ない

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Japanese[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

From Old Japanese. The adjectivizing suffix appears to derive ultimately from ancient copula or stative verb ‎(nu).

Suffix[edit]

ない ‎(romaji -nai)

  1. used to form derivative -i adjectives from other terms: having that quality, having that state; very much that quality or state
     (せつ)ない (いと)ない、ぎこちない
    setsunai, itokenai, gikochinai
    very moving, really young of manner, having clumsiness
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

First appears in texts from the late Muromachi period as an eastern-dialect term. Sometimes described as related to ancient eastern-dialect negative ending なふ ‎(nafu), but there is a sizable gap of time between the apparent disappearance of nafu and the emergence of nai.[1]

That said, both nafu and nai probably derive ultimately from ancient copula or stative verb ‎(nu), with the negative sense originating from the 未然形 ‎(mizenkei, irrealis or incomplete form) of the verb stem, to which these endings attach.

The nai ending conjugates as a regular -i adjective in modern Japanese. In the Edo period, this ending conjugated irregularly, including nanda instead of modern nakatta (past), and naikereba instead of modern nakereba (conditional).[1]

Adjective[edit]

ない ‎(-i inflection, romaji nai)

  1. not, there is no, lack
    スプーンが ()
    supūn ga nai.
    There is no spoon.
Alternative forms[edit]

Suffix[edit]

ない ‎(romaji -nai)

  1. (auxiliary) not, don't
    学校 (がっこう) ()ない
    gakkō ni ikanai.
    I don't go to school.
Usage notes[edit]

As a verb suffix, negative -nai is often classified by Japanese grammars as an auxiliary verb. Note, however, that this is essentially the same word as the adjective nai, and that this also inflects as a regular -i adjective.

Synonyms[edit]
  • (rare) ‎(nu)
Inflection[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1988, 国語大辞典(新装版) (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan