536 - なくもない

Japanese sometimes gets a bit carried away with double negatives.

For example, I sometimes get thrown off by simple questions like this one:

これ美味しくなくない?
これ おいしくなくない?
This doesn't taste (very) good, does it?
Literally: "this + isn't not tasty?"

Compare that with:

これ美味しくない?
これ おいしくない?
Isn't this good? // This tastes good, huh?
Literally: "this + not tasty?"

I don't not like double negatives, as they sometimes don't not confuse me.

*_*

Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that we have one as an N1 grammar point...


JLPT N1: なくもない (somewhat; some; don't not ~)

Much like double negatives in English, なくもない can be used to express that one is not completely negative about something.

For example, imagine you say, "I don't not like her cooking. I just..." It sounds like you might not like her cooking very much, yeah?

Sadly, I find that なくもない pretty much never translates easily into "don't not blah blah blah."

Instead, we have to perform some mental gymnastics, like in the following conversation...

A:
趣味はありますか。
しゅみ は ありますか。
Do you have any hobbies?
Literally: “hobby + は + have / there are + か.”

B:
なくもないです。散歩とか、瞑想とか。
なくもない です。 さんぽ とか、 めいそう とか。
I mean, I suppose. I like going for walks and meditating, for instance.
Literally: “don’t not have + です. + going for walks + とか, + meditation + とか.”

By using the double negative, Person B is saying that he has some things that he does that might be considered hobbies, but the nuance is that he's not into them enough to label them as hobbies. Though I think it sounds a little less natural, perhaps we could have translated it as, "I don't not have hobbies. I mean, I like going for walks and meditating, for instance."


I'm not going to get into this too much, but we make なくもない sentences by using the negative forms of verbs, i-adjectives, and so on.

For example, we can see that ~なくもない is coming at the end of the verb 飲まない (のまない), "don't drink" in the following example. We just dropped the い and added くもない.

A:
お酒は好きですか。
おさけ は すき ですか。
Do you like alcohol? // Do you like drinking?
Literally: “alcohol + は + liking + ですか.”

B:
ええ。飲まなくもないですよ。
ええ。 のまなくもない です よ。
Yeah. I drink from time to time.
Literally: “Yeah. + don’t not drink + です + よ.”

Hold on, you're thinking. What's with this translation?

Well, なくもない can also be used to say that you do a certain activity from time to time.

I don't not drink → I drink occasionally.


Here's another example:


A:
イギリスはうさぎの形なんだって。
イギリス は うさぎ の かたち なんだ って。
They say that the U.K. is shaped like a rabbit.
Literally: “U.K. + は + rabbit + の + shape + なんだ + って (=is said that).”

B:
言われてみれば、そう見えなくもないね。
いわれて みれば、 そう みえなくもない ね。
Now that you mention it, I suppose it does look a bit like that.
Literally: “now that I think about it (=was told [and] + if [I] look), + that way + doesn’t not appear + ね.”

It doesn't not appear that way → I suppose it does appear that way a bit.


Remember how I said that なくもない is formed using the negative forms of words?

Well be careful, because with na-adjectives and nouns, the "negative form" we use is actually でない... which becomes でなくもない.

So altogether we have:

VERB なく + もない
i-adjective なく + もない
na-adjective でなく + もない
NOUN でなく + もない

Here's an example:

ここでの暮らしは退屈でなくもないけど、自然が綺麗なので気に入っています。
ここ で の くらし は たいくつでなくもない けど、 しぜん が きれい なので きにいっています。
Living here might be a bit boring, but the nature is beautiful, and I really like it here.
Literally: “here + で + の + living + は + is not not boring + けど (=but), + nature + が + beautiful / pretty + なので (=because) + I like it.”

It's not not boring → It's a bit boring.


To finish things up, here's an example that made my head spin when I first saw it:


瑞希ちゃんとは仲良くなくもないけど、結婚式に呼ぶほどではないかな。
みずき ちゃん と は なかよくなくもない けど、 けっこんしき に よぶ ほど ではない かな。
It’s not like I’m on bad terms with Mizuki-chan or anything, but I don’t think we’re close enough to invite her to my wedding.
Literally: “Mizuki-chan + と + は + not not on good terms with + けど (=but), + wedding / marriage ceremony + に + call / invite + degree / extent + is not + かな.”


Double negatives just aren't my thing.

I like learning to use them, though, as it's pretty fun when you manage to pull one off naturally.

Good luck with that, though...

Discussion

0 comments