Help with:私は、私でいたくない。

Hi, I was doing some reading last night and came across this sentence.


For context, this is in a letter that the main character finds in her room one day. She realizes she wrote it herself as a child and finds it unsettling.

My understand is something like:

私は (as for me)、私で (by myself) いたくない (don’t want to be)。
= I don’t want to be by myself → I don’t want to be alone.

I interpretted it as いる → いたい → いたくない, but I’m not feeling very confident about the translation as a whole. Am I misunderstanding the 私で? Is it suppose to be the same as 一人で or is that a misunderstanding on my part?


If the intended meaning were “alone”, it would probably use 一人で yeah. My interpretation would be more along the lines of “I don’t want to be myself.” Which is probably why it was disturbing to the character.


Ahh, thank you! I think you’ve helped me crack it.

So the でいる is a living-thing copula, kind of like how である is used as a formal non-living copula? That’s my understanding based on my grammar dictionary, although it only lists である.

So it would be:

私は (as for me)、私 (I) でい (stem, exist) たくない (don’t want to)。

Does that sound right?

いる is not a copula in Japanese. It’s being used here with its literal meaning of “to exist”, which kinda emphasizes the sadness of not wanting to exist/be alive as oneself.

Edit: I would parse it as
私は I (topic & subject)
私で as I am
居たくない don’t want to be/exist


Ohhh okay! I think my trouble stemmed from the で and what it was supposed to be doing, so thank you for breaking it down like that!

To help a bit hopefully, ている/でいる is an auxiliary verb, so the いる attaches to the て form of a verb. Such as 飲んでいる, I am drinking (present continuous). As you know that 私 is not a verb, you can deduce that the で is a particle in the instance.

How do you know it’s not the て-form of the copula?

Edit: I suppose it doesn’t matter since the meaning is pretty much the same although it makes more sense to me.

A silly example:

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Hmm, I keep running it around in my head, but I think I agree with what you’re saying. I may have misinterpreted in what sense they were asking above as well. :face_with_monocle:


The て in the て form is in fact a particle, so problem solved.

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Wait, what? :exploding_head:

You know I always just assumed it was part of the verb but that makes so much sense. :+1:

Yep, it is mainly a 接続助詞


Here’s some more information. This page is more about differentiating the different types of で than about て, but it does mention that this usage is a 接続助詞.


Thank you for responding! I’m familiar with ている, but now I’m confused again since what you’re saying contradicts the previous poster, who implied the で meant ‘as,’ i.e. ‘as myself,’

To clarify, you’re saying it’s:

私 + でいる ( me, existing )
= I am existing.

Then, adding in the ‘don’t want to~’

= I don’t want to exist/be existing. (after adding in the ‘don’t want to~’)

as opposed to:

私で + いる ( as myself, existing )
= I am existing, as myself.

Again, adding in the ‘don’t want to~’

= I don’t want to exist/be existing as myself.

So you’re saying it’s the first one?

Part of my confusion is that if the で doesn’t mean ‘as,’ then isn’t it ungrammatical to have 私 be the subject of ている? Is it possible to say あなたでいる?

I think he was saying that you could tell it was a particle because… it wasn’t something else? I was a little confused by that post too but, to answer some of your questions…

私でいる could be a relative clause, but it is ungrammatical as a sentence of its own. The proper way to say “I exist” would be 私がいる.

The example with あなた is not grammatical either. That would also be あなたがいる.

ている isn’t a verb, the verb is just いる. I’m not sure how て ended up in this discussion, but while it technically is a particle it falls under what we, as English speakers, typically refer to as conjugations. For example, 走っている means “to be running”, which is an example of the verb 走る in the って form with the auxiliary verb いる appended to form the ている continuous form.

This has nothing to do with your original example, because わたし is not a verb and so the で after it is pretty unambiguously just the particle で and the verb いる is being used in its literal sense.

In short, でいる is not a word, so it can’t be that. Particles are postpositions and thus 私で is the only possible interpretation. Also, the で in である is in fact the て-form of だ

“As” is perhaps an overly specific translation of で. For example “本当に私でいいの?” is “Are you really okay with me?”

If we look at the dictionary definition of で we see その動作・作用・状態が基づく具体的なものを示す。Which says that で just marks the concrete thing to which an action, state, or operation is based on. So, while not the greatest translation you can see “As I” which is what いたくない is based on.


Yeah, that seems like the big thing here. It can’t be the で or て in a ている sentence because ている/でいる only attaches to verbs.

So that means it has to be a particle, but I haven’t found anything in any of my grammar dictionaries about で being used to mean ‘as~.’

I guess it has to though otherwise the sentence doesn’t make sense…? I guess. I dunno haha. I’m grateful that you’ve all tried to help.

That is indeed one of the common uses of で.

For example, お箸で食べる means “to eat with chopsticks.”

This meaning of で is pretty hard to concisely put into English with a single word. It can mean like “via”, “by means of”, “using”, “of/with/by”, or in this particular sentence I felt like “as” was the most appropriate translation.

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Thank you for looking that up! Feels like it’s coming together again now. So it seems like the meaning and purpose of the で being used here is just a bit more vague/abstract that I’m used to. Not as straightfoward as 机の上 or 電車 but still serving a purpose of connecting things together.

Thank you all so much for your help!!

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RIght, and you’ll gradually see this in other places as well 自分で(by myself), 一人で(alone / “as one person”) etc etc