第20課: The Particle Ka か II: With the Negative

Asking questions in the negative is not straightforward in either English or Japanese. In fact, things can get rather complicated right off the bat with nuance. What exactly do you mean? Consider the following examples in English.

  1. Are you not going?
  2. Is this not new?
  3. Why not go?

The first example expresses surprise and doubt about the situation. The second example purposely uses the negative to make a more affirmative statement, and the third example is an invitation to do something. All these things translate quite well into Japanese. After this lesson, your knowledge of ka か should become even stronger. 

Intonation Note: Although this will not be stated again as we go through this lesson, the final syllable of a question in Japanese should have a high intonation. 

Vocabulary List


・年下 Toshishita – Younger

・夕食 Yūshoku – Dinner

・車 Kuruma – Car

・事実 Jijitsu - Fact

・一人暮らし Hitorigurashi – Living alone

・トイレ Toire – Bathroom/toilet

・パーティ Pāti – Party

・コンサート Konsāto – Concert

・彼氏 Kareshi – Boyfriend

・醤油 Shōyu – Soy sauce

・動物 Dōbutsu – Animal

・パイナップル Painappuru – Pineapple

・海 Umi – Sea

・タバコ Tabako - Tobacco

・糖質 Tōshitsu – Carbohydrates

・折り紙 Origami – Origami

・キャンディー Kyandii – Candy

・宿題  Shukudai – Homework

・ピアノ Piano – Piano

・ピザ Piza – Pizza

・カメ Kame – Turtle

・おやつ Oyatsu – Snacks

・洋服 Yōfuku – Clothes

・タヌキ Tanuki – Tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog)


・彼女 Kanojo – She

Proper Nouns

・京子さん Kyōko-san – Mr/M(r)s. Kyoko

・木下さん Kinoshita-san – Mr/M(r)s. Kinoshita


・忙しい Isogashii – Busy

・新しい Atarashii – New

・真新しい Ma’atarashii – Brand new

・悲しい Kanashii – Sad

・寂しい Sabishii – Lonely/desolate

・いい  Ii – Good

Adjectival Nouns

・好きだ Suki da – To like

Interrogatives (Question Words)

・何 Nani/nan – What 


・いい加減にする Ii kagen ni suru – To get…over with


・はい Hai – Yes

・い(い)え I(i)e – No

・あ A – Ah


・毎日 Mainichi – Every day

・そう Sō – So

・ちょっと Chotto – A little

・一緒に Issho ni – Together

・昨日 Kinō - Yesterday

・すぐに  Sugu ni - Immediately

・明日 Ashita/asu – Tomorrow

・さっき Sakki – Just now

(ru) Ichidan Verbs

・やめる Yameru – To quit (trans.)  

・漬ける Tsukeru – To pickle (trans.)

・食べる Taberu – To eat (trans.)

・見る Miru – To see/look (trans.)

(u) Godan Verbs

・使う Tsukau – To use (trans.)

・行く Iku – To go (intr.)

・祈る Inoru – To pray (trans.)

・遊ぶ Asobu – To play (trans.)

・泳ぐ Oyogu – To swim (intr.)

・減らす Herasu – To decrease (trans.)

・飲む Nomu – To drink/swallow/take (medicine) (trans.)

・作る Tsukuru – To make (trans.)

・やる Yaru – To do (casual) (trans.)

・終わる Owaru – To end (intr.)

・選ぶ Erabu – To choose (trans.)

・弾く Hiku – To play (piano/guitar) (trans.)

・買う Kau – To buy (trans.)

・知る Shiru - To know/recognize (trans.) 


・この Kono – This (adj.)

・その Sono – That (adj.)

・あれ Are – That over there (noun)

-nai (no) desu ka? ない(の)ですか

When ka か follows -nai desu ないです, the resultant question translates to “is it not…”  When one is rather certain of the answer being the affirmative, this pattern stays as in. However, when there is any degree of doubt, the particle no の usually intervenes. In conversation, the particle no の is often contracted to n ん in this pattern, resulting in -nai n desu ka ないんですか?

1. 彼女(かのじょ)(いそが)しくないのですか。
    Kanojo wa isogashikunai no desu ka?
    Is she not busy?

2. 京子(きょうこ)さんは年下(としした)じゃないんですか。
    Kyōko-san wa toshishita ja nai n desu ka?
     Is Mrs/Ms. Kyoko not younger?

3. 夕食(ゆうしょく)()べないのですか。
    Yūshoku wo tabenai no desu ka?
    Are you not going to have dinner?

4. 一人暮(ひとりぐ)らしは(さび)しくないですか。
    Hitorigurashi wa sabishikunai desu ka?
    Isn’t living alone lonely?

5. その事実(じじつ)(かな)しくないですか。
    Sono jijitsu wa kanashikunai desu ka.
    Is that fact not sad?

6. この(くるま)(あたら)しくないですか。
    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.

7. パーティに()かないんですか。
    Pāti ni ikanai n desu ka?
    Are you not going to the party?

8. コンサートに()かないですか。
     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. 

As has been demonstrated thus far, no/n の・ん doesn’t simply add doubt to a question, it also demonstrates the speaker’s interest to the answer in the question as an effect. After all, you aren’t 100% as to what the answer will be. This is also true when no/n desu ka の・んですか is used with the affirmative.

9. 彼氏(かれし)()くんですか。
    Kareshi wa iku n desu ka?
    Will your boyfriend go?

10. 醤油(しょうゆ)使(つか)うんですか。
      Shōyu wo tsukau n desu ka?
      Will you be using soy sauce?

