第21課: The Particle Ka か II: ～ないか
Just as the particle ka か is used in affirmative questions, it is also used in negative questions. More broadly, we are going to be investigating in this lesson on how to interpret ～ないか and ～ませんか in various contexts.
Creating questions with “negative” elements is not too dissimilar between English and Japanese, but how questions are responded to can be quite different. Won’t you continue reading to find out more?
Intonation Note: English dialects vary in intonation when forming questions, but Japanese questions generally have a rising intonation towards the end of the sentence.
-nai (no) desu ka? ～ない（の）ですか？
When a speaker is rather certain but asks the question anyway in the negative with -nai desu ka ～ないですか, the resultant question translates to “is it not…?” Meaning, although a negative construction is being used, the speaker is still trying to gain positive reaffirmation.
If, however, more doubt or general concern is placed on the question, the particle no の is added to get -nai no desu ka ～ないのですか or –nai n desu ka ～ないんですか, the latter being more common in the spoken language. These questions seek to confirm whether the negative status is true or not.
Kanojo wa isogashikunai no desu ka?
Is she not busy?
Kyōko-san wa toshishita ja nai n desu ka?
Is Mrs/Ms. Kyoko not younger?
Yūshoku wo tabenai no desu ka?
Are you not going to have dinner?
Hitorigurashi wa sabishikunai desu ka?
Isn’t living alone lonely?
Sono jijitsu wa kanashikunai desu ka?
Is that fact not sad?
Kono kuruma wa atarashikunai desu ka?
Isn’t this car new?
The use of no/n の・ん provides emphasis on the question element and adds weight to the overall statement. When you are asking about intention and you don’t use no/n の・ん, then your question sounds more like a solicitation because you are in effect telling the person that you’re pretty certain that he/she is doing so.
Pāti ni ikanai n desu ka?
Are you not going to the party?
Konsāto ni ikanai desu ka?
Why not go to a/the concert?
Particle Note: In the example sentences here, the particle ni に is used to mark where at one is going.
No/n の・ん doesn’t simply add doubt to a question, but it also demonstrates the speaker’s interest/concern towards the answer. This is also true when no/n desu ka の・んですか is used with the affirmative.
Kareshi wa iku n desu ka?
Will your boyfriend go?
Shōyu wo tsukau n desu ka?
Will you be using soy sauce?
Mainichi inoru n desu ka?
Do you pray every day?
The Japanese “Yes” & “No” 「はい」か「いいえ」、どっち？
The basis as to whether you say “no” to a negative questions is whether you agree with the statement or not. If you agree, the response is hai はい. If you disagree, the response is iie いいえ.
“Sō omowanai desu ka” “Ie, sō omoimasen.”
“Don’t you think so?” “No, I don’t think so.”
The difference between “don’t you think?” and “do you not think” is important. The former suggests agreement from the listener even though a negative structure is used, whereas the latter phrase could either be a less direct way of going about that same means or more literally ask whether someone does in fact not think so.
“Sō omowanai desu ka” “Hai, omoimasen ne.”
“Do you not think so?” “No, I don’t.”
In English, the use of “no” in a response may be because the speaker is emphasizing their disapproval, but in the Japanese mind, affirming the validity of the statement is more important. If you don’t approve, you should say, “Yes, I’m not for that.”
“Dōbutsu ga suki ja nai no desu ka?” “Hai, suki ja arimasen.”
“Do you not like any animals?” “Right/No, I don’t like them.”
Even if “no” can still throw you from making the right word choice in Japanese, by rethinking your response with “right” instead, you can guide yourself to correctly choosing hai はい.
-masen ka? ～ませんか
At least for verbs, -masen ka ～ませんか is the more polite/formal way of saying -nai desu ka ～ないですか. This means that it can also create “don’t you…” questions.
“Don’t you think so?” “No, I don’t think so.”
When used with action verbs, however, it is most often used to politely invite someone to do something.
Painappuru wo tsukemasen ka?
Why not pickle pineapple?
Chotto asobimasen ka?
Why not have some fun?
Umi de oyogimasen ka?
Why not swim in the ocean?
Tabako wo yamemasen ka?
How about quitting smoking?
Tōshitsu wo herashimasen ka?
How about decreasing carbohydrates?
Do you happen to know?
-nai ka? ～ない（か）？
In plain speech, you can solicit someone with –nai (ka)? ない（か）. The use of ka か indicates that you are very familiar with the speaker, but it also has a masculine tone to it. If the listener is not either equal or lower in status than oneself, the invite could be taken badly.
Origami wo tsukuranai ka?
Why not make some origami?
Issho ni nomanai?
How about we drink together?
Ii kagen ni shinai ka?
Can’t you give me a break?
Why not eat some candy?
Particle Note: This sentence shows how the particle wo を can be dropped in casual conversation.
-nai no ka? ～ないのか
-nai no ka ～ないのか is used in plain speech to seriously and/or harshly ask a question about whether something truly isn’t so. This is used frequently by both male and female speakers, especially when emotions are flaring. Thus, caution is needed when using it.
Minai no ka?
You’re not going to watch!?
Sugu ni yamenai no ka?
You’re not going to stop immediately!?
Kinō, shukudai yaranakatta no ka.
You didn’t do your homework yesterday!?
-nai no? ～ないの
When the particle ka か is dropped and you’re left with -nai no ～ないの, the question becomes a lot softer, but you are still seriously asking the question. The same goes for when this is used with the affirmative.
Piano hikanai no?
You’re not going to/won’t play the piano?
Is not going to end/are you ever going to finish?
Nani wo erabu no?
What’ll you choose?
Ashita iku no?
Are you going tomorrow?
Piza wo tabeta no?
Did you eat pizza?
-(n) ja nai desu ka/ja arimasen ka?
When ja nai desu ka/ja arimasen ka じゃないですか・じゃありませんか follows a verb/adjective/copula, it is used to mean “isn’t it (the case that…)?” The lack of n ん indicates greater confidence in one’s statement being right in the first place.
※Contracting de wa では to ja じゃ and no の to n ん are aspects of the spoken language, but it doesn’t mean that they will always be contracted like this. A speaker may wish to opt for uncontracted forms to sound more serious. Contracted forms are also typically avoided in the written language.
32. あ、木下さんではないですか。A, Kinoshita-san de wa nai desu ka!
My, if it isn’t Mr/M(r)s. Kinoshita!
Ashita kau ja nai?
Aren’t you buying it tomorrow?
As is the case in Ex. 32, calling it a question may be a bit of stretch. Rather, calling it an emphatic way of stating what you feel to be the obvious is more fitting. If it is meant to be understood more as a question like in Ex. 33, the intonation will also match this when spoken.
When no/n の・ん gets added, though, you are both seeking agreement as well as showing a certain degree of uncertainty that you want to have cleared up. When used with nouns in a non-past sentence, be sure to insert the form na な of the copula in between.
Kono yōfuku, atarashii n ja arimasen ka?
Aren’t these clothes new?
Ii n ja nai desu ka?
Isn’t that fine?
Ii n ja nai!
Are wa kame na n ja nai desu ka?
Isn’t that over there a turtle?
Shashin ga tema na no de wa nai ka?
Isn’t the picture the theme?
Any form taught thus far also includes the negative form itself. -Nai n ja nai ～ないんじゃない is a perfect example of a Japanese double-negative. Ultimately, you’re still asking if the negative state is true or not, but you’re doing so in a way that makes it sound you already think the statement is true. It’s just that you’re asking to have that confirmed. If no/n の・ん were dropped, you would be calling out someone’s lack of action.
Oyatsu tabenai n ja nai?
Aren’t you not going to eat the snacks?
Nani mo yaranai ja nai?
(He/she) won’t do anything, no?
Confusingly, you could also see no の in casual speech ending a negative question, but this is to add a final hook to the seriousness of the question.
Sakki katta n ja nai (no)?
Didn’t you buy (that) just now?
Speaking of casual speech, the entire phrase ja nai ka じゃないか can be simplified to jan (ka)じゃん（か）.
Iku n jan (ka)?
Aren’t you going, right?
Are wa tanuki jan!
Well is that not a tanuki!