Double negative: ない+ない ( = nai+nai)

naix2

「そんな大きなスイカ一人で食べられないでしょ。」

= Sonna ookina suika hitori de taberarenai desho.

= You know you are not going to be able to eat a watermelon that big by yourself, right?

「食べられないことはないよ。」

= Taberarenai koto wa naiyo.

= I wouldn’t say it is impossible.  (I could eat it.)



Hi everyone! I am Cookie.
Today we’re going to learn about the “double negative” in Japanese.

As you know ~ない ( =  ~ nai) is a suffix to deny or negate something.
You use double ない  ( =  ~ nai)   when you don’t deny something and want to focus on the slight possibility. Or when you want to avoid saying something too directly and would rather express something in a roundabout or vague way.

!star! Typical patterns:

*noun ( = ga):

*+ないない ( =  nai de+ wa/mo+ nai)

*+ なくない ( = naku +wa/mo+ nai)  

*+ ないことない ( = naikoto +wa/mo +nai)

*+ ないわけでない ( = nai wake de  +wa/mo +nai)

*verb:

*ないない ( = nai de+ wa/mo +nai)

* ~なくない ( = naku +wa/mo+ nai.)  

ないことない ( = naikoto +koto+ wa/mo +nai)

* ~ないわけでない ( = nai wake de +wa/mo+ nai)

*i-adjective:

*~くないことない ( = ~ ku +nai koto+ wa/mo +nai)

*~くなくない ( = ~ ku +naku +wa/mo +nai.)  

*~くないことない ( = ~ ku  nai+koto +wa/mo +nai)

*~くないわけでない ( = ~ ku +nai +wake de +wa/mo+ nai.)

*na-adjective

*+  / (casual) じゃないことない ( = de/ja+ nai +koto +wa/mo+ nai)

*+ / (casual) じゃなくない ( = de/ja+naku +wa/mo+ nai.)  

*+ / (casual) じゃないことない ( = de/ja+naikoto +wa/mo +nai)

*+/ (casual) じゃ  +ないわけでない ( =de/ja+ nai wake de+ wa/mo +nai)

 :i: Note: The difference:

1) They all mean the same thing but the form  ~+ ないわけではない ( = nai wake dewa nai.) has a more explanatory tone.

2) なくない ( = naku + wa/mo + nai.)  is more colloquial than * ないことない ( = nai koto +wa/mo +nai)/ *ないない ( =  ga nai de+ wa/mo +nai)

3) ( = wa) and ( = mo)  There is no big difference between them. In my opinion, ( = mo) softens the sentence more.

For example,

Ex. そうでない = Soudewa nai= It is not true. (negate clearly)

Ex. そうでない  = Soudemo nai = It is not true. (softer)

The double negative may look/sound confusing. It sometimes confuses even native speakers. For that reason, some suggest that you should not use it so much.
But since it is also listed N2 level word, I think you should learn the idea of double negative in Japanese.

OK, when you see double ない ( = nai), the fist thing you do in your head is to convert it to an affirmative sentence.

 :rrrr: there is some ~ / some part is true that ~ / it does ~ / you do something occasionally

Let’s compare the following sentences.

:u:

*マギーの気持ちが、よくわかります。

= Maggie no kimochi ga,  yoku wakarimasu.

= I understand how Maggie feels very well.

:u:

*マギーの気持ちが、わかります。

= Maggie no kimochi ga, wakarimasu.

= I understand how Maggie feels.

:u:

*マギーの気持ちが、わからなくないです。

= Maggie no kimochi ga, wakaranaku mo nai desu.

= I kind of understand how Maggie feels.

or

*マギーの気持ちが、わからないこともないです。

= Maggie no kimochi ga, wakaranai koto mo nai desu.

= I kind of understand how Maggie feels.

Note: You can also say 〜こともありません。( = koto mo arimasen.)

:u:

*マギーの気持ちが、わかりません。

 = Maggie no kimochi ga, wakarimasen.

= I don’t understand how Maggie feels.

:u:

*マギーの気持ちが、全くわかりません。

= Maggie no kimochi ga, mattaku wakarimasen.

= I don’t understand how Maggie feels at all.

So わからなくない ( = wakaranaku mo nai),  わからないこともない ( = wakaranai koto mo nai) means “to understand something to some extent.”

***

If someone says,

Ex. 望みがないでもない

= Nozomi ga nai demo nai.

(*望み=nozomi = hope)

The person is denying “There is no hope” and saying “there is some hope”

 (わずかかもしれないが)望みがある

= (Wazuka kamo shirenai ga) Nozomi ga aru

= (It could be just a little but) I’d say there is some hope

= (I wouldn’t say there is no hope.) There is some hope.

*****

I made dinner and it turned out to be a big failure. !gejigeji!

