535 - ないかぎり
JLPT N2: ないかぎり
We use ないかぎり to say "unless."
If you're an avid learner, you may recall that we've already seen 限り (かぎり), which we can very generally say means "as long as" or "as much as," in two previous N2 lessons:
If those two lessons seem a bit intimidating, you may be relieved to find that this lesson is (for me, at least) a bit easier.
We'll start with an example:
とくべつな りゆう が ないかぎり、 くるま で の つうがく は きんし されています。
Unless there is a special reason, commuting to school by car is not allowed.
Literally: “special + reason + が + there isn’t + as long as, + car + で + の + commuting to school + は + forbidden / not allowed + is being done.”
There is not a special reason + かぎり, + commuting to school by car is not allowed.
→ Unless there is a special reason, commuting to school by car is not allowed.
By the way, this is an actual rule at many schools in Tokyo. Since I grew up in the US, the idea of going anywhere without a car seems awesome to me, so I'm a bit jealous. But then I remember that going to school in Japan would probably involve a lot more studying and rules than my young self could have handled. And they probably wouldn't have put up with my, uh, attendance problems...
"as long as not-VERB" → unless VERB
Making sentences with ないかぎり is pretty easy.
All we have to do is put 限り (かぎり), with or without kanji, after a verb in the negative plain present form:
V ない ＋ かぎり
In our first example, we used the verb ない (the negative plain present form of ある, "to have; to be"), but we can actually use a variety of verbs in this grammatical construction:
すなお に はんせい して わたし に あやまらないかぎり、 かれ を ゆるす わけにはいかない。
I can’t forgive him unless he honestly feels bad about what he did and apologizes to me.
Literally: “honest / genuine + に + regret / repent / feel bad (for doing) + do (and) + I + に + doesn’t apologize + as long as, + he + を + forgive + (I) can’t exactly do / (I) cannot do.”
If you don't understand this 許すわけにはいかない, meaning "can't exactly forgive" or "it's not like (I) can forgive (him)," don't worry. We'll cover it in an N3 lesson... eventually...
謝る（あやまる // to apologize）
謝らない（あやまらない // to not apologize）
謝らない限り（あやまらない かぎり // unless [one] apologizes）
こんしゅう ちゅう に こうちょう せんせい の しょうにん が えられないかぎり、 いままで の どりょく は みずのあわ に なる だろう。
Unless we receive the principal’s consent this week, all of our efforts up until now will have been for nothing.
Literally: “during this week (=this week + inside of) + に + principal + の + consent / acknowledgement + が + do not attain + as long as, + now + until + の + effort + は + come to nothing (=water + の + bubbles) + に + become + だろう.”
Doesn't the phrase "will have been for nothing" seem so boring alongside 水の泡になる (みずのあわになる), "will become water bubbles?"
A Japanese dictionary entry I saw said that this is referring to the bubbles that float on the surface of water—in other words, something fleeting and about to disappear.
A: It's over, man. We've been disqualified from the competition.
B: It can't be over! We've worked so hard on this! It can't become bubbles! NO!!!!!
にほん で は ドル と いえば、 とくに ことわらないかぎり、 アメリカドル の こと を さします。
Unless indicated otherwise, in Japan the word “dollar” refers to the U.S. dollar.
Literally: “Japan + では + dollar + と + if one say, + particularly / especially + do not give notice / do not inform + as long as, + U.S. dollar + の + こと + を + indicates.”
What did you think? Pretty straightforward?
As is the case with most of our N2 and N1 lessons, I'm guessing that that main problem is not the grammar itself, but rather the vocabulary that is appearing in the example sentences. So don't just skim over vocabulary you don't know.
Once you get the building blocks of Japanese and the most common grammatical forms (N5-N3) figured out, your biggest barrier to high-level fluency (and JLPT-passing) is vocabulary.
We just about never use vocabulary words in our lessons that a native adult speaker would not be expected to know. So if you see a word in a lesson that you don't know, you should probably learn it.
That's a lot of words to learn, yeah? But if you enjoy learning them, then it won't seem so bad... maybe...