Ursa asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 6 months ago

For Japanese speakers/advanced learners!! About double negatives, but not quite..?

I was wondering what effect a double negative has on a sentence and what kind of situations you would use it in

For example, changing a sentence from:




what is the role of じゃない here??

2 Answers

  • 6 months ago

    Thank you so much for your feedback. Going back to check the source, they did, in fact, have the 'no desu' form, but having not understood it previously, I didn't pick up on it.

    I think the full sentence I heard was:

    さいしょから何もできないんじゃないですか。- From the beginning, you haven't able to do anything, have you?

    My explanation is that seeing as the 'no' makes the 'dekinai' work the same way as a noun, it treats the 何もできない as a clause in the sentence さいしょから...じゃないですか。

    So this might roughly translate to 'From the beginning, is it not that you haven't been able to do anything?', as in 'is this statement not true' (obvious it is true). Again, this wouldn't make sense without the 'saishokara' so I probably should have included that in my original question.

    Because you said that じゃない is the negative form of です, I don't know whether it is grammatically correct for them to go together or not, but they were definitely there in the source.

    I would really appreciate any feedback on whether this makes any more sense.

    • Pontus
      Lv 7
      6 months agoReport

      I don't yet know about, and merely looks like an explanatory predicate. If it is an explanatory predicate, then JA NAI is wrong and so is the source for that sentence.

  • Pontus
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    Both are ungrammatical.

    desu -- is not correct.

    1. There is a form called an explanatory predicate, that would use "no desu", often shortened to "n desu". It is used to make a statement an explanation for something else (previously discussed or implied). It can also be used to form questions (when something is obvious). See these sources (neither one is complete. The two together give a good picture):



    2. desu - is also added for the normal (polite) forms of verbal adjectives (i-adjectives). hayai (it's early, plain form), hayai desu (it's early, normal form).

    In this case, desu is not a form of be, but simply a politeness indicator and itself cannot be negated.

    hayaku nai desu. -- it's not early. You can't further negate desu.

    3. For your first sentence, as a basic question, normal politeness:

    何もできませんか? nani mo dekimasen ka - Can't you do anything?

    Using the explanatory predicate, it becomes:

    何もできないんですか? nani mo dekinai n desu ka - Can't you do anything (and it's fairly obvious that you can't)?

    desu -- cannot be further negated. It's a fixed expression.

    You need n or no (n being the short form of no, okay in conversation) to make the first sentence grammatical. no - can function as a noun meaning "act", and it turns the verb phrase in front of it into a noun. You are then asking if that noun phrase exists by adding on "desu ka". That noun phrase can be made negative, but not "desu ka". For right, wrong, or indifferent.

    4. The second phrase is very wrong. nani mo dekinai ja nai desu ka. ja nai - is the negative form of desu. The explanatory predicate (n desu ka) requires the n/no, and in that case "ja nai" is wrong.

    5. double negatives are hard to accomplish (I am still learning Japanese, so I don't know if they are ever possible, but they are at least very rare) in Japanese. Japanese predicates have one conjugable verb or verbal adjective, so only it can be made negative (although relative clauses can be made negative as well, but they are not part of the predicate).

    • Ursa6 months agoReport

      Thank you! I am currently studying Japanese at school and this has really helped a lot. The two sources you put in were also very helpful.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.