The author is complaining that she hates men's cooking but acknowledges that somewhere in the world there may be some that she likes. She then says:

However, more accurately, I should probably say that I haven't come to like any of the men's cooking that I've eaten up until now.

I don't understand the function of the は in bold. I assume it's contrastive but I don't see what is being contrasted. I must admit that I'm not 100% happy with the は in ただしくは either. Perhaps it's related but I don't see how.

In fact the part I would expect to be contrasted, given the context, is 今まで. That's where I (no doubt wrongly) would have put the は. Confused.

  • There's also the explicit 私は right before 好きには, and my "gut feeling" is that she's very strongly emphasizing that it is her particular taste that hasn't been satisfied (as opposed to other people's). Almost like a "sorry guys, I know I'm picky" for politeness' sake. The 今まで combined with past-tense なれなかった (hasn't been able to) is probably already strongly implies the openness to the possibility that someday some guy's cooking will measure up. But my gut feeling is often wrong so... Jun 11, 2016 at 9:19
  • @WeirdlyCheezy: Without knowing any more context, the way she writes I'm almost certain that it's not the physical taste. It's probably something emotional. (だからただしくは is a dead giveaway). Jun 11, 2016 at 9:30
  • Sadly, although I saw that possibility, I'm not at the level yet where ただしくは is a "dead giveaway". I read it as "the previous sentence was imprecise, too harsh, too absolutist, etc" but took it at face value. Thanks for the hint! Jun 11, 2016 at 10:17
  • @WeirdlyCheezy: I guess it's a bit of a cliche. When one says ただしくは the theme almost always has to be "profound", and it'd be a bit odd to use it for mundane things. E.g. ただしくは、今日は餃子が食べたい is very odd whereas ただしくは、餃子はもはや日本食であるというべきだ sounds natural. Jun 11, 2016 at 13:11

4 Answers 4


It modifies 好きになれなかった and adds an emphasis that the statement relates only to 好きに.

To explain by example,


In both cases は is used to signify that you didn't feel something, but did feel something else. The effect persists if you just say: 気持ち悪くはなかった the implication is that while you didn't feel nauseous, you did feel something else (probably a bit weak etc. which is inferred from the context).

This effect was then adapted as a softner. For example, to limit the rudeness of the statement あの子は賢くない, you can say あの子は賢くはない. Both state the same thing but the latter is less harsh because it implies there may be some other redeeming virtues (or to interpret differently, the speaker is implicitly adding (I don't know about other aspects so this statement only relates to the aspect I know which is the kids' intelligence).

