LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Negative Verbs

Posted by Tae Kim

Now that we've seen how to declare things and perform actions with verbs, we want to be able to say the negative. In other words, we want to say that such-and-such action was not performed. This is done by conjugating the verb to the negative form just like the state-of-being for nouns and adjectives. However, the rules are a tad more complicated.

Conjugating verbs into the negative

Vocabulary

  1. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  2. いる (ru-verb) - to exist (animate)
  3. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  4. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  5. 待つ 【ま・つ】 (u-verb) - to wait
  6. する (exception) - to do
  7. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  8. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to see
  9. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) - to sleep
  10. 起きる 【お・きる】 (ru-verb) - to wake; to occur
  11. 考える 【かんが・える】 (ru-verb) - to think
  12. 教える 【おし・える】 (ru-verb) - to teach; to inform
  13. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) - to come out
  14. 着る 【き・る】 (ru-verb) - to wear
  15. 話す 【はな・す】 (u-verb) - to speak
  16. 聞く 【き・く】 (u-verb) - to ask; to listen
  17. 泳ぐ 【およ・ぐ】 (u-verb) - to swim
  18. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to play
  19. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  20. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) - to go home
  21. 死ぬ 【し・ぬ】 (u-verb) - to die
  22. お金 【お・かね】 - money
  23. 私 【わたし】 - me, myself, I
  24. 猫 【ねこ】 - cat

We will now make use of the verb classifications we learned in the last section to define the rules for conjugation. But before we get into that, we need to cover one very important exception to the negative conjugation rules: 「ある」.

  • ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  • いる (ru-verb) - to exist (animate)

ある」 is an u-verb used to express existence of inanimate objects. The equivalent verb for animate objects (such as people or animals) is 「いる」, which is a normal ru-verb. For example, if you wanted to say that a chair is in the room, you would use the verb 「ある」, but if you wanted to say that a person is in the room, you must use the verb 「いる」 instead. These two verbs 「ある」 and 「いる」 are quite different from all other verbs because they describe existence and are not actual actions. You also need to be careful to choose the correct one based on animate or inanimate objects.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up here is because the negative of 「ある」 is 「ない」 (meaning that something does not exist). The conjugation rules for all other verbs are listed below as well as a list of example verbs and their negative forms.

* = exceptions particular to this conjugation

Conjugation rules for negative verbs
  • For ru-verbs: Drop the 「る」 and attach 「ない」
    Example: 食べ + ない = 食べない
  • *For u-verbs that end in 「う」: Replace 「う」 with 「わ」 and attach 「ない」
    Example: 買 + わ + ない = 買わない
  • For all other u-verbs: Replace the u-vowel sound with the a-vowel equivalent and attach 「ない」
    Example: 待 + た = 待たない
  • Exceptions:
    1. する → しない
    2. くる → こない
    3. *ある → ない
Negative form conjugation examples
ru-verb u-verb exception
見る → 見ない 話す → 話さない する → しない
食べる → 食べない 聞く → 聞かない くる → こない
寝る → 寝ない 泳ぐ → 泳がない *ある → ない
起きる → 起きない 遊ぶ → 遊ばない
考える → 考えない 待つ → 待たない
教える → 教えない 飲む → 飲まない
出る → 出ない *買う → 買ない
着る → 着ない 帰る → 帰らない
いる → いない 死ぬ → 死なない

Examples

Here are the example sentences from the last section conjugated to the negative form.

  1. アリスは食べない
    As for Alice, does not eat.
  2. ジムが遊ばない
    Jim is the one that does not play.
  3. ボブもしない
    Bob also does not do.
  4. お金ない
    There is no money. (lit: Money is the thing that does not exist.)
  5. 買わない
    As for me, not buy.
  6. いない
    There is no cat. (lit: As for cat, does not exist.)