1

For a long time, I have trouble telling apart whether sentences ending with じゃない are affirmative or negative, especially when it is combined with particles の and か.

From the top of my head, here are possible variants of 猫じゃない. I attached my own translation to each of them.

  • 猫じゃない: "[It] is not a cat."
  • 猫じゃないか: "[It] is a cat, right?"
  • 猫じゃないのだ: "[It] is not a cat" (stronger version of 猫じゃない)
  • 猫じゃないのか: Assuming 猫じゃない is true "[It] is not a cat, no?"
  • 猫なのじゃない: Explaining "[It] is not a cat." (basically a negation of 猫なのだ)
  • 猫なのじゃないか: "It is a cat?" (weaker version of 猫じゃないか)
  • 猫なのじゃないのか: Similar to 猫なのじゃないか?

Are my translations fine? I wonder if some of them are context-dependent.

I have doubts on how「猫?」is different from「猫じゃないのか」. I believe that when the speaker uses the latter, they are certain that "[It] is not a cat." Is that right?

Based on my limited experience, I feel like じゃないか and じゃないのか can be used interchangeably. Is it true?

It would be great if anyone can explain the usage of each version じゃない I listed above.

4
  • 2
    They are more intonation-dependent than context-dependent and it's not easy to cover all possible intonations.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Feb 19 at 20:40
  • か/のだ/のか are simply a matter of style. With or without them, the meaning can be the same. 猫なの... would usually assume a different context (I think there are too many possibilities - e.g. discussing some animal which does not look like a cat).
    – sundowner
    Commented Feb 19 at 23:08
  • 1
    These aren't really variations on how じゃない is used. The distinction between 猫 and 猫なの stands independent of the rest. Similarly for whether explanatory-の is used (it works the same way here as it would in other contexts) and whether a question is explicitly marked with か or implied by intonation (it works the same way as for other questions). Commented Feb 20 at 7:58

1 Answer 1

3

This is a matter of intonation. か without a rising intonation expresses a sense of surprise or exclamation. Also in English, "~, isn't it" at the end of a sentence can sound totally different depending on its intonation.

  • 猫[じゃない]{LLHL}。⤵ It's not a cat.
    猫[じゃない]{LLLL}。⤵ Oh it's a cat!
    猫じゃない?⤴ Isn't it a cat?
  • 猫なんじゃない。⤵ It's not that it's a cat.
    猫なんじゃない?⤴ So it's a cat, no?
  • 猫じゃないか!⤵ Wow, this is a cat, isn't it!?
    猫じゃないか?⤴ Isn't it a cat?
  • 猫じゃないのか!⤵ Oh, so this is not a cat!
    猫じゃないのか?⤴ (Wait,) it's not a cat?

Similar distinction exists also with non-negative sentences:

  • 猫。⤵ A cat.
    猫?⤴ A cat?
  • 猫ですか。⤵ Okay, so it's a cat. / Oh, so you're talking about a cat.
    猫ですか?⤴ Is it a cat? / Oh, so you're talking about a cat?
  • なぜですか!⤵ Hey, why!? / That's absurd!
    なぜですか?⤴ Why is it?

じゃないか and じゃないのか are sometimes interchangeable, but only the latter contains explanatory-の. For example, when you suddenly encounter someone on the roadside, you must say "田中じゃないか!" but not "田中じゃないのか!".

You must log in to answer this question.

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