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The way of turning 赤 into an adjective is adding い, but what does it mean when instead of a い you put a く?

I found it in this phrase:

私のリンゴは赤くありません。

I get the meaning but not the meaning of く.

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1 Answer 1

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Keep in mind that Japanese "adjectives" function differently from English adjectives. You are in this case asking us about a い-adjective, 赤い. Those adjectives differ from the な-adjectives, for example 有名{ゆうめい}な:

  • The い or な is attached to those adjectives when used as epithets, i.e. they are attached to a noun:

    有名な人、赤いリンゴ.

  • な-adjectives are used with the copula, dropping the な:

    この人は有名(です・でした・ではありません)

  • い-adjectives are "conjugated", you can use them without modifying the copula (sometimes even remove it entirely)! In your example

    このリンゴは赤い(です)。

    If you to turn this sentence into a negative one, you modify the adjective, by appending ~くない, i.e. このリンゴは赤くない(です). See for example this page or this one.

    このリンゴは赤いではありません。

    is not a correct sentence.

Then, as mentioned in the related answer ~くありません is the polite form of ~くない. Thus, it is the polite negative form of the adjective.

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  • です isn't really a copula in 赤いです, it's a politeness marker: ① it doesn't inflect, the adjective does, ② the adjective is complete without it, ③ there is no *赤いだ. So in short, it doesn't do what a copula does, but it does mark the adjective as polite.
    – user1478
    Mar 29, 2018 at 19:09

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