What is the difference between 全く vs 全然? Is there a preference between using 全く or 全然 in essay writing?

Is this true:

全部 (zenbu) all [casual]
全て (subete) all [formal]

  • 全然〜ない (zenzen nai) not 〜 at all [casual]
  • 全く〜ない (mattaku nai) not 〜 at all [formal]
  • 3
    Yes, I think that's true. And you'd better know that you can say 全くだ to mean '' Absolutely!'' or ''I'llsay.'' when you agree about what someone said. You cannot say 全然だ as the same meanig as 全くだ. You would say 全然だ when you deny what someone said in informal spoken language.
    – Toshihiko
    Nov 17, 2015 at 1:25
  • 1
    @Toshihiko Why not post that as an answer rather than a comment?
    – user1478
    Nov 17, 2015 at 13:35
  • @snailboat: I wasn't sure that my comment was worth an answer because I could not make a logical explanation...
    – Toshihiko
    Nov 17, 2015 at 13:43
  • @Toshihiko Is there a preference between using 全く or 全然 in essay writing?
    – 450F
    Nov 17, 2015 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


I think you had better use 全{まった}く than 全然{ぜんぜん} in your essay because 全然 carries a bit stronger emotional overtones than 全く does. 全然 probably gives an informal, easy, friendly, or familiar impression.

It's no problem for you to use 全然 in conversation or in E-mail to your friend, however, it isn't appropriate for a serious or polite essay.

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