You might say,

Ex. 食べられないことはないけど…

= Taberarenai koto wa nai kedo…

 

食べられない ( = taberaernai ) = ” can’t eat, not edible”.

:u:

食べられないことは/もない

= taberarenai koto wa/mo  nai

=” I wouldn’t say “I cant eat it / it is not edible”

:u:

It is bad, but it is edible.

You can also say

食べれなくは/もない

= Taberenaku wa / mo nai

*****

OK, I will show you the usage with more example sentences.

Ex. ベジタリアンだけど全く肉を食べないわけではない

= Bejitarian dakedo mattaku niku wo tabenai wake dewa nai.

= I am a vegetarian but I do eat meat sometimes. (It is not that I don’t eat meat at all. I do eat it once in a while.)

Note: As I mentioned above, ないわけではない ( = nai wake dewa nai) has more explanatory tone.

Ex. 「彼が今、どこにいるか心当たりがなくない

= Kare ga ima, doko ni iru ka kokoro atari ga naku mo nai.

= I think I might know where he is now.

Ex. お金は全くないわけではない

= Okane wa mattaku nai dewa nai.

= (I wouldn’t say I don’t have any money.) I’d say I do have some money.

Ex. 老後の心配がないでもない

= Rougo no shinpai ga nai demo nai.

= I wouldn’t say I don’t worry about my old age.

Ex.方法がなくない

= Houhou ga naku mo nai.

= I’d say there is a way.

Ex. 「この犬、マギーに似てない?」

= Kono inu, Maggie ni nite nai?

= Don’t you think this dog looks like Maggie?

「う~ん…似てなくないけど…」

= Uun… nitenaku mo nai kedo…

= I wouldn’t say it didn’t look like her at all but…

(Meaning, he/she looks like me a little.)

Ex. 私達も全く関係なくないので一緒に先方に謝りに行きます。

= Watashitachi mo mattaku kankei naku mo nai node issho ni senpou ni ayamari ni ikimasu.

= We have something to do regarding this issue so we’ll go apologize to them with you.

Ex.「 あの二人、喧嘩していない?」

= Ano futari, kenka shite inai?

= Don’t you think those two are fighting?

「う~ん、そうみえなくないけど。」

= Uun, sou mienaku mo nai kedo.

= Umm, it may look that way but…

Ex. 「お酒は飲まないの?」

= Osake wa nomanai no?

= Don’t you drink alcohol?

「飲まなくないんですが…」

= Nomanaku mo nain desu ga…

= I wouldn’t say I don’t drink at all (I do drink sometime) but…

Ex. 「ねえ、付き合っている人いるの?」

= Nee, tsukiatte iru hito iru no?

= Hey, are you seeing anybody?

「いないでもないけど… 」

= Inai demo nai kedo.

= I wouldn’t say I don’t have someone but… (I am sort of seeing someone.)

Ex.「日本語は話せますか?」

= Nihongo wa hanasemasu ka?

= Do you speak Japanese?

「全く話せなくないけど、あまり上手くは話せません。」

= Mattaku hanasenaku mo naikedo, amari umaku wa hanasemasen.

= I do speak Japanese to some extent, but I am not a good speaker.

Ex. 彼はそんなにモテないわけではない

= Kare wa sonnani motenai wake dewa nai.

= He is kind of popular with girls.

 

Ex. 「マギー先生、日本語能力試験の1級、私でも受かりますか?」

= Maggie sensei, Nihongo nouryokushiken no ikyuu, watashi demo ukarimasu ka?

= Maggie Sensei, do you think even I could pass JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N1 level?

「まったく受からないことはないけど、がんばらないといけないよ。」

= Mattaku ukaranai koto wa nai kedo, ganbaranai to ikenai yo.

= I wouldn’t say you would fail but you have to try hard.

 

**************
maggie-senseiマギー先生より= Maggie Sensei yori = From Maggie Sensei

私は前、クッキーに「かわいくないことはない」って言われたけどどういうこと?

= Watashi wa mae, Cookie ni  “Kawaiku nai koto wa nai” tte iwareta kedo douiu koto?

=Cookie, you once told me  “Kawaiku nai koto wanai*.”  What does that mean?

*“I wouldn’t say you are not cute. You are kind of cute.”

 

:i: For French speakers: 

Our friend, Marianne translated this lesson in French.  I posted on my Facebook page. Merci, Marianne! !heart3!

Click the link.

 

:i:For Germany speakers:

Misel volunteered to translate this lesson in Germany too. Go check the translation. Click here.

Dankeschön, Mišel!




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26 Comments

  1. Hello!

    I’m wondering, will Japanese use a double negative but the sentence will still be negative? Like with slang?
    For example, “I don’t got no time!” meaning “I don’t have any time (for this)!”

  2. Hello!

    It can be omitted “wa/mo” in this example?

