Prefixes are cumbersome in Japanese as they are in English. In English when we think of negative prefixes, we think of un-, non-, a-, in-, de-, etc. If distinguishing between all these is difficult, then you might be relieved to know that Japanese isn’t as complex in this regard. Although there is some truth in having to learn when they’re used on a case-by-case basis, differentiating between 未, 無, 非, 否, and 不 is not all that troublesome.
Although there are no rules that determine which of these prefixes are to be used, corresponding these endings with the following Japanese and English keywords will help you tremendously in understanding how they're used.
Another thing to keep in mind about these prefixes is that although they are being referred to as prefixes, it is not a 100% guarantee that what they attach to can be used in isolation as independent words. This is because they are being viewed as prefixes based on how they are used from a Chinese language perspective. For instance, anxiety in Japanese is 不安. 安, however, is not used as the antonym of 不安. Instead, the antonym of 不安 is 安心. These are simply quirks that you will need to become accustomed to as you learn words with these prefixes.
Simply put, this prefix indicates incompletion. Meaning, something isn’t quite so yet, but it will (most likely) be so in the future.
Precisely because (X) is inexperienced, the possibility of him causing damage is all the more high.
I watched an unreleased movie yesterday.
I have compiled unresolved cases.
My son was taken by police for underage drinking.
If you were to become a widow, how would the way you live differ from what it is now?
All people are incomplete.
I may have possibly seen an unidentified flying object.
Many unrevealed Pokemon were accidentally leaked through the demo version.
To set out in undeveloped markets.
We are targeting children under ten.
I'm unmarried, but I want a child.
Attaches to things that are nouns (in Chinese and as an effect can be viewed as nouns in Japanese). It may result in an adjective or adverb on a case-by-case basis, though. This prefix indicates total lack. It typically only attaches to Sino-Japanese words. When dealing with non-Sino-Japanese words, ～なし is preferred (ex. 底なし = bottomless).
I want to live on an uninhabited island.
Is membership registration free?
It's meaningless to cry by yourself.
The likelihood is near nothing.
To gaze at the endless stars in the middle of the night.
Of course, that's exactly the case.
I don't like being ignored.
I'm hearing that public order in Zimbabwe is worse that lawless Somalia.
An unemployed male was arrested.
Her face was expressionless as she stayed quiet.
I want to fix my habit of unconsciously grinding my teeth.
I don't feel anger towards those who are uninterested.
Although not an example of the prefix, you will also see the character 無 found in the 熟字訓 reading of the native word for “fig,” which is イチジク. This is because figs, despite having many stamen and pistils, they are not visible from the outside, thus the spelling 無花果.
This prefix indicates that something is not belonging to a certain state of being. It is used to show unjustifiability. Meaning, whatever it is referring to, there is a state in which ought to be but this is the negation of it being so. More emotion, as an effect, can be seen in many examples of it.
不合理: Simple negation of something being rational.
非合理: Emotional appeal to something being irrational/illogical.
It usually attaches to nouns but may result in adjectives depending on the phrase. It can attach to Sino-Japanese, native, and foreign words.
I absolutely don't want to let my senseless wife raise our son.
Non-preemptive priority service
Non-African descent modern humans inherit 1~4% of their DNA from Neanderthals.
To end up entering an unreal world from the real world.
I hate nonscientific remarks.
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Men who aren't married (and don't wish to) will increase from now on.
On week days I work as a part-time worker.
In speaking of non-metal elements that are solid at room temperature, there is silicon.
You can't even deny the truth, and even if you were to, there would be no point.
What happens if it's rejected by the assembly?
The defendant is denying the allegation.
This prefix attaches to adjectives and verbs to show simple negation. It may not be absolute negation, though. For instance, it may indicate stagnation in some sense. It typically follows nouns to negate an action, and it typically follows 形容動詞 to negate a state.
People have the tendency of choosing healthy foods when they feel good and unhealthy foods when they're under stress.
There was a fault in the e-mail that I had just sent you.
A bad wife leads to 100 years of failure.
We are holding off on hiring this year due to recession.
Farsightedness due to old age is inconvenient, you know.
To go missing overseas.
不 ＋Native Words
不 has been around long enough to follow a select number of native words.
Please forgive the carelessness.
There are many uneven noodles made by hand.
Why is it that the less serious someone is the more he advances in life?
This is yet another prefix which can be written as either 不 or 無 with no true rules as to when you should use which aside from standard convention on a case-by-case basis. Most examples of this involve 形容動詞 as equivalents of the English prefixes “mis-“ and “ill-.”
I'm too clumsy with my hands.
Whenever you have a blunt look on your face, your opponent will also become blunt.
Are you capable of dating someone with an ugly face?