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In

戦いをしたくありません.

[He] didn't want to start a war.

is したく the adverbial form of したい? Literally speaking, does this sentence means something like

"wanting to do a war"-ly doesn't exist.

where "-ly" is my attempt to adverbialize the phrase "wanting to do a war"? :) Of course this is a weird way to phrase this in English, but is this (grammatically) what's going on in the Japanese sentence?

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    I will just point that you should not have narrow thinking of 〜く form of adjectives as adverbial form. More generally, 〜く form is Continuative / [連用形]{れんようけい}, which has several functions: continuation (conjoining) of clauses (e.g. 速く強い = "fast and strong"), adverbial function, extended conjugation (using forms of verb ある, and contracted in modern Japanese when no intervening particle (e.g. は, も, しか) is present), some kind of nominalization (for small number of adjectives). (Normal verbs also have Continuative / [連用形]{れんようけい}, but formed with different suffix.)
    – Arfrever
    Aug 15, 2023 at 20:30

3 Answers 3

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Just as ありません is a polite version of ない, したくありません is a (very) polite version of したくない.

Etymologically, many i-adjective conjugations are formed by 〜く + ある, among them the 〜くない in question, but also 〜くあった (contracted to 〜かった), or if a particle needs to be inserted (〜くはある).

The ない of negative verbs is not a full-fledged i-adjective like the たい-forms are, and the inability to replace ない with ありません when dealing with negated verbs is one aspect this is reflected in.

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I think it is just a more polite/formal way to mean したくない ex: 勉強したくないの?そうです、勉強したくありません。

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is したく the adverbial form of したい? Literally speaking, does this sentence means something like "wanting to do a war"-ly doesn't exist.

Yes, we could say it is. Even in the plain form したくない. But I would translate it literally as:

It doesn't exist as wanting to do war

This way, you highlight the adverb form better compared to the "ily" version.

Another example of this is when you want to say that someone has an additional quality.

彼女は優しくもある
She exists also as being kind. -> She is also kind (meaning she is beautiful, charismatic, popular and additionally kind).

Keep in mind that 彼女も優しい means "She is also kind" (meaning some people are kind and she is kind too)

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