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I understand that ことはない is used to state that something does not have to be done, such as:

時間は十分あるから急ぐことはない。

However, I am currently translating a survey from Japanese to English for a friend and this phrasr is popping up often and I am not sure if I am translating it correctly. (He is a pyscology student if that matters).

Here are a couple examples that I am struggling with:

私は道にポイ捨てしたことはない。

or

自分の失敗をもみ消したことはない。

The second seems more straight forward, 'I don't need to hide my mistakes', but if that is the case, what is happening with the past tense of する? Why is it もみ消した and not もみ消す? my understanding is that when using this ことはない grammar point, the verb remains in dictionary form. The same applies for the second, example, is this saying I don't need to litter? Or rather that I don't litter? Or...I'm a bit lost?

Can anyone help me?

P.S. I apologize for any formatting errors, I am doing this on my iPad and it does not love this website.

Thanks!

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2  
It is the negation of したことある, and means not (yet) having done sth. –  blutorange Jul 22 '13 at 9:32

3 Answers 3

To expand on what blutorange said in the comments...

Are you familiar with the grammar pattern ~したことがある which expresses having the experience of having done something? For example:

私は日本に行ったことがある = I have been to Japan.

This is the negative, so:

私は道にポイ捨てしたことはない = I have never dropped litter on the street.

We're talking about past experiences so I don't think it's any wonder that the verb is in past tense.

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The key is that when the preceding verb is in the 〜た form, it takes on the meaning of "have (not) done" (depending on if it's ことはある or ことはない). –  istrasci Jul 22 '13 at 14:52

ことはない = "I have no *" or "it is no *" or "there is no *", and so on.

So there are quite a lot of usages for this expression.

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Yeah, to follow up with what's been said, it seems that this is just a case where は is being used to emphasize never having done the survey question, which would be why they don't have the more familiar が after こと。 例えば、私は彼女に浮気をしたことは全然ない。

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