Japan.

8. 何遍なんべんわいでもこえてるよ。
I’m able to hear you without you saying it over and over.


As illustrated by Exs. 1-3, it is without a doubt that this grammar is most commonly used in expressing “how could/would I not…” This usage is rendered as ~いでか in today’s speech. This is generally deemed to be 関西弁. However, because it existed in Early Modern Japanese, it is more accurate to say that it only remains used in West Japan, where the dialect happens to be 関西弁. This grammar can occasionally be seen in literature, including manga. Even in West Japan, though, it is losing currency.

9. 「ほう、わかるか?」「わからいでか!」
“Oh, you understand?” “How would I not understand!”

10. からいでか、おまえわかやすすぎなんだよ。
How would I know understand, you’re too easy to get.

11. 「やるのか?」「やらいでか!」
“Are you really going to?” “The hell I am!”

12. まえいたいことをわいでか。
How would I not say what I want to say before dying?

13. おこらいでか!
You bet I’m angry! How could I not be?

14. 気付きづかいでか。
How could I not notice?

15. 「かれ裏切うらぎものだといたんだい?」「わからいでか!ていうか、隊長たいちょうですらっててくちつぐんでたんだ」
“So you realized that he was a traitor?” “How would I not know!? Or, should I say, even the captain knew but just kept his mouth shut.”