655 - ならでは

JLPT N1: ならでは (only if; only; unless)

I'm generalizing, but なら is used in Japanese when you want to say "if (it is the case that)."

We haven't had the introductory N4 lesson on なら yet, but we have seen it in an N2 lesson: [NDL #318] - JLPT N2: くらいなら.

ならでは is used to say "it is only NOUN that can blah blah blah."

More literally, we can say that it means: "except for NOUN, you can't blah blah blah."

An example:


オーロラは北極や南極ならではめったに見られない貴重な現象です。
オーロラ は ほっきょく や なんきょく ならでは めったに みられない きちょうな げんしょう です。
An aurora is a rare phenomenon that can usually only be viewed around the North Pole and South Pole.
Literally: “aurora (i.e. northern/southern lights) + は + the North Pole + や + the South Pole + ならでは + rarely seen / uncommon (=[except] rarely + cannot see) + precious / valuable + phenomenon + です.”

And a second example:


出産は女性ならでは経験できない一大イベントです。
しゅっさん は じょせい ならでは けいけん できない いちだい イベント です。
Childbirth is a momentous event that only a woman can experience.
Literally: “childbirth / giving birth + は + female / woman + ならでは + experience + cannot do + a great / a big + event + です.”

So, "it is only women that can experience childbirth," and "it is only at the North Pole and South Pole that you can (usually) see an aurora."

Accordingly, we say "women ならでは you can't experience childbirth" and "North Pole and South Pole ならでは you can't (usually) see an aurora."


This sentence pattern ならでは, you can't make sentences with ならでは

NOUNならでは

You'll notice that in our examples above we have a VERB phrase after ならでは. Specifically, we have verbs in the negative potential form (e.g. 見られない, できない).

However, the (negative) VERB phrase can be replaced by the particle when you want to put a NOUN after ならでは instead.

In fact, "NOUNならではNOUN" is the only version you're likely to hear in spoken Japanese (although the JLPT may include examples with VERB phrases after ならでは).

So, we have:

NOUNならでは VERB phrase
NOUNならでは NOUN



旅行に行ったらその土地ならではを食べるべきです。
りょこう に いったら その とち ならでは の もの を たべる べき です。
When you travel somewhere, you should eat things that you can only get in that place.
Literally: “travel + に + if went + that + land / region + ならでは + の + thing + を + eat + should + です.”




そんないたずらができるのは、双子ならでは特権ですね。
そんな いたずら が できる の は、 ふたご ならでは の とっけん です ね。
Only twins are capable of pulling a prank like that.
Literally: “that kind of + prank / mischief + が + can do + の + は, + twins + ならでは + の + special privilege + です + ね.”



Now the question on everyone's mind: Is the use of ならでは common?

Well, I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say that it's common, but I have heard people say it (in the "NOUNならではNOUN" form).

If you go around using it in everyday situations, you might sound a bit dramatic. I'd save it for those situations in which something very special can only be experienced in a place or by a certain person.

Or use it all the time if you want. I'm not gonna stop you.