HOME About Japan Language

[Step.5] Negative sentence

Making negative sentence

When you make a negative sentence in English, you use “not” or "no".
In Japanese, there are two words for making a negative sentence , “nai” and “n”.

"Nai" is an adjective and "n" is an auxiliary verb.
In this page, I explain "n" because it can make a negative sentence with "masu" and "desu" easily.

(Pattern-A, Negative sentence)

Direct Object
Indirect Object
Verb Group
... masen.

(Pattern-B, Negative sentence)

Verb Group
de wa ari masen.

In Pettern-A, “masu” changes 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 Pattern-B, original “desu” changes to very different words.

Unfortunately, “desu” can’t connect a negative auxiliary verb grammatically.
Because "desu" has the meaning of positive assertion.
Therefore, the Verb group is changed to such words.
("De" is the changed form of "desu", and "masen" is put at the end of the sentence.)

Please learn them as a whole.

(Ex.1) I don’t eat sushi.

This is a typical example of Pattern-A.

Watashi wa sushi o tabe masen.

(Ex.2) She isn’t a nurse.

This is a typical example of Pattern-B.

Kanojo wa kangoshi de wa ari masen.

Adverbs to express the level of negation

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

  • 0% of possibility
     kesshite = never
     zettai = never, absolutely ... not
     zenzen = not ... at all
     mattaku = not ... at all
  • Almost 0% of possibility
     hotondo = hardly
     mettani = rarely (chance)
  • A little percent of possibility
     amari = not very, not much
     anmari = not very, not much
     sorehodo = not very, not much
     sonnani = not very, not much

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, “hardly”, "rarely" and “seldom” are used in affirmative sentence, but the meaning is almost negation.
In Japanese, even the expression with very low possibility uses negative sentence.

(Ex.3) I don’t eat sushi so much.

This is an example with a little possibility.

Watashi wa amari sushi o tabe masen.

(Ex.4) I rarely go to Tokyo.

This is an example with almost 0% of possibility.

Watashi wa mettani Tôkyô e iki masen.

(Ex.5) She is never a nurse.

This is an example with 0% of possibility.

Kanojo wa zettai kangoshi de wa ari masen.

Negative question sentence

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

But, this negative question sentence has a little delicate nuance.

A speaker think the hearer naturally do an action.
But the hearer seems not to do the action.
At that time, the speaker ask, "Don't you do it?", using negative question sentence.

In the speech, it includes a feeling that the speaker is a little surprised and wants to grasp what the hearer really meant.

(Ex.6) Don’t you eat sushi?

The sentence includes an unexpected feeling that most members happily eat sushi but the hearer doesn't want to eat.

Anata wa sushi o tabe masen ka?.

(Ex.7) Aren’t you Yumi?

The speaker asked a girl.
But the speaker found that the girl was unexpectedly Yumi you know.

Anata wa Yumi de wa ari masen 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.

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

[Answer = 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” (=yes).

Briefly speaking, the essence is the following.

If the negative sentence without “ka?” is correct, the answer is “hai” (=yes).
If it is wrong, the answer is “iie” (=no).

Please attend to the answer.

Return to Language