In response to the question 「もう昼ご飯を食べましたか。」how do the following replies differ in meaning?


I tried to understand the differences through this website where it's written entirely in Japanese. http://www.alc.co.jp/jpn/article/soudan/028.html Unfortunately I don't understand much of what they're saying and so I've turned to you guys for help :)

4 Answers 4


まだ食べていない means "I haven't eaten it yet".

まだ食べない means "I won't eat it for the time being".


Apparently the meaning of "まだ…~ない(ません)" differs depending on the type of a verb.

transitive verbs or intransitive verbs (unergative):


Have you eaten yet?
No, I haven't eaten yet.


Are you going to eat now?
No, I'm not going to eat yet.

intransitive verbs (unaccusative):


Have the cherry blossoms bloomed yet?
No, the cherry blossoms haven't bloomed yet.

I believe that the answer to the question of "もう...~ましたか" is usually "まだ..~ていません" in Japanese daily conversation.

→ungrammatical sentence

And as an exception, there is a case that the answer of "まだ..~ません" is possible. I said things that I researched about that as above. link
Though, I think that an conversation of the website in the question is not applicable to this case. That sounds strange for me.

  • 1
    I don't think it's related to morphosyntactic structure... Apr 29, 2016 at 7:41
  • ^ Neither do I...
    – chocolate
    Apr 29, 2016 at 8:01
  • As for a conversation example of that website, that is as follows in direct style. 「もうご飯食べた?」「まだ食べない」 I feel that is rude because of lack of representation. At least I don't reply like this. :(
    – nariuji
    Apr 29, 2016 at 10:32
  • @broccoli forest Well, I don't know the details. What do you think of this case of B? A.「もう宿題は終わりましたか」「まだ終わっていません/まだ終わりません」…OK B.「もう宿題を終えましたか」「まだ終えていません…OK/まだ終えません…?」 That looks like a typical mistake of Japanese grammar that is seen from the viewpoint of English grammar.
    – nariuji
    May 3, 2016 at 14:28
  • @nariuji Methinks まだ終えません is only untypical, not grammatically wrong. Actually you can say まだ終えません。明日好きな女の子と一緒に勉強する約束をしてるからです。 May 3, 2016 at 18:26

From what I understand (which may or may not be correct), the nuance is on the implied intent.

→ まだ食べません would be "I'm not eating yet". There is some implicit meaning that you are going to eat next, or very soon. Emphasis is put on the action.

→ まだ食べていません would be "I haven't eaten". In that case, the emphasis is put on the fact that you have not eaten, but you don't have any information regarding whether you are going to eat or not, or even if you want to.

  • 3
    There is some implicit meaning that you are going to eat next, or very soon I think it's quite the opposite. "I'm not eating yet" sounds like you have no intention of eating now or anytime soon (even in English, right?).
    – Earthliŋ
    Apr 26, 2016 at 12:02
  • You're right, thanks for pointing that out. I forgot the present tense in English could also be used for the near future. Perhaps "I have not eaten yet", then? The keyword here being "yet". Or maybe, "I am currently not eating yet", putting emphasis on the fact that right now, I am not eating, but I implicitly expect that to change soon. An actual native English speaker would probably be more helpful than me in that case. Either way, I do hope my understanding of the Japanese was correct, even though I couldn't find a proper comparison with English!
    – Thibalator
    Apr 26, 2016 at 14:32

alc.co.jp seems to be a very nice website that I just bookmarked. There are a lot of kanjis but they are using simple Japanese.

いいえ、まだ食べていません。Emphasis is put on the current state (of the conversation). Well at least this is what they want to say by 現在の状態.

いいえ、まだ食べません。Emphasis is put on the fact that whether the action is over or not, has been accomplished/realized or not.

On the first part they are saying that for this question:



They say that this answer is correct if the answer is talking about a certain time in the past. For example you could use it to say: I wasn’t there at 7pm: 7時にはいませんでした。

However since the hidden meaning of this question is «You were not back home YET yesterday». You cannot use いませんでした and have to say いいえ、まだ(帰って)いませんでした。

When asking this question:

もう読みましたか? Have you read it yet?



All those answers are correct and adapted to the situation. But what’s the difference then ? Well here the difference is whether you want to continue talking about the fact you read your book or not.
You could say for example: まだ読んでいないので、ニュースを知らない。
If you say まだ食べていません, your friend could answer じゃ、おなかがすいたでしょう。

This is a summary of what this article is saying which is true however is that really helping your understanding? I don’t think so. Here is my version:
When you are talking in Japanese you are always saying things implicitly, but Japanese know that so they won’t talk about those implicit meanings.

If your friend asks you もう昼ご飯を食べましたか and you answer まだ食べません, that might be correct grammatically but that’s rude.
It’s like: Have you already eaten lunch? yo I don’t eat yet in a polite way (まだ食べません).
However if your question is もう昼ご飯を食べる時間ですか? (Is it already time to eat lunch?) you may answer まだ食べません (We don’t eat yet).
The important detail to me is the difference between まだ食べていません and まだ食べません which is 食べていない and 食べない.

食べていない is the negative from of 食べてる. 食べてる means « the fact of being eating » at the moment which means I am eating right now. Well that’s the contrary ? « the fact of not being eating right now » (I’m not eating right now). If you add まだ you are basically adding « not yet » to the sentence, negative + negative = positive so まだ食べてない means I haven’t eaten yet. (I haven’t realized the action of « being eating » yet which means I haven’t eaten yet). This form is like present continuous in English.
食べる may be used to talk about the present and true facts. For example: It’s a fact that it’s not the time to eat right now.
So if you have already eaten you would answer もう食べた because that fact is over and not もう食べてた.
If you ask 11時にもう食べてた? (Were you already eating at 11am?) you have to answer もう食べてた because the fact was not over at 11am, it was still happening.

If you understand the true meanings and differences of 食べる, 食べてる, 食べない, 食べてない, picking one of those will be obvious.

This is all about context. If a girl asks you at 12am もう昼ご飯を食べましたか? and you answer まだ食べません. This is about the present and/or true facts: right now I don’t/won’t eat, it’s a fact I don’t/won’t eat now. She might think for example you don’t want to eat it / you don’t want to eat with her / you can’t eat right now.
However if you answer まだ食べてない there is no misunderstanding possible, you open the door for her to ask you out for lunch.

About the examples in the article :

A : いいえ、読みませんでした。: I didn’t read it.

B : いいえ、まだ読みません。: « I don’t read it yet » (which doesn’t really mean anything). Again this is about present or true facts. Right now I don’t read this book, I won’t read this book for some reasons so maybe you don’t like this book and you don’t want to read it.

C : いいえ、まだ読んでいません。: I didn’t read, but you imply that you are planning to read it, so it means you want/have interest to read this book.

Here answer B is fine because you are talking about a book, you are not answering to a person, you can’t be rude to a book.

So I think you should definitively answer いいえ、まだ食べていません。whether you continue your sentence or not, that's what people use 99,99% of time.


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