It's not the first time I hear it, but I've found it in this scene. I understand that, as in 知る or 始まる, a started action whose consequence remains is expressed in continuous form. However, I thought that the negative form was constructed in present or past, as 知らない or 始まらなかった, but not in continuous. I find examples as the linked video using instead the negation of the continuous (見ていない). In this case I would've used 「見なかった」.

Am I missing something or is it a slang transformation? In that case, which form should be used? Thanks a lot!


EDIT: corrected misspelling/bad grammar. Tremendous lapsus :(

  • Please use a spell checker next time. Sep 6, 2011 at 21:59
  • I do not think that it is fair for you to claim that you corrected misspelling and bad grammar, because it is me who corrected most of them. Sep 8, 2011 at 20:50
  • @Tsuyoshi Ito - I think the OP just meant that he corrected the 「見なくなかった」 part, but I agree that it would be more gracious of him to acknowledge your contribution.
    – rdb
    Sep 8, 2011 at 21:11

2 Answers 2


I hear 「まだ見ていない。」, which seems entirely normal, comparable to the English construction "I still haven't seen it." => "I'm in a still-continuing state of not seeing it." I suppose there's some element of volition here; it's still possible for her to see it if she wants to. For example, if a pterodactyl flew overhead, and you missed seeing it, you would say 「見なかった」. You're no longer in a state of being able to see it, even if you wanted to. It wouldn't make sense to express it as a continuing state in such a case.

BTW, is 「見なくなかった」 a typo?

  • Addendum: in the context of the video, it implies that she wants to see it. If it was みなかった, then it may mean that she's not interested in seeing it in the first place.
    – syockit
    Sep 7, 2011 at 11:04
  • +1 Spot on, and a good contrast between the state of being able to see something at any time versus missing a one-time event. Sep 7, 2011 at 13:46
  • @syockit - In fact, she explicitly says she wants to see it: 「自分の目で確かめたいの。」
    – rdb
    Sep 7, 2011 at 17:07
  • Definitely the pterodactyl example confirmed what I get to know after a while. Just wasn't very sure about it. @rdb : And well, that thing I wrote was not a typo, was a "lapsus menti", don't know if this latinism is used in english. I messed myself up. But in the title and in 始まらなかった of course I conjugated right, so forget it ^^' Thanks for your comments people!
    – raneq
    Sep 8, 2011 at 18:22
  • @ferran - We Americans, being much less refined than our British cousins, would say "brain fart".(笑)
    – rdb
    Sep 8, 2011 at 22:06

I second @syockit's comment above. 「〜なかった」 is neutral with respect to volition, while, for volitional verbs such as 「見る」, 「書く」 and 「行く」, the 「〜て〔い〕る」 construction implies volition. This means 「〜て〔い〕ない」 shows volition but lack of execution/completion. Here's an example:

「小論、できました? Did you get your essay finished?」

  • 「いいえ、しませんでした・しなかったです No, I didn't do it.」
  • 「いいえ、〔まだ〕していません・して〔い〕ないです No, I haven't done it (yet).」
  • 「いいえ、〔まだ〕できていません・〔い〕ないです No, it isn't done (yet) / I haven't gotten it finished (yet)」

People drop the イ to make it more colloquial/less formal. Don't confuse this with 「〜てある・てない」, which is used to talk about the continuing result of a transitive verb:

  • 「ドアが開いている The door is open (neutral)」
  • 「ドアが開けてある The door is in the state of having been opened (implies an agent)」
  • 1
    (1) Neither “いいえ、しませんでした” nor “いいえ、しなかったです” is an appropriate response to “小論、できました?” (2) “Door” is ドア (or possibly ドアー (which sounds old-fashioned to me)), not ドーア. Sep 7, 2011 at 14:30
  • Thanks, but could you explain why 「しませんでした」 would be inappropriate here? Would 「書きませんでした」 also be inappropriate? Sep 7, 2011 at 15:00
  • In fact, I do not know what you mean by しませんでした or 書きませんでした in this context. If you want to say “I have not even started to write it,” it would be いいえ、書き始めてもいません, but that would be unrelated to the question. Sep 7, 2011 at 15:25
  • What if the speaker had no intention of writing the essay? It's my understanding that 「書いていない」 means "I haven't written it yet (but I intend to)", while 「書かなかった」 means "I didn't write it (and, possibly, I don't intend to)." Sep 7, 2011 at 15:36
  • 1
    I don't see anything wrong with the English sentence, but maybe it's just me. In a high school classroom the person asking the question may have the expectation that the other party is going to do the essay, but that doesn't mean that the other party is intending to do it. If he or she willfully or neglectfully didn't write the essay despite knowing it was due, it seems to me that "I didn't do it," would fit perfectly. It establishes that the person didnt write the essay, while being intentionally vague about any intent to get it finished. Sep 7, 2011 at 23:58

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