Negative i-Adjectives

The thing that I want to teach the most in these foundation-building lessons is something that, quite frankly, you'd probably be better off learning out in the wild: The use of context in Japanese.

Perhaps you've heard someone comment that non-native speakers of Japanese tend to include the subjects of their sentences too often.

Usually this is attributed to the fact that the speaker's native language includes the subjects in sentences more often than in Japanese.

I think that's completely valid. But at the same time, saying something like "Leave out the subjects more often" doesn't really help much because you can only leave out the subject (or any other element of a sentence) when it is understood from context.

But the ability to (1) pick up on what information is already clear from context, then (2) drop the correct word(s) from your spoken sentence accordingly comes with practice.

We've seen several examples of this already. In them, you may have noticed that we use i-adjectives quite a bit. That's because they're one of my favorite tools for creating compact, context-packed sentences.

As we continue to explore adjectives, we'll see that i-adjectives have a lot in common with verbs. This is because, with the exception of です in formal sentences, i-adjectives do not require a copula (i.e. you don't need to put だ) after them. If that sounds confusing, don't worry about it; it's something you'll probably pick up naturally (I did, at least).


I was riding on the train once in Japan.

If I recall correctly, I was riding the Narita Express from central Tokyo out to the Narita Airport.

In the row ahead of me, a woman was sitting with her young son. I'm guessing he was 3 or 4 years old (though I'm not too good with little kids' ages ^^).

The little boy would point at things outside the window and say すごい!

Then his mother would respond with すごい!

すごい means something along the lines of "amazing," and you can say it anytime that something impresses you a great deal.

Now, I doubt that 3-year-old boy was thinking about the words he was dropping from his sentence. "(That building is) すごい!" or whatever. He might not have even known the words for "that building." So maybe we don't always have to know those words either.



I'm writing this lesson at 6 a.m. on a Thursday morning.

Consequently, I feel like I have all the time in the world to talk about Japanese and grammar and memories.

Actually, though, the purpose of this lesson is to teach how to construct the negative forms of i-adjectives.

So maybe we should get started on that...



Negative i-Adjectives

Putting an i-adjective into its negative form is relatively simple:

Drop い, add くない.

For example, we already saw that すごい means "amazing."

So "not amazing" would be...

すご(amazing)

→ すごくない (not amazing)

Not too complicated, yeah?



Time to brush up on your i-adjectives.

You absolutely MUST know every single one of the following words:

忙しい(いそがしい // busy; hectic

美味しい(おいしい // tasty; delicious; good

寒い(さむい // cold [e.g. weather]

冷たい(つめたい // cold [to the touch]

熱い(あつい // hot [thing]

暑い(あつい // hot [weather]

辛い(からい // spicy

辛い(つらい // hard; rough; painful

面白い(おもしろい // interesting; fun; enjoyable

恥ずかしい(はずかしい // embarrassed; ashamed

素晴らしい(すばらしい // wonderful; splendid

重い(おもい // heavy

軽い(かるい // light [i.e. not heavy]

早い(はやい // early; quick

速い(はやい // fast; quick

遅い(おそい // slow; late

眠い(ねむい // sleepy; drowsy

大きい(おおきい // big; large

小さい(ちいさい // small; little



Fun notes for fellow language nerds:

Do you know the differences between the following sets of words?

暑い (あつい) VS 熱い (あつい)

速い (はやい) VS 早い (はやい)

速い refers to something that moves fast or quickly (e.g. Usain Bolt is 速い), whereas 早い refers to something that ends or takes place early or in a short amount of time.

熱い(あつい) and 暑い(あつい), are different, too.

When air (e.g. the weather, a classroom, etc.) is hot, you use 暑い.

When a touchable object is hot (e.g. takoyaki, a fry pan, etc.), you use 熱い.

We see a similar difference between 寒い (さむい // cold [e.g. weather]) and 冷たい (つめたい // cold [to the touch]). It's a bit easier in that case, though, since they're different words and not just different kanji.

Also note that when reading, the only way to tell the difference between 辛い (からい // spicy) and 辛い (つらい // rough; painful) is context! Agh!

By the way, if you're feeling stressed about these kanji-level differences and whatnot, take solace in the fact that Japanese kids have to study this stuff at school, too. Also, you don't necessarily need to learn all of this right this second.



If you've been reading that little tangent, perhaps you've forgotten how to construct the negative form of i-adjectives?