11. 毎日祈(まいにちいの)るんですか。
      Mainichi inoru n desu ka?  
      Do you pray every day?

The Japanese Yes & No

12. 「そう(おも)わないですか」「いえ、そうは(おも)いません。」
       “Sō omowanai desu ka” “Ie, sō wa omoimasen.” 
       “Don’t you think so?” “No, I don’ think so.”

Particle Note: The particle wa は is used here to emphasize the negative situation of not thinking as such.

When responded to a question in the affirmative/negative in Japanese, your answer is about whether it is or is not so first and foremost. In this example, the negative is used for the affirmative, which explains why “no” began the second speaker’s response; however, consider the following.

13. 「動物(どうぶつ)()きじゃないのですか」「はい、()きじゃありません。」
       “Dōbutsu ga suki ja nai no desu ka?” “Hai, suki ja arimasen.”
       “Do you not like any animals?” “No, I don’t like them.” 

As you can see, the answer in Japanese was actually “yes” because it affirms that the doubt/question that the first speaker had about the second speaker not liking animals. 

-masen ka ませんか

Just as -nai desu ka ないですか can be used to solicit, -masen ka ませんか is perhaps the most common way in polite speech to invite someone to do something. When used with verbs that describes states (verbs that don't express an action), this is used as a polite means of asking the affirmative. 

14. パイナップルを()けませんか。
     Painappuru wo tsukemasen ka?
     Why not pickle pineapple?

15. ちょっと(あそ)びませんか。
      Chotto asobimasen ka?
      Why not have some fun?

16. (うみ)(およ)ぎませんか。
      Umi de oyogimasen ka? 
      Why not swim in the ocean?

17. タバコをやめませんか。
      Tabako wo yamemasen ka?
      How about quitting smoking?

18. 糖質(とうしつ)()らしませんか。
      Tōshitsu wo herashimasen ka?
      How about decreasing carbohydrates?

   Shirimasen ka?
   Do you happen to know? 

-nai (ka)? ない(か)

In plain speech, you can solicit someone with the negative with -nai (ka)? ない(か). The use of ka か indicates that you are very familiar with the speaker. As we learned last lesson, this tends to be used by male speakers, and if the listener is not either equal or lower in status than oneself, the invite could be taken badly at the least.

20. ()(がみ)(つく)らないか?
  Origami wo tsukuranai ka?
  Why not make some origami?

21. 一緒(いっしょ)()まない?
  Issho ni nomanai?
  How about we drink together?

22. いい加減(かげん)にしないか。(Idiom)
  Ii kagen ni shinai ka?
  Can’t you give me a break?

23. キャンディー、()べない?
  Kyandii, tabenai?
  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.

24. ()ないのか。
      Minai no ka?
      You’re not going to watch?

25. すぐにやめないのか。
      Sugu ni yamenai no ka?
      You’re not going to stop immediately?

26. 昨日(きのう)宿題(しゅくだい)やらなかったのか。
      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.

27. ピアノ()かないの?
  Piano hikanai no?
  You’re not going to/won’t play the piano?

28. ()わらないの?
  Owaranai no?
  Is not going to end/are you ever going to finish?

29. (なに)(えら)ぶの?
  Nani wo erabu no?
  What’ll you choose?

30. 明日(あした)()くの?
  Ashita iku no?
  Are you going tomorrow?

31. ピザを()べたの?
  Piza wo tabeta no?
  Did you eat pizza?

Verb + (n) ja nai desu ka/ja arimasen ka (ん)じゃないですか・じゃありませんか

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 ん, as was the case before, indicates greater confidence in one’s statement being right in the first place. This may follow any of the conjugations we’ve studied thus far, but when it is after the non-past form of the copula, the copula must become na な.This is because no/n の・ん actually functions as a nominalizer in all the examples here in this lesson.

32. あれはカメなんじゃないですか
  Are wa kame na n ja nai desu ka?
  Isn’t that over there a turtle?

33. おやつ()ないんじゃない
  Oyatsu tabenai n ja nai?
  Aren’t you not going to eat the snacks?

34. 明日あしたうじゃない?
  Ashita kau ja nai? 
  Aren't you buying it tomorrow? 

35. この洋服(ようふく)真新(まあたら)しいんじゃありませんか
  Kono yōfuku, ma’atarashii ja arimasen ka?
  Aren’t these clothes brand new? 

36. いいんじゃないですか
  Ii n ja nai desu ka?
  Isn’t that fine?

37. いいんじゃない!
  Ii n ja nai!
  That’s great!

38. さっき()ったんじゃない(の)?
  Sakki katta n ja nai (no)?
  Didn’t you buy (that) just now?

Particle Note: As is demonstrated in the previous example, the particle no の may follow n ja nai んじゃない to add a final hook to the seriousness of one’s question.

After verbs and adjectives, じゃ is hardly ever uncontracted as では in the spoken language, but the entire phrase ja nai desu ka じゃないですか can actually be simplified to jan (ka)じゃん(か). This is a general contraction that may be applied to what we’ve already covered.

39. あ、木下(きのした)さんではないですか。
  A, Kinoshita-san de wa nai desu ka!
  My, isn’t it Mr/M(r)s. Kinoshita!

40.  いいじゃん!
  Ii jan!
  That’s awesome!

41. ()くんじゃん(か)。
  Iku n jan (ka)?
  Aren’t you going, right?

42. あれはタヌキじゃん!
  Are wa tanuki jan!
  Well is that not a tanuki!