A is not B

We've learned how to say "A is B" using our「A は B です」pattern, yeah?

Like this:

(私は)大学生です。
(わたし は) だいがくせい です。
I am a college student.
Literally: "(I + は) + university student + です."



But what if we wanted to say "A is not B"…? How would that look?

Well, it would depend on the formality of our sentence. If we are using formal language, it might look something like this:

大学生ではありません
だいがくせい ではありません。
I am not a college student.
Literally: "university student + am not."



ありません is the formal negative form of the verb ある, which can mean a few things, including "to have" and "to be," as in:

ロバートは予定があります
ロバート は よてい が あります。
Robert has plans.
Literally: "Robert + は + plan + が + has."
Note: 予定 (よてい) is a "plan" in the sense of "a thing to do" (e.g. "dinner plans").



あそこに椅子があります
あそこ に いす が あります。
There is a chair over there.
Literally: "over there + に + chair + が + there is."
Note: Here に is marking the location of the chair, which we talked about in an earlier lesson.


 



🚙 Detour 🚙

There are two verbs meaning to "to be" (when talking about something's existence, location, etc.). One is ある, which we saw in the sentence above.

But ある is only used for inanimate (=nonliving) things. If we're talking about a living thing (namely, animals), then we use いる

ロバートは妹がいます
ロバート は いもうと が います。
Robert has a younger sister.
Literally: "Robert + は + younger sister + が + has / there is."



🔚 End Detour 🔚

 



You likely noticed that we used では in this sentence:

大学生ではありません。
だいがくせい ではありません。
I am not a college student.
Literally: "university student + am not."



Why do we use here?

To be completely honest, I hadn't really thought about the meaning of in ではありません until it came time to write Japanese lessons like this one. After all, it can just be learned as a set phrase. ではありません.


How about , then? What's going on there?

Uhhh… yeah… about that…

I could pretend to have a fantastic theory about why we use both and in our ではありません construction, but I suspect most of it would be B.S.

I will mention, however, that you are likely to come across である (with no は) in your studies of Japanese, which is basically the same thing as です. One major difference is that, because it is so stiff-sounding, you'll generally only see である in written language:

妹はピアノの先生である
いもうと は ピアノ の せんせい である。
My younger sister is a piano teacher.
Literally: "younger sister + は + piano + の + teacher / sensei + である."


 



The really interesting thing that happens with "A is not B" sentences is the variation that can occur depending on the formality of the sentence and the situation in which it is being used.

For example, we saw this sentence before:

大学生ではありません
だいがくせい ではありません。
I am not a college student.
Literally: "university student + am not."



But it is also possible to say:

大学生ではないです
だいがくせい ではない です。
I am not a college student.
Literally: "university student + am not + です."



↑ This means pretty much the same thing. Getting into the differing nuance between ~ません and ~ないです will get our heads spinning fast, so let's save that for a lesson far in the future.

Don't be surprised if you come across the です being dropped, by the way:

大学生ではない
だいがくせい ではない。
I am not a college student.
Literally: "university student + am not."



You might think that, because that previous sentence has no です, that it sounds casual.

Not really.

The reason is that in spoken language you will commonly hear では morphing into じゃ. I vaguely recall one of my textbooks having sentences like this:

大学生じゃありません
だいがくせい じゃありません。
I am not a college student.
Literally: "university student + am not."



However, in daily life, you probably won't hear じゃありません all that often. Saying じゃない(です) is more common:

大学生じゃない(です)
だいがくせい じゃない (です)。
I am not a college student.
Literally: "university student + am not + (です)."
Note: Dropping the です makes the sentence more casual.



Let's look at another example with じゃない

 A: 
明日休み?
あした やすみ?
Do you have the day off tomorrow? // Is tomorrow your day off?
Literally: "tomorrow + day off / holiday?"



 B: 
休みじゃない
やすみ じゃない。
No, I don't. // No, it's not.
Literally: "day off / holiday + isn't."



Hang in there. We're not done with "A is not B" yet...




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