皆様、こんにちにゃあぁ！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online, your trusted source for Japanese language and culture. When you find yourself lost in a forest of words, we’re here to reach out and lead you through the thicket, over the rocks, and under the leafage. Japanese language is like a beautiful terrain that many aim to traverse. As in any interesting terrain, there can be many twists and turns and the path may not always be so clear. Even when you have a guide to lead you through it, you still have to do your best to follow along with the way markers given to you. When you’re travelling a new area, it’s not simply about getting from point A to point B, but enjoying the journey along the way. And, the more that you traverse the paths you’ve been shown, the more natural it will become. Then, you can focus on actually enjoying the terrain and eventually go even further with help and hints from your guides along the way. We’re Kiki and Koko, your guides to Japanese language and culture, and this lesson, we’ll be continuing our explanation of Japanese adjectives. Whilst describing what something is would be considered important, sometimes it’s just as important to be able to describe what something isn’t.
So, as you may have noticed in the previous lesson, Japanese adjectives are a bit different to English adjectives. They have different categories and function differently in a grammatical sense, however this makes perfect sense within the context of Japanese language. When you learn how to create negative forms of adjectives, this will assist you in making entirely negative sentences as well. However, there are many skills that we’ve previously taught that will be essential to this lesson, and since we’re going to dive into this as early in the lesson as possible, we would like to make sure you have a good grasp of the concepts at this time. Overall, we generally recommend looking at any of the lessons concerning particles, which are found in the essentials section, and if any future ones haven’t made it to the main page, yet, then you can simply go to the category of Japanese Language Learning Essentials. You’ll also want to stock your kit with some other essentials concerning basic sentences. The top-most image leads to the main Essentials page, whilst the others bring you to です、は、が、and を, respectively. There are more you’d benefit from as well such as the many vocabulary words as well as the series on の. But, again, it’s just best to make sure you have a grasp on everything we’ve introduced thus far in order to get good use out of this lesson. It’s also about shaping your approach to learning as well as actually giving you the tools to understand, stockpiling sustenance for your journey. So, have a look at the supplies you’ll need, then return when you’re ready.
And, welcome back, if you went off to explore with us for a bit, or if you simply scrolled down, then we’re just happy you have a grasp of the previous lessons and hope that this will be a bit easier to grasp. We would reiterate the things you need out here, but it would weigh down the new information a bit, and wouldn’t help you on your travels.
So, when it comes to negative conjugations, it’s definitely best to start with adjectives rather than verbs as verbs will be an interesting topic to cover, but adjectives are also very consistent in their conjugation, except for one exception, which we’ll address in the latter portion of this. But, overall, this isn’t to say that adjective conjugation will be easy for everyone, but it’s just a bit more user friendly for beginners. This should familiarise yourself with the concept of conjugation as well, which usually relies on knowing the stem of a verb or adjective, so to speak. At any rate, we should just jump right into these! We’re sure you’ll do well, and you can come back as many times as you’d like, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. We want to make sure these are as clearly explained as possible for every type of learner.
Negative I-Adjectives | イ形容詞の否定形
So, when you’re creating a negative form of each of the main two types of adjectives, there are different ways to go about it, however almost all of each type of verb follows the same suit, so you won’t have to adjust for most adjectives you see. For both of these, you’ll want to change the modifier, keeping the main part of the adjective, and add the negative conjugation.
When you’re creating a negative form of an i-adjective, or イ形容詞, i keiyoushi, you change theな い, i, to く, ku, then add our negative friend: ない, nai. Let’s look at an example of this:
寒い→ 寒く+ない→ 寒くない
さむい→ さむく+ない→ さむくない
oishii → oishiku + nai → oishkunai
This would mean ‘not delicious’. Now, normally in some textbooks, it’s described as removing い, i, and adding くない, kunai, but that oddly makes things more difficult in future. You’ll want to think of this as conjugating the い, i, to く, ku, because this will apply to many future conjugations.
Actually, ない, nai,is a word of its own, but it’s also an auxiliary adjective used in things like adjectives and verbs for conjugation. You can think of ない, nai, simply as ‘not,’ but it may be helpful to know it also means that something doesn’t exist or isn’t there. We mention this because ない, nai, is the plain form of the more polite ありません, arimasen. These both have many other definitions, but in this case, simply think of it, again, as not, but more polite. However, that does not mean you won’t use the plain form even in a basic polite sentence, as ない, nai, itself is an i-adjective. We won’t over-complicate things, but you usually use this plain form when modifying nouns within a sentence, right in front of it, that is, or when there’s other functions to be had.
Maybe we should show you a quick example of a less cut-and-dry adjective, though. Let’s take a look at one that would show the usefulness of learning kana and eventually kanji.
美味しい→ 美味しく+ない→ 美味しくない
おいしい→ おいしく+ない→ おいしくない
oishii → oishiku + nai → oishkunai
Not to say that it isn’t visible using romaji when you’re first beginning, but it can make it a little easier on the eyes length-wise and when you can clearly see い, i, on its own. One bit of pronunciation that is also helpful is that usually when you see し before く, it will blend into each other, getting rid of the i sound, becoming would would sounds more like sh’ku rather than shiku, but there are times when enunciated that you may hear it. Just a little helpful hint that may help in future, as well, when things may start to build onto each other into longer strings of conjugation, so that you know where the emphasis lies.
But! What about making this into a sentence? Of course, you can use the adjective alone casually, but if you’d like to dress it up as a basic polite sentence, then you’ll want to add that magical です, desu, to the end of it.
