Japanese Lesson 14 – Negative sentence in Japanese

When you make a negative sentence in English, you use an adverb “not”.
In Japanese, there are two words for making a negative sentence , “nai” and “n”.
These are auxiliary verbs which are used by connecting after verb.

I explain negative sentences using “n” in this page.
Because, only “n” comes after the auxiliary verb of politeness “masu”.

About “nai”, I explain it when the need arises.

The sentence frames for negative sentence


In Frame-A, affirmative “masu” has changed to “masen”.

“Masen” is made by connecting “masu” and negative auxiliary verb “n”.
Because an auxiliary verb comes after “masu”, the end part of “masu” is changed to “mase”.
But you have only to learn that the negative form of “masu” is “masen”.

In Frame-B, original “desu” has changed to very different words.

Unfortunately, “desu” can’t connect a negative auxiliary verb.
Therefore, the Verb group is changed to such words.
Please learn them as a whole.

In the examples listed below, I write both original affirmative sentence [AS] and negative sentence [NS].

(Ex.1) I don’t eat sushi.

[AS] Watashi wa sushi o tabe masu.
[NS] Watashi wa sushi o tabe masen.

(Ex.2) She isn’t a nurse.

[AS] Kanojo wa kangoshi desu
[NS] Kanojo wa kangoshi de wa arimasen.

Adverbs to express the level of negation

By using adverbs to express the level of negation, you can extend the range of expression.


When you use the adverb for 0% of possibility, the sentence emphasizes negation.
About the case of the other adverbs, the sentence expresses negation but leaves a little possibility.

In English, “never”, “not at all”, “not so”, etc. are used.
“Hardly” and “seldom” are used in affirmative sentence, but the meaning is almost negation.

In Japanese, the expression with very low possibility uses negative sentence.

(Ex.3) He doesn’t eat sushi so much.

Kare wa amari sushi o tabe masen.

(Ex.4) I seldom go to Tokyo.

Warashi wa mettani Tookyoo e iki masen.

(Ex.5) She is never a nurse.

Kanojo wa zettai kangoshi de wa arimasen.

Negative question

You can make a question of negative sentence easily.
You have only to add “ka?” at the end of the sentence as ever.


(Ex.6) Don’t you eat sushi?

Anata wa sushi o tabe masen ka?.

(Ex.7) Aren’t you Yumi?

Anata wa Yumi de wa arimasen ka?.

Attend to “hai” (yes) and “iie” (no) of negative question!

The problem is that “hai” and “iie” in Japanese is different from “yes” and “no” in English about negative question.

About above Ex.6, you answer in English like the following.
Yes = I eat sushi.
No = I don’t eat sushi.

But, in Japanese, these invert.

[I eat sushi]
Yes, I do. (English)
Iie, tabe masu. (Japanese)

[I don’t eat sushi]
No, I don’t. (English)
Hai, tabe masen. (Japanese)

In English, negative sentence isn’t put after “yes”.
But, in Japanese, negative sentence is OK after “hai”.

Briefly speaking, the essence is the following.

If the sentence without “ka?” is correct, the answer is “hai”.
If it is wrong, the answer is “iie”.

Please attend to the answer.

Negative sentence in the conversation

English speakers have a talk with using affirmative sentence as possible.
But Japanese speakers often use negative sentence.
They set a passive tone in the conversation and are careful to move a conversation forward in a calm manner.

That may be a very real element in the Japanese character.

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