Hermione is showing Ron how to levitate a feather (from Japanese translation of Harry Potter):

(Hermione recited the spell) and then, the feather left the desk and floated one or two metres above their heads.

I don't understand what ではないか is doing here. I'm used to seeing it as a rhetorical question, but I can see no place for that in this narration. In the original book it is just stated as a fact that the feather floated. There is no additional questioning nuance.

Apologies if this has already been asked, but there are so many question on ではないか and its variants that I failed to find anything obviously relevant.

  • Your questions on Harry Potter make me wish I'd bought myself Japanese copies when there was a Kinokuniya I could easy access. Sigh!
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jan 13 at 17:57
  • But, I can't remember this story. Is there a reason to be surprised that she can levitate the feather who high? On either Harry or Hermione's part? Just seeing this portion, that's what comes to mind for me. But you know the context better than I do.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Jan 13 at 17:58
  • 1
    This seems related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/27590/43676
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jan 14 at 1:46
  • @A.Ellett On the contrary, it's something you'd expect Hermione to be able to do with ease. But perhaps my expectation is coloured by later events, having read the books and seen the films multiple times. The link and answer do make sense though. Commented Jan 14 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


Knowing the context, I can answer this. Firstly, even in English, Harry Potter's narration is, to put it one way, quite personable and whimsical. E.g. when describing the Dursley family, they are "perfectly normal, thank you very much". I've found that, in Japanese, this is even moreso the case.

In this case, the "ではないか" is basically like saying "wouldn't you know?" I.e. "When she recited the spell, wouldn't you know, the feather rose a meter or two off the desk". Basically, it's just a more personable style of narration. Another common phrasology that's similar is adding "なんと" at the beginning of the phrase (kind of meaning "oh my" or "wouldn't you believe").

  • Thanks. That had been my guess but, I hadn't picked up on the personable style that you noticed. I thought I might have been missing something deeper. Commented Jan 14 at 10:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .