第141課: Adverbs III: Syntax Agreement

Syntax agreement simply describes adverbs that have specific meanings when used in a positive or negative sentence, and the adverb may specifically require being in a negative sentence. 

Positive & Negative

Some adverbs must be used in a negative sentence. Others can be in either positive or negative sentences, but translations change. This can get quite tricky.

 Adverb Positive Negative
 全然 Extremely/a lot (Colloquial) Not at all
 絶対に Absolutely Never
 あまり Quite/too (あまりに Only) Not quite/very (あまり Only)
 決して  Never
 もはや Already No more
 [すこし・ちっと]も  Not a bit

Point 1: Examples of the colloquial usage of 全然 include 全然大丈夫だいじょうぶ (completely fine).

Point 2: Examples of 絶対ぜったい(に) include the following. 

1. 絶対ゆるさない。
    I will never allow/forgive.

2. 絶対にちがう!
    Absolutely not!

Point 3: あまり is more common in negative contexts. あんまり is a colloquial variant due to ん insertion. In positive contexts, it implies that a limit has been passed, making it similar to 非常に (very/greatly/much/quite). 

3. あまりうまくない。
    I'm not really good.

4. あんまり分かんない。(Colloquial; 東京弁)
    I don't quite understand.  

5. あんまり運動うんどうしません。(More spoken)
    I don't exercise much.

Point 4: With negative expressions とても means "not at all". とっても is a more forceful variant. 

6. とても真似できない。
    I simply cannot mimic. 

7. とても疲れた。
    I'm very tired.

8. 中国語はとっても難しい!
     Chinese is very difficult! 

Point 5: けっして may be casually pronounced as けして.  


More Examples

9. 全然分からない。
    I don't understand at all.

10. このドアはまらないよ。
      This door won't shut.

11. わたしは一切テレビを見ません。
      I don't watch television at all. 

12. その日はちょっと...
      That day is a little...

Culture Note: Japanese is indirect and so are the people that speak it. When people want to decline an invitation, they often say ...はちょっと with a very reluctant tone.  


 まだ VS 全然 VS 全く

        In a negative sentence, まだ means "yet/still hasn't." 全然 is "not at all", and so is 全く. The first two examples demonstrate the basic fact that まだ is not a synonym of other two. The rest of the section will be how nuance changes when considering these three words. 

13. まだ雨が降っています。
      It's still raining.  

14. 「もう書きましたか」「いいえ、まだ書いていません」
      "Have you written it?" "No, I haven't written it yet". 

Sleeping is difficult sometimes. We might tell our friends we didn't sleep at all last night even though we actually slept a little. Or, we may have a hard time falling asleep and try talking to someone in the meantime. In that situation, though, have you actually dozed off and failed to truly fall asleep, or have you been completely sleepless? With all of this in mind, we'll now learn how to express these situations in Japanese.  

15a. まだていません。           
15b. まだぜんぜん寝ていません。
15a. I still haven't slept (at all).     
15b. I still haven't slept any. (Have slept but not enough)

16. まだ寝ない。            VS  ぜんぜん寝ない。
      I still won't sleep. I won't sleep at all.  

17. もう朝なの?まだ全然寝てない。
      It's already morning? But I still haven't slept much at all. 

18. きのうは全く寝なかった。  (You didn't sleep for even a minute)

19. きのうは全然寝なかった。   (You slept a little)

きのうは全然寝(ら)れなかった means "I couldn't sleep at all", but it sounds like you might have slept some. You might find yourself in a conversation like the following. 

20. 「はぁー、きのうは全然寝(ら)れなかったよ」「本当に一睡いっすいしてないの?」「いやー、寝たには寝たけど30分おきに起きちゃってさ」
"Haa, I didn't sleep at all last night" "Really? You didn't sleep a bit?" "Well, I did sleep if that's what you mean, but I would wake up every thirty minutes"


 Misconceptions on 全然

全然 was borrowed from Chinese about three centuries ago. At the time, it roughly equated to "completely" with both positive and negative sentences. Getting closer to modern times, its meaning narrowed to only be used in negative sentences. Now, the word has changed again in casual language to mean とても. For example, you'll hear things like ぜんぜんおいしい and ぜんぜん大丈夫. The former, though, may sometimes have the nuance of "not thinking it would be delicious but turns out it is quite alright."