I have the following sentence in my grammar book:

My younger sister is neither a pianist nor a singer.

When the book has affirmative sentences, it uses も after each of the nouns. But in this sentence, it uses でも instead.

All of the textbooks I have read only has the meaning of でも as "but" when used at the start of a new sentence — they don't mention this kind of use at all.

Is this the でも particle with a new meaning or a combination of で AND も, where the で does the negation? Or does the で mean something else entirely?

EDIT: It does not look like でも is always used for the negative sentences:

Neither Mr Ross nor Mr Hill are bank employees.

1 Answer 1


Think about it like this:

ピアニストです。 'is a pianist'
   歌手です。 'is a singer'

To negate this, we'll want to split です up into で+あります:

ピアニストで あります。 'is a pianist'
   歌手で あります。 'is a singer'

Now we can negate あります and insert は to go with the negation:

ピアニストで ありません。 'is not a pianist'
   歌手で ありません。 'is not a singer'

To put these both in one clause, we'll want to use も instead of は, because we're putting two like things together and negating both of them:

   歌手で ありません。 'is neither a pianist nor a singer'

Like you said, も here is like 'also'. The individual words don't correspond exactly to English words, so I can't say that it's exactly like 'also' or 'neither', but hopefully you can see how it fits together.

It's true that there's a particle でも, but that's not what we have here. In this case, we have the copular construction で+ある in polite form with the particle も inserted in between.

  • I did not realise that です could split like that. It now finally makes sense where the は comes from in "では ありません" - it was originally the subject particle in the sentence! Does this mean there could be a duplication of that particle (e.g. "My younger sister is not a pianist" => "私の妹はピアニストではありません") Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 3:33
  • Do you have any additional links or resources on the splitting of the あります predicate? I would like to learn more :) Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 14:37
  • @crystallisedidentity は in ではありません usually doesn't count as particle but you can also refer to: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/21235/7810 Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 15:04
  • 1
    @crystallisedidentity And it's more true to say であります contracts to です rather than です splits. It's like you can say "he's" for "he is" in English, but you must split them up when you say "he really is". Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 15:16
  • @broccoliforest, with my edit, I found an instance of a negative question that doesn't use でも but uses も. How do you know which one to choose? Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 13:08

You must log in to answer this question.

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