Japanese Language Essentials

あの魔法的な「です」の反対側は?|What is the opposing side of that magical 「desu」? | Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Japanese Language Learning Essentials

こんにちにゃあ~!Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online in blog form, provided to you via The Internet. 嬉嬉と興子です, Kiki to Koko desu! We’re Kiki and Koko; your hosts and your guides to Japanese language and culture. We usually make it our goal to focus on the positives, and that is a beneficial modus operandi, but there are times where negatives must be discussed. We may not like it, and we may flee from it in order to avoid the possible growth that comes with it. You have to be very aware of your reality and what is hypothetical or simply inaccurate. That’s right, this lesson, we’re talking about negative basic sentences!

In a previous lesson, we explained the ubiquitous Japanese copula: 「です」。And, since, we’ve given you the road map to 形容詞, keiyoushi, along with a plethora of other lessons. In this, we discussed the similarities between negative nouns and some negative adjectives which is much more easily taught in the lesson than it is summarised in this. But, with the discussion of negative adjectives comes the question of negative sentences as a whole, but more importantly, with the omnipresence of our magical friend 「です」, could there be a foe that could possibly oppose them?

You may have noticed in our essential lesson outlining the conjugation, that even in the negative versions of adjectives, at times, you will still see 「です」, standing up to the negative adjective, but suddenly holding a different meaning. 「です」in the case of adjectives is there to affirm that the adjective is, indeed, negative. Think of 「です」 as an affirmation of what is being stated in the sentence as in:

宇宙人は 怖くないです。
うちゅうじんは こわくないです。
uchuujin wa kowakunai desu.
Aliens are not scary.

この宇宙人は 灰色じゃないです。
このうちゅうじんは はいいろじゃないです。
kono uchuujin wa haiiro jyanai desu.
This alien is not grey.

Now, keep in mind, again, that this is technically a simple negative sentence, but you still see 「です」, affirming what is already being stated in the sentence. However, there are a few things we’d like to point out as examples, assuming you’ve already had a bit of time with the adjective lessons. In this case, it’s only to add politeness, as this could be dropped from the sentence and it would still be understood and a natural way to say it. However, you’ll want to pay attention closely to its usage as it will assist you in future conjugation.

Don’t worry, this isn’t simply revision / review for the previous lesson, we are leading you down a path that should hopefully help you with the concept. Let’s have a look at the second one again, but in its polite form.

宇宙人は 怖くありません。
うちゅうじんは こわくありません。
uchuujin wa kowakunai desu.
Aliens are not scary.

この宇宙人は 灰色ではありません。※
このうちゅうじんは はいいろではありません。※
kono uchuujin wa haiiro de wa arimasen.※
This alien is not grey.

Here, we get into the deep lore of it all, and we’ll try to summarise it as simply as we can, so stay with us~!※ではありません, de wa arimasen, is the basest polite form of じゃない, jyanai, or ではない, dewanai. Conversely, ではありません, de wa arimasen, is the opposite of  であります, de arimasu. And, if you’ve read the original magical 「です」lesson, you’ll remember that: (SPOILER ALERT) です is actually the shortened form of であります, de arimasu. Which means that these others, though on differing levels of formality, are also opposites of です。

Yeah, all this time, they were there, hidden in plain sight. This was a long game that has been afoot since the classic繋辞とは?|What is a Copula?(SIDE B)! This may not be immediately obvious, but if you kept in mind that です had a fancier alter ego all this time, you may have become suspicious of it when learning how to conjugate ,ナ形容詞, nakeiyoushi, or na-adjectives. 

So, if you remember that ナ形容詞, nakeiyoushi, na-adjectives are treated in the same way as nouns, we’ll get even closer to the true opposition of です. And, we may even uncover a bit more that hopefully won’t complicate things.

In this, we have to ask ourselves what we mean by a negative sentence, at this point. Japanese sentences work in a much different fashion to English sentences, so in an odd way, we’ve already covered how to create negative sentences, partially. The negative forms of adjectives create a negative sentence, but this doesn’t cover nouns, or verbs for that matter—but that’s for another day. The determinant of the way that you create a negative sentence is purely based on the grammar. So, in this case, when we’re talking of the opposite of です, we’re loosely referring to negative nouns. This will indicate what is not true in the sentence. Let’s take a look at the framework of just one type of negative sentence featuring a noun which will feel reminiscent of working with na-adjectives.