    Negative form of verb + naku + ga/wa + nai

    Or when is omitted, mean something else?

    Thanks. :oops:

  3. Hello Maggie Sensei! I just wanted to ask…

    Does the following sentence:
    このレッスンを理解しないわけではないって言う訳がないのはずが全然ありません。

    Mean something like:
    There is utterly no possibility that it is impossible for me to not, not understand this lesson.
    (I understand this lesson)

    or did I mess up somewhere?

    Thanks for everything so far! XD
    いつもありがとうございます! XD

    1. @The river puppy

      Hello, the river puppy,
      Oh wow! REALLY complicated.

      I kind of understand up to ないって言う but 言い訳がないのはずが~ part doesn’t make sense. I even don’t understand the English sentence.

      このレッスンを理解できないわけではない I wouldn’t say I don’t understand this lesson.
      “このレッスンを理解できないわけではない”と言う訳がない = There is no way that I say “I wouldn’t say I don’t understand this lesson.”
      I think this is as far as you can go.

      And you know we never talk like that. :D

  4. Hello Maggie :)
    I am currently studying Translation and Interpreting and I was curious if I could translate your lessons into German (for free of course) because I need a little bit practice :)

    Feel free to contact me if you’re interested. I couldn’t find another way to contact you, but I think it’s fine here as well.

    Regards

  5. Hello! Thanks for this lesson. I didn’t even know you could use a double negative like this.

    I have another off-topic question. I am trying to write and I am not too sure, it feels like something is off about it.

    古い機種だから、両親と話すことばかり使ってるんだ。

    I want to say “It is an old model I use to talk with my parents”. I also originally wanted to say “I use to receive calls from my parents”, but how do I say “to receive calls”?

    Thanks again! And sorry for asking off-topic things so often, I don’t know anyone else to ask, hahahaha.

    1. @reid

      Hi reid,
      古い機種だから、両親と話すことばかり使ってるんだ。
      I have to confirm two things.
      1) 古い機種だから= You used だから= because
      2) ばかり= just, only

      But I don’t see the translation in the English sentence.
      When I saw this sentence, I thought you wanted to say “Since it is an old model, I just use it to receive calls from my parents.”
      If so,
      古い機種だから両親から電話を受けるときだけに使っているんだ。

      So to receive calls in Japanese is 電話を受ける

      But you can also say 両親から電話がかかってきたときだけに使っているんだ。

      1. I see. I used だから mainly because I was going for a less literal translation, hahaha. So without it would it be:

        両親から電話を受けるときだけに使ってる機種だ ?

        Also, I kinda wanted to use ばかり to practice, how could I use it in this case? I have even studied the lesson you made already, but I am not sure now, haha.

        Thanks! You always give the best replies.

        1. @reid

          Yes,両親から電話を受けるときだけに使ってる機種だ will be natural.
          だけ and ばかり both mean “only/just” but there is a difference.
          If you use ばかり, it sounds like “the only thing you do is or you are always using the old phone to talk to your parents.” But what you wanted to say is “I only use the old phone” so だけ is better.

  6. Hi

    「そんな大きなスイカ一人で食べられないでしょ。」 Aさん–>Bさん
    = You know you are not going to be able to eat a watermelon that big by yourself, right?

    Can the same sentence 「そんな大きなスイカ一人で食べられないでしょ。」 be used if i want to say [You know I’m not going to be able to eat a watermelon that big by myself, right]

  7. *マギーの気持ちが、わからなくもないです。

    = Maggie no kimochi ga, [wakara :rrrr: [na]ku] mo !koujichuu!  [arimasen]=[naidesu].

    x. 「ねえ、付き合っている人いるの?」

    = Nee, tsukiatte iru hito !koujichuu!  [inai] no?

  8. Hello, Maggie!
    Another great lesson, thank you very much.
    Just out of curiosity, are there in Japanese triple negative?
    I think not. At least I haven’t seen one.

    1. @天人

      こんにちは〜!!
      Triple negative is not common. We may say that jokingly but it really confuses the listener.
      Let me try,

      日本語を話さない(1) のがいけない(2) というわけではない(3) 。
      Can you get it?

      1. Yup, that’s really cool!
        日本語を話さない(1) のがいけない(2) というわけではない(3) = it doesn’t mean it’s bad (not good) that you don’t speak Japanese. って意味ね?

          1. @天人
            無理!!敢えて作ってみると….
            4重否定は全くできなく(1)はない(2) わけではない(3) と言わない(4)方がいい 。

          2. Ok, that’s a tricky one!
            Hmmm, let me see…
            4重否定は全くできなく(1)はない(2) わけではない(3) と言わない(4)方がいい 。 =
            It’s better not to say that it’s not that [/it doesn’t mean that] you can possibly use quadra negation. 翻訳、合ってる?
            @____@

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