In the Japanese version of "don't drink and drive" slogan, 【乗るなら飲むな】 (also 【飲んだら乗るな】), what part of speech is the な that follows the plain verb 飲む (or 乗る in the second variation) to form the negative imperative verb form?

At first I thought it was a conjugation, but a conjugation modifies the verb that it attaches to, whereas 飲む and 乗る are left unmodified before the な. I am thinking maybe it is a special usage of the な particle, but I don't discount the possibility that it is entirely a different species.

Also, what of its origin? Did it come from abbreviation of longer clauses like 「飲む無しに(して/しろ)」 etc, or from something else?


3 Answers 3


It's the strongest, tersest form of negative. It always follows a plain form verb. I have no idea of the origin; it's pretty old though:)

Regarding the origin, it goes back to at least the 8th century in this form:


大和道は雲隠れたりしかれども吾が振る袖をなめしと思ふ(万葉集、筑紫娘子) こちふかば匂ひおこせよ梅の花あるじなしとて春を忘る(拾遺集、菅原道真)

Source: http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~sg2h-ymst/yamatouta/intro/josi05.html#ab17


It's the Prohibition particle

If na follows a dictionary form verb, it is a negative command ("Don't... "). However, if used with a verb stem, it implies the opposite: "Do..."

  • You did not misunderstand the question; it's the kind of answer I'm looking for. So the な is a sentence-ending particle. Thanks. Do you also happen to know the etymology of the particle? (like stated in the question, I'm suspecting that it's an abbreviation of some longer expressions)
    – Lukman
    Jun 28, 2011 at 16:10
  • o ok i don't know about the etymology of the な particle in this usage though, guess we'd have to wait for someone else to answer it (i'm also pretty interested to know the answer =P)
    – Pacerier
    Jun 28, 2011 at 16:49
  • @Pacerier It would be nice if you could edit this into an actual answer, rather than another question. Seems a bit comment-y. :)
    – rintaun
    Jun 29, 2011 at 11:18
  • ok edited. what's comment-y btw?
    – Pacerier
    Jun 29, 2011 at 13:51
  • 3
    I would say that the claim that this な is “used only by men in very informal speech” is completely wrong. It is used also in written text, it is not informal at all, and it is used by both male speakers and female speakers. It is a direct and terse form of prohibition, and using it can be impolite in many cases because of its directness. The author of the page may be confusing its directness with informality and masculinity. Jun 29, 2011 at 14:03

As others have noted, な following the plain form of a verb is the abrupt command form for "don't [verb]". As far as the origin goes, this is the root of modern verb ending and adjective ない "not".

Note that this negative な is decidedly not the same as the affirmative な used after a verb stem in the 連用形{れんようけい} continuative form (ending in -i or -e). That な is actually an abbreviated form of なさい.

As such, the following two mean almost exactly the opposite:

  • XX たべるな
  • XX たべな

The first one means "don't eat XX", while the second means "do eat XX". Both are command forms, with the first one more abrupt / rude than the second.

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