If so, no worries, because I have a plethora of examples for you:

忙しい(いそがしい // busy; hectic
忙しくないいそがしくない // not busy

美味しい(おいしい // tasty; delicious; good
美味しくないおいしくない // not tasty

寒い(さむい // cold [e.g. weather]
くないさむくない // not cold

熱い(あつい // hot [thing]
くないあつくない // not hot

暑い(あつい // hot [weather]
くないあつくない // not hot

辛い(からい // spicy
くないからくない // not spicy

辛い(つらい // hard; rough; painful
くないつらくない // not rough; not painful

面白い(おもしろい // interesting; fun; enjoyable
面白くないおもしろくない // not interesting; not funny

恥ずかしい(はずかしい // embarrassed; ashamed
恥ずかしくないはずかしくない // not embarrassed

素晴らしい(すばらしい // wonderful; splendid
素晴らしくないすばらしくない // not wonderful

重い(おもい // heavy
くないおもくない // not heavy

軽い(かるい // light [i.e. not heavy]
くないかるくない // not light

早い(はやい // early; quick
くないはやくない // not early; not quick

速い(はやい // fast; quick
くないはやくない // not fast

遅い(おそい // slow; late
くないおそくない // not slow; not late

眠い(ねむい // sleepy; drowsy
くないねむくない // not sleepy

大きい(おおきい // big; large
大きくないおおきくない // not big

小さい(ちいさい // small; little
小さくないちいさくない // not small



Just for fun, let's imagine a situation in which one of the words above could occur in short, context-filled sentences...

You try to pick up a heavy suitcase in front of your crush, but it's surprisingly heavy, and you say:

A:
重い、これ!
おもい、 これ!
This is heavy!
Literally: "heavy, + this!"
Note: The order of words is less important in Japanese than in English, which is why it is OK to say either これ重い or 重いこれ.

Then your crush walks up and makes you look like a weakling by picking up the suitcase with one hand, saying:

B:
重くないよ。
おもくない よ。
It's not heavy.
Literally: "not heavy + よ."

You shamefully replay this scene in your mind for years to come.



We've seen this in other lessons, too, but note that we can make i-adjectives formal by adding です to them. This works for negative forms, too (and the past-tense of i-adjectives, which we'll cover a bit later):

忙しいですいそがしい です // busy; hectic
忙しくないですいそがしくない です // not busy

美味しいですおいしい です // tasty; delicious; good
美味しくないですおいしくない です // not tasty; not delicious

寒いですさむい です // cold [e.g. weather]
くないですさむくない です // not cold

熱いですあつい です // hot [thing]
くないですあつくない です // not hot

暑いですあつい です // hot [weather]
くないですあつくない です // not hot

辛いですからい です // spicy
くないですからくない です // not spicy

辛いですつらい です // hard; rough; painful
くないですつらくない です // not rough; not painful

面白いですおもしろい です // interesting; fun; enjoyable
面白くないですおもしろくない です // not interesting; not funny

恥ずかしいですはずかしい です // embarrassed; ashamed
恥ずかしくないですはずかしくない です // not embarrassed

素晴らしいですすばらしい です // wonderful; splendid
素晴らしくないですすばらしくない です // not wonderful

重いですおもい です // heavy
くないですおもくない です // not heavy

軽いですかるい です // light [i.e. not heavy]
くないですかるくない です // not light

早いですはやい です // early; quick
くないですはやくない です // not early; not quick

速いですはやい です // fast; quick
くないですはやくない です // not fast

遅いですおそい です // slow; late
くないですおそくない です // not late

眠いですねむい です // sleepy; drowsy
くないですねむくない です // not sleepy

大きいですおおきい です // big; large
大きくないですおおきくない です // not big

小さいですちいさい です // small; little
小さくないですちいさくない です // not small



One last time, let's imagine a situation in which one of these words could occur.

You're from San Diego, and your boss asks you:

サンディエゴって寒い?
サンディエゴ って さむい?
Is San Diego cold?
Literally: "San Diego + って + cold?"
Note: This って is a lot like は. Let's not worry about it right now!

Your boss is speaking casually, but you respond with formal language (because he's your boss):

寒くないです。
さむくない です。
It's not cold.
Literally: "not cold + です."

If you're at a higher level of Japanese, then maybe you'd continue the conversation.

If you're still at a low level, though, then you should start sweating and nervously pray that this conversation will magically end in two seconds.

That's all for this one. If you skimmed over the lists of adjectives, maybe go back and make sure that you know all of them.




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