I'm trying to find out the correct translation for "Teacher's major was not English." I'm currently learning the Past Tense of Verbs on Genki 1, and for past-negative, it says that "〜ませんでした” is used, but when I went on to Google Translator, it shows ”では” after the word "英語。” What does "では” do in that sentence? And which sentence is correct? "先生の選考は英語ではありませんでした” or ”先生の選考は英語ませんでした” ?

  • You mean 専攻, not 選考(selection).
    – sundowner
    Commented May 2 at 1:06
  • Yes, mistyped that. Commented May 2 at 1:09
  • Since 英語 is not a verb, the 2nd one doesn't work. I don't have the textbook, but it should explain the case with copula (です) somewhere.
    – sundowner
    Commented May 2 at 1:11
  • I see, thank you! Commented May 2 at 1:15

1 Answer 1


ませんでした must always follow the masu-stem (aka pre-masu-form) of a verb, such as 食べ, 歩き, and 言い. However, 英語 is not a verb but a simple noun, and that's why you cannot directly connect 英語 and ません.

To say "is not <noun>", you need to say "<noun>ではありません". You have learned how to say something like これは本ではありません ("This is not a book"), right? You can form its past version simply by adding でした at the end.

Compare the following sentences:

  • 先生の専攻は英語です。
    Teacher's major is English. (present)
  • 先生の専攻は英語でした。
    Teacher's major was English. (past)
  • 先生の専攻は英語ではありません。
    Teacher's major is not English. (negative present)
  • 先生の専攻は英語ではありませんでした。
    Teacher's major was not English. (negative past)

(By the way, this あり is actually a kind of verb, but you may forget this fact now.)

  • Ohh, I see, thank you! Commented May 2 at 21:53

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