This may seem strange if you’ve read the lesson on です, desu, and take it at face value, as everything seems to be about endings, but this is an affirmative copula. Though, at the same time, looking at the whole context, it would make perfect sense as it’s affirming that the implied subject is not cold.
It’s not cold.
(lit: not cold + it is)
One way that may assist you in fully absorbing this is thinking of the way that Yoda or maybe a very old fashioned person may talk. Not cold, it is, which may seem a little less strange to someone who would add innit or yeah to the ends of sentences, but that falls into a bit different of a category. At any rate, we’re going to move onto the next category which covers the subcategory we covered in the previous lesson as well as, oddly enough, nouns!
Negative Na-Adjectives | ナ形容詞の否定形
So, i-adjectives, or イ形容詞, i keiyoushi, actually have their own type of conjugation in comparison to these na-adjectives, or ナ形容詞, na keiyoushi, which share conjugation with the no-adjectives, or ノ形容詞, no keiyoushi, and basic sentences due to the facts we introduced in the previous lesson. Grammatically, they’re nouns or nouns turned adjective. All in all, this makes sense in Japanese because if something is or isn’t something, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an adjective or a noun (unless it’s an i-adjective), it’s simply saying what it is or isn’t, and it’s oddly still describing it. But, maybe that explanation is a bit too broad. Let’s just take a closer look at how to actually conjugate these.
So, as we mentioned, the adjective itself is also a noun on its own, and when you see this at the end of a sentence, it may not even have an indication of being a na-adjective. However, this wouldn’t change the way you conjugate it. First, you either take away the な, na, or leave it as is, if there is no な, na. Then, you would replace the な, na, with one of a few particles —these particles are used in other ways for different meanings. Casually, one may use じゃ, ja, and in more polite or written word, you can use では, de wa, but you can easily use the latter with a casual ending verb, which is, again, ない, nai.
退屈 / 普通な→退屈
な→ 退屈+じゃ+ない→ 退屈じゃない
たいくつ= たいくつな→ たいくつ
taikutsu = taikutsu na → taikutsu + jya + nai → taikutsu jyanai
So, if you would like to make these more polite, there are actually two options. You can add です, desu, or you can go one further, which also works with i adjectives as well! More formally, you can replace ない, nai, with its formal version, ありませんん, arimasen, which makes more sense when you’ve read the ですlesson, 繋辞とは？｜What is a Copula?（SIDE B）as you’ll recognise であります, de arimasu. (See, these seemingly random origin facts all come together!) Now, it may be simpler to just show you an example of the two basic polite and formal ways to use negative form, along with an i adjective, which we’ll mark.
taikutsu jyanai desu.
(It’s) not tedious.
taikutsu de wa arimasen.
(It’s) not tedious.
(It’s) not cold.
Hopefully that gives you a proper illustration of how you can dress up these negative forms and the difference between them. But, many na-adjectives are also no-adjectives, but we’re going to give you an example of a no-adjective being transformed into a negative adjective just to illustrate that the process is definitely the same.
普通 / 普通の→普通+じゃ+ない→ 普通じゃない
ふつう= ふつうの→ ふつう+じゃ+ない→ふつうじゃない
futsuu= futsuu no → futsuu + jya + nai → futsuu jyanai
And, before we do bring this to a close, there is actually a notable exception to the rule for the i-adjectives that we can’t let you leave without.
An Important Exception to the Rules
We always make sure to give essential origins where we can as they allow so much more understanding when it comes to the inner machinations of the Japanese language. There are always some exceptions to the rule, and as a beginner, the most important one you need to know is good. Yep, it’s literally: いい, ii, which means good, and though it’s translated a few ways, there is something that anyone who first would stumble upon this word would do when they came across the word, and that would be to conjugate it in the same way they conjugate other i-adjectives. This is one of many concepts you simply have to learn to know as there’s no way to infer, which is why we’re here to throw you a life line! Mistakes help us learn, but this is one mistake you don’t have to think about:
いい (良い)→よく+ない→ よくない
ii (yoi) → yoku + nai → yokunai
Yep, いい, ii, becomes よくない, yokunai. Why? Well, originally, いい, ii, used to be よい, yoi, and it is still used, but this is usually when it’s spelt using kanji as 良い, yoi. This is also used in hiragana in other grammatical cases, so it may be a bit of a misrepresentation to say いい, ii, is the new 良い, yoi, as 良い, yoi, still exists, but it’s just the origin of it all. いい, ii, is the new and modern one around here, but they still have to conform to the old rules.
Now, this comes in handy in words that we mentioned previously, where いい, ii, is hidden in plain sight, and that’s cool. Yep, it’s in the word: かっこいい, kakkoii. This changes in the same way and is dressed up just like any other i-adjective.
kakko yokunai desu ka.
(They’re) not cool?
And, hopefully, that assists you with the twists and turns of basic adjective conjugation! We covered quite a bit, today, so be sure to take your time with it. This would be an article you may want to bookmark for when we present adjectives during lessons or Word of the Week segments. And, remember, if it doesn’t click right away, just take a step away from it and come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes, if there’s a lot of information at once, it can be quite a bit to absorb, but in this case, they’re concepts so closely related that lead right into the next that we had to present them all at one time. And, though we covered a lot, there is still much more to discuss! And, we look forward to clearing a pathway through the forest of knowledge, providing new tools and sustenance for your journey.
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