Both っぱなし and ~まま are used to express a constant or continuous action or unchanging state or event. Depending on the context they can be used interchangeably but the grammar required is different for each.


This phrase is a spoken one; you will not typically see it in writing.

【Verb: Stem】っぱなし
I fell asleep with the television on.
To Leave the car running.
I left my bag on the train luggage rack.
I was late for the meeting left and there were no seats so I stood for 2 hours.
Leave the air-conditioning on.

っぱなし is typically used with only a handful of verbs (the ones in the example sentences above).


まま is used in both conversation and writing.

【Verb: Simple Past】まま
【Verb: Negative】まま
Go to sleep with the lights on.
The meeting ending without a decision being taken.
Our child just leaves food on his plate and then heads off to play.
Sumo remains unchanged from the Edo period.
The status quo.
Take at face value.
Enter society without going to university.

So what’s the difference between?

The point is whether or not an action is continually required to keep the constant state. For example:

Go to work in the same shirt.
Go to work in the same shirt.

Both of the above example sentences use the structures correctly. This is because once you put on a shirt you do not need to perform any action to keep it on—you only need to put it on once.

This is not always the case. For example, to speak for three hours you have to continually perform the action of speaking. In cases where such continuous action is required we cannot use まま.

Talk non-stop for three hours.
[Talk non-stop for three hours.]
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