Basic Polite/ Formal

〇〇では ありません。
〇〇 de wa arimasen.
(It) is not (a/an)

So, just as in a regular affirmative basic sentence, you’ll find that the topic can actually be implied. This is especially omitted when it includes unecessary pronouns that would not necessarily assist in any clarification. Before we move onto some examples, we do want to include the casual version which includes です in the more polite version.

Basic Polite / Casual

〇〇は 〇〇じゃないです。※
〇〇wa 〇〇 jyanai desu.※
〇〇 is not

※To make it more casual, simply remove the です.

In the end, です is simply so ubiquitous and flexible that you’ll even see them in their own opposition. They’ll still stand next to the negative form and reaffirm that it’s negative. Now, let’s take a look at how this would be used. You’ll find you can insert a noun into the space in the same way as a simple affirmative statement. Perhaps, we’ll begin with a prompt.


koukochan desuka?
Is this Koko?

Basic Polite/ Formal

興子ちゃんでは ありません。嬉嬉ちゃんです。
こうこちゃんでは ありません。ききちゃんです。
koukochan de wa arimasen. kikichan desu.
(This) isn’t Koko. (It) is Kiki.


koukochan jyanai desu. kikichan desu.
(This) isn’t Koko. (It) is Kiki.

Or you may want to practise the connective form for a smoother sentence, but it’s a tiny bit different to connecting adjectives, not completely different, but just know that this is connecting sentences in this case:

koukochan jyanakutekikichan desu.
(This) isn’t Koko; (it) is Kiki. /
(It)’s not Koko, (but) Kiki.

While this does give a useful example of contrasting affirmative and negative sentences with nouns, let’s try another.


kore wa imo desuka?
Are these potatoes?

Basic Polite/ Formal

芋では ありません。コーヒー豆です。
いもでは ありません。こーひーまめです。
imo de wa arimasen. koohii mame desu.
(These) aren’t potaoes. (They) are coffee beans.


いも じゃない です。こーひーまめです。
imo jyanai desu. koohii mame desu.
(These) aren’t potaoes. (They) are coffee beans.


いも じゃなくて、こーひーまめです。
imo jyanakute, koohii mame desu.
(These) aren’t potaoes; (they) are coffee beans./
(These) are not potatoes, (but) coffee beans.

And, despite the majesty of です, quite technically, their powers can be rivalled as, like the magical です, you can quite technically replace implied verbs with it, but in this case, it’s simpler to illustrate when it’s addressing the object.

道+道 Example

が 降っていますか。
yuki ga futteimasuka?
Is it snowing?

Basic Polite/ Formal

雪では ありません。雨です。
ゆきでは ありません。あめです。
yuki de wa arimasen. ame desu.
(It)’s not snow. (It’s) rain.


ゆき じゃない です。あめです。
yuki jyanai desu. ame desu.
(It)’s not snow. (It)’s rain.


ゆき じゃなくて、あめです。
yuki jyanakute, ame desu.
(It)’s not snow; (it) is rain./
(It) is not snow, (but) rain.

Of course, we wouldn’t want to make these sentences too complex, but we would like to make a distinction that there are cases where a double negative can be used, which would be perhaps a negative adjective coupled with a noun then a negative sentence ending, but this would be something farther along the line. We mention this because it’s something to which you’ll need to be sure to apply the essentials we’ve taught you~! And, no worries if you’re not quite there, yet. Any new grammatical concept usually takes a bit to absorb and then a bit longer than that to become natural.

The only way these concepts will become natural to you is to simply revisit the concepts, reuse the concepts, BECOME the concepts! Or, just practise them. To practise today’s concepts, you can simply use the template we gave and replace them with different nouns. And, when it comes to practising the adjective concepts we’ve presented so far, you can look through past and present adjective Word of the Week segments whilst referencing the lessons as guidelines.

Kiki Koko and Quizbo Essential Basics of adjectives intro  Kiki Koko and Quizbo Essential Basics of adjectives negative form  Kiki Koko and Quizbo Essential Basics of adjectives te form

We recommend being sure to have a good grasp on these as to make future lessons continue smoothly, but be sure to continue at your own pace! There’s no rush, here. Make any session you have with these concepts a positive encounter. It’s a break from the norm, something new and interesting to learn about. You can make learning enjoyable by approaching it as a positive and relaxing activity. Perhaps for some of you, it’s more beneficial to have an intense laser focus with a serious attitude, and you can also do both! Make it fun, make it a focused activity, just do whatever is most enjoyable and useful to you.

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Categories: Japanese Language Essentials, Kiki+KoKo: Let's NihonGO!!, SpeRaToBo, 文法|Grammar!

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