Double negative: ない+ない ( = nai+nai)



= 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?


= 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.

⭐️ 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)


*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)


*~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.)


*+  / (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)

📝 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 JLLPT N2 level word, I think you should learn the idea of double negative in Japanese.

OK, when you see double ない ( = nai), the first 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.



= Maggie no kimochi ga,  yoku wakarimasu.

= I understand how Maggie feels very well.



= Maggie no kimochi ga, wakarimasu.

= I understand how Maggie feels.



= Maggie no kimochi ga, wakaranaku mo nai desu.

= I kind of understand how Maggie feels.



= 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.)



 = Maggie no kimochi ga, wakarimasen.

= I don’t understand how Maggie feels.



= 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”


= (Wazuka kamo shirenai ga) Nozomi ga aru

= (It could be just a little bit) 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. 😅

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”.



= taberarenai koto wa/mo  nai

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


It is bad, but it is edible.

You can also say


= 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 a 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.


= 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?


= 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?


= 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?


= Nomanaku mo nain desu ga…

= I wouldn’t say I don’t drink at all (I do drink sometimes) 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.)


= Nihongo wa hanasemasu ka?

= Do you speak Japanese?


= 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?


= 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


= 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.”


🔸 For French speakers: 

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

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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  1. Hi, Maggie sensei.
    In the following text, is it a double negative, or are they separate sentences? They are lyrics, so I’m confused.
    Don’t Say 声にならない
    胸を締め付けて 痛いだけ
    頑なな想い 溶かすことできたなら
    どうせ 手に入らない
    Also, 手に入らない refers to “想いを溶かすことできる”?
    And 声にならない is used to describe 胸?
    Thanks a Lot.

    1. Hello Bere

      I think “Don’t say” and 声にならない are two different sentences so it is not a double negative.
      You insert English phrases here and there so that the lyrics sound somehow cool.

      手に入らない probably means the person she loves or love from the person who she likes.
      I think 声にならない expresses her feelings (頑なな想い)

  2. Hi sensei, I have a question. In this sentence “決められなくない?” is not included は/も, but is it still part of this grammar? and therefore the meaning is “it’s not that I can’t decide (I can decide)”?

    1. Hi Cit,

      I don’t know the context but if it clear what you are talking about, you can omit the object and the particle.
      The meaning is, “Isn’t it hard to decide/pick?”/”Don’t you think it is hard to decide/pick?” (the speaker is seeking an agreement from a listener.)

      (things that you want an agreement from the listener) + ない?

  3. Hello Maggie Sensei!

    Sorry for asking you a question that is a little unrelated to this double negative lesson, but in Japanese we can conjugate a verb to the negative either in the polite form (ません) or casual form (ない), so is it possible in a slightly formal conversation to end a verb in (ないです) and it still be considered polite or even correct?

    For example, instead of saying (今日は眠りません)
    could I say (今日は眠らないです)?

    Thank you Sensei!

    1. Hello Victor,

      Yes, you can use ないです for a slightly formal conversation.
      (眠る =fall a sleep 寝る = sleep/go to bed)

      Probably you may not learn this ないです form in your Japanese class but actually many people use this form.
      You can use it with adjective as well.


  4. is a difficult concept to remember >_<
    So this sentence "応援する気持ちにならないことはない" means "it’s not that I don’t feel like supporting (that is, I support him)" or am I wrong?

  5. Hello, i found a sentence in the internet while I’am studying japanese.


    And i don’t even understand the meaning of this.

    Can you help me understand this?

    1. Hi Nicart,

      The first part is OK
      = Though I don’t want to go/Though I don’t even want to go
      行けなくならなかったら、行けないよ。 this part doesn’t make a sense.

  6. Hello Maggie sensei,

    I am c onfusing between ないことはない  and わけではない。
    The ない。。。ない grammars are always headache.

    If I say
    and If I say

    What is the difference ?

    Thanks my Lady

    1. こんにちは〜!

      They could mean the same depending on the intonation but, compared to 〜ないことはない, わけではない sounds milder and explanatory.
      It doesn’t mean the curry here is bad.
      We use わけではない ( = wakede wa nai) when we deny something “partially” but not “totally”.
      Check this lesson. Click here.

      1. Thanks my Lady.

        Just 1 more question is about と・たら


        Are they the same sensei?

        1. OK, let me fix a few things first.
          1) 家に帰ると、友達が待っていた。
          2) 家に帰ったら、友達が待っていた。

          Almost the same but 2) たら shows surprised feelings.
          So と is just a condition. You came back home and your friend was there.
          But たら can be used when you didn’t expect your friend to come expressing your surprised feelings.

          1. Things are clear now !!!
            Thanks my Lady.


  7. 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)!”

  8. 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:

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

    Does the following sentence:

    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

  10. 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.


  11. 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.


    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,
      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,

      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.

  12. 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]

  13. *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?

  14. 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

      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
            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?

          3. こっちも同じだ ^ ^
            ありがとう、マギー! !riceball! 

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