LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





More negative verbs

Posted by Tae Kim

We already learned the most common type of negative verbs; the ones that end in 「ない」. However, there are couple more different types of negatives verbs. The ones you will find most useful are the first two, which expresses an action that was done without having done another action. The others are fairly obscure or useful only for very casual expressions. However, you will run into them if you learn Japanese for a fair amount of time.

Doing something without doing something else

Vocabulary

  1. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  2. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) - to sleep
  3. 何 【なに/なん】 - what
  4. 歯 【は】 - tooth
  5. 磨く 【みが・く】 (u-verb) - to brush; to polish
  6. 学校 【がっ・こう】 - school
  7. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go
  8. 宿題 【しゅく・だい】 - homework
  9. する (exception) - to do
  10. 授業 【じゅ・ぎょう】 - class
  11. 止める 【や・める】 (ru-verb) - to stop
  12. 方 【1) ほう; 2) かた】 - 1) direction; side; 2) person; way of doing
  13. いい (i-adj) - good
  14. 先生 【せん・せい】 - teacher
  15. 相談 【そう・だん】 - consultation
  16. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  17. 取る 【と・る】 (u-verb) - to take
  18. こと - event, matter
  19. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) - to be able to do
  20. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  21. 言う 【い・う】 (u-verb) - to say
  22. 帰る 【かえ・る】 (u-verb) - to go home
  23. そんな - that sort of
  24. お酒 【お・さけ】 - alcohol
  25. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  26. 当然 【とう・ぜん】 - naturally
  27. 酔っ払う 【よ・っ・ぱ・らう】 (u-verb) - to get drunk
  28. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 - study
  29. 東大 【とう・だい】 - Tokyo University (abbr. for 「東京大学」)
  30. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) - to enter
  31. 思う 【おも・う】 (u-verb) - to think

Way back when, we learned how to express a sequence of actions and this worked fine for both positive and negative verbs. For instance, the sentence "I didn't eat, and then I went to sleep" would become 「食べなくて寝た。」 However, this sentence sounds a bit strange because eating doesn't have much to do with sleeping. What we probably really want to say is that we went to sleep without eating. To express this, we need to use a more generalized form of the negative request we covered at the very end of the giving and receiving lesson. In other words, instead of substituting the last 「い」 with 「くて」, we need only append 「で」 instead.

Doing something without doing something else
  • To indicate an action that was done without doing another action, add 「で」 to the negative of the action that was not done.
  • Example
    食べ食べない食べない

Examples

  1. 何も食べない寝ました
    Went to sleep without eating anything.
  2. 磨かない学校行っちゃいました
    Went to school without brushing teeth (by accident).
  3. 宿題しない授業行くのは、やめたいいよ。
    It's better to stop going to class without doing homework.
  4. 先生相談しないこの授業取ること出来ない
    You cannot take this class without consulting with teacher.

Hopefully not too difficult. Another way to express the exact same thing is to replace the last 「ない」 part with 「ず」. However, the two exception verbs 「する」 and 「くる」 become 「せず」 and 「こず」 respectively. It is also common to see this grammar combined with the target 「に」 particle. This version is more formal than 「ないで」 and is not used as much in regular conversations.

Doing something without doing something else
  • Another way to indicate an action that was done without doing another action is to replace the 「ない」 part of the negative action that was not done with 「ず」.
    Examples
    1. 食べ食べない食べ
    2. 行かない行か
  • Exceptions:
    1. するせず
    2. くるこず

Examples

  1. 何も言わず帰ってしまった。
    He went home without saying anything.
  2. 何も食べずそんなお酒飲む当然酔っ払いますよ。
    Obviously, you're going to get drunk if you drink that much without eating anything.
  3. 勉強せず東大入れる思わないな。
    I don't think you can get in Tokyo University without studying.

A casual masculine type of negative that ends in 「ん」

Vocabulary

  1. する (exception) - to do
  2. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  3. すまん - sorry (masculine)
  4. すみません - sorry (polite)
  5. 知る 【し・る】 (u-verb) - to know
  6. 韓国人 【かん・こく・じん】 - Korean person
  7. 結婚 【けっ・こん】 - marriage
  8. なる (u-verb) - to become
  9. そんな - that sort of
  10. こと - event, matter
  11. 皆 【みんな】 - everybody
  12. 今日 【きょう】 - today
  13. 行く 【い・く】 (u-verb) - to go

Finally, we cover another type of negative that is used mostly by older men. Since 「ない」 is so long and difficult to say (sarcasm), you can shorten it to just 「ん」. However, you can't directly modify other words in this form; in other words, you can't make it a modifying relative clause. In the same manner as before, 「する」 becomes 「せん」 and 「くる」 becomes 「こん」 though I've never heard or seen 「こん」 actually being used. If you have ever heard 「すまん」 and wondered what that meant, it's actually an example of this grammar. Notice that 「すみません」 is actually in polite negative form. Well, the plain form would be 「すまない」, right? That further transforms to just 「すまん」. The word brings up an image of おじさん but that may be just me. Anyway, it's a male expression.

A shorter way to say negative verbs
  • A shorter way to say a negative verb is to use 「ん」 instead of 「ない」.
    Example
    知らない知ら
  • Exceptions:
    1. するせん
    2. くるこん

Examples

  1. すまん
    Sorry.
  2. 韓国人結婚しなくてならん
    You must marry a Korean!
  3. そんなことさせん
    I won't let you do such a thing!

You can even use this slang for past tense verbs by adding 「かった」.

  • 今日行くって、知らんかったよ。
    I didn't know everybody was going today.

A classical negative verb that ends in 「ぬ」

Vocabulary

  1. する (exception) - to do
  2. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  3. 知る 【し・る】 (u-verb) - to know
  4. 韓国人 【かん・こく・じん】 - Korean person
  5. 結婚 【けっ・こん】 - marriage
  6. なる (u-verb) - to become
  7. 模擬 【も・ぎ】 - mock
  8. 試験 【し・けん】 - exam
  9. 何回 【なん・かい】 - how many times
  10. 失敗 【しっ・ぱい】 - failure
  11. 実際 【じっ・さい】 - actual
  12. 受ける 【う・ける】 (ru-verb) - to receive
  13. 思う 【おも・う】 (u-verb) - to think
  14. 結果 【けっ・か】 - result
  15. 出る 【で・る】 (ru-verb) - to come out

There is yet another version of the negative verb conjugation and it uses 「ぬ」 instead of the 「ない」 that attaches to the end of the verb. While this version of the negative conjugation is old-fashioned and part of classical Japanese, you will still encounter it occasionally. In fact, I just saw this conjugation on a sign at the train station today, so it's not too uncommon.

For any verb, you can replace 「ない」 with 「ぬ」 to get to an old-fashion sounding version of the negative. Similar to the last section, 「する」 becomes 「せぬ」 and 「くる」 becomes 「こぬ」. You may hear this grammar being used from older people or your friends if they want to bring back ye olde days.

An old-fashioned way to say negative verbs
  • An old-fashioned way to say a negative verb is to use 「ぬ」 instead of 「ない」.
    Example
    知らない知ら
  • Exceptions:
    1. するせぬ
    2. くるこぬ

Examples

  1. 韓国人結婚してならぬ
    You must not marry a Korean!
  2. 模擬試験何回失敗して実際受けてみたら思わぬ結果出た
    After having failed mock examination any number of times, a result I wouldn't have thought came out when I actually tried taking the test.