I want to translate something like the following:

I watched a movie with together with my friends.
Not at all did I watch it alone.

Where the "not at all" is supposed to express obvious sarcasm regarding the alone-ness.
EDIT: Obvious sarcasm because "I" doesn't really have friends, except maybe imaginary ones etc.
The exact wording isn't really important. It should just sound like a complete and obvious rejection of alone. (If that makes any sense...)

So my attempt was:


I was told that this would not have my intended meaning because 全然{ぜんぜん} relates to just 見{み}なかった and not the whole sentence. So it would mean "Alone, I did not at all watch it."
As an alternative the following would be possible:


Since this is supposed to be a correction, I understand this to translate as "I really did not watch it alone." and not, analogously, as "Alone, I really did not watch it."

  1. If everything I'm assuming is correct, why do those two adverbs translate differently in this way, that is, why do they relate to different parts of the sentence? If not, what are my mistakes?

  2. What would be the best translation of my original sentence? Maybe



  • 2
    I'm a native speaker of AmE, and the sentence "not at all did I watch it alone" seems really strained to me...
    – virmaior
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 22:28
  • Is it understandable? What whould be better?
    – en_
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 22:39
  • I don't know what you're trying to say in English, then +sarcasm, then how to express the base sentence in Japanese, +some form of humor... Maybe "there's no way I would watch it alone"?
    – virmaior
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 22:56
  • Does my edit make it clear(er)?
    – en_
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 23:17
  • 1
    Do you mean that the speaker is desperately pretending having friends? And it smells that this post should be divided into two distinct questions... Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 2:24

1 Answer 1


Although I'm not sure I got the full meaning what you tried to show us in your examples, I think the difference between 本当に……ない and 全然……ない seems already obvious in your own translation.

As you said, 本当に means really, while 全然 means at all. Thus naturally, the former wants to modify the whole event, and the latter, the negation. Put simply, 全然 always looks for the closest "not", and 本当に looks for the closest predicate.

Now if the sentence has only one "not":

全然一人ではできない。 ≈ 一人では全然できない。
Both roughly means "I definitely can't do it alone."


全然書けないわけではない。 It's not that I can't write at all.
≠ 書けないわけでは全然ない。 It's definitely not that I can't write.

On the other hand, 本当に is:

本当に一人では危険だ。 Trust me, It's dangerous (going) alone. (i.e. "it is dangerous alone" is real.)
≠ 一人では本当に危険だ。 It's really dangerous (when you go) alone. (i.e. "be dangerous" is real.)

So you could say (a) 全然一人では見なかった。 is grammatically parallel to (b) 一人では本当に見なかった。, but not to (c) 本当に一人では見なかった。

Last but not least, I copied your example in (a), but I have to say the sentences (a) and (b) doesn't sound really natural to me.

For your second question, actually, if I were in the speaker's shoes, I wouldn't use either of those constructions. I'd instead say:


I still can't grasp the nuance of your "obvious sarcasm", but as you may know, 別に also is a typical tsundere expression to deny an obvious fact.

  • まあ、質問者の英語はなんか以外から、答えにくいと思います。
    – virmaior
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 12:12
  • Thank you! I guess I had something similar to your answer vaguely in my mind. I think it's clear to me now.
    – en_
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 20:23
  • I accept this answer. If someone were to answer my second question I guess a comment here would be alright. It's actually not that important...
    – en_
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 20:35
  • @broccoli forest: Thank you for answering my second question. I think this is actually quite close to what I wanted to say, good mind reading :)
    – en_
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 17:31

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