Basic negative sentences such as “I am not hungry” are contructed in Japanese by changing the ending of the verb to the negative form. Adjectives also have changes in their endings to become negative.

Verbs ~nai / ~masen

Verbs are changed to their negative form by changing the end of the verb. For polite forms, this is done by replacing the -masu word ending with -masen. For the plain form, it is done as described by the table below.

Plain Forms

Negative Present/Future Negative Past

Godan Verbs

To write kaku -> kaka + nai = kakanai kakanai -> kakanakatta
To read yomu -> yoma + nai = yomanai yomanai -> yomanakatta
To wait matsu -> mata + nai = matanai
matanai-> matanakatta

Ichidan Verbs

To eat taberu -> tabenai tabenai -> tabenakatta
To look miru -> minai minai -> minakatta

Irregular Verbs

To do suru -> shinai shinai -> shinakatta
To come kuru -> konai konai -> konakatta

Polite Forms

Negative Present/Future Negative Past

Godan Verbs

To write kakimasu -> kakimasen kakimasen -> kakimasendeshita
To read yomimasu -> yomimasen yomimasen -> yomimasendeshita
To wait machimasu -> machimasen machimasen -> machimasendeshita

Ichidan verbs

To eat tabemasu -> tabemasen tabemasen -> tabemasendeshita
To look mimasu -> mimasen mimasen -> mimasendeshita

Irregular Verbs

To do shimasu -> shimasen shimasen -> shimasendeshita
To come
kimasu -> kimasen kimasen -> kimasendeshita

The special word Desu – Dewa Arimasen

The word desu is similar to a verb, but is actually something called copula. The following table shows how to construct the negative versions of the copula da/desu. There are two versions of the negative tense of desu. Both can be used in most situations, but the versions based on ja sounds a bit more causual than dewa.

Negative Present/Future Negative Past
Plain Copula (da) da ->
ja nai / dewa nai
ja nai -> ja nakatta
dewa nai -> dewa nakatta
Polite copula (desu) desu ->
ja arimasen
/ dewa arimasen
ja arimasen -> ja arimasendeshita
dewa arimasen -> dewa arimasendeshita

Adjectives

As you can read in the chapter Adjectives, there are two kinds of adjectives in Japanese. The -i adjectives and the-na adjectives. These two adjectives are handled differently when made negative.

  • You make -i adjectives negative by changing the -i ending to ~kunai.
  • You make -na adjectives negative by adding the negative form of desu to the end of the sentence.

Just note that when changing an -i adjective to negative form, you should keep the verb or desu in positive form..

Negative Present/Future Negative Past

-i adjectives

Red akai (desu) -> akakunai (desu) akakakunai (desu) ->
akakunakatta (desu)

-na adjectives

beautiful kirei (desu) ->
kirei (dewa arimasen)
kirei (deshita) ->
kirei (dewa arimasendeshita)

Examples

あの人は警察官でわありません。
Ano hito wa keisatsukan dewa arimasen.
That person is not a policeman.

私は寒くないです。
Watashi wa samukunai desu.
I am not (feeling) cold.

あの絵はきれいでわありません。
Ano e wa kirei dewa arimasen.
That painting is not beautiful.