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In English, we can apply a negative adverb to a negative adjective to end up with a positive-pointing adjectival phrase - "less empty," "not small", "less mistaken", and so on. How would I say this in Japanese? Ah, in context I'm trying to maintain a parallel to an existing quote, so I definitely would like to say something of the form 「~[空]{から}の」

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「(  )[空]{から}の」

Correct me if I am wrong, but your assumption here seems to be that there must be a word to fill in that blank so that the whole phrase would mean "less empty".

If so, the answer is that there is no such word in Japanese.

The form we use for "less + adjective with negative meaning" would be:

「より + Adjective w/ Negative Meaning in its negative form」 or

「より + Antonym of Adjective w/ Negative Meaning」

These would be 「より空で(は)ない」 and 「よりたくさん[入]{はい}っている」, respectively. I must also add that with 「空の」, the latter expression would sound considerably more natural than the former. The former form would sound a little wordy to the majority of the native speakers.

Other examples:

"less mistaken" = 「より[間違]{まちが}っていない」 and 「より[正]{ただ}しい」

"less ugly" = 「より[醜]{みにく}くない」 and 「よりきれいな」

Again, the latter form would be the native speaker's choice in both cases.

  • Ah, excellent, thanks! I think the first version is nevertheless what I'm looking for - I'm riffing off of an existing quote involving a 「空の~」, so even if it's less natural it's important that it sound similar. – linkhyrule5 May 28 '16 at 18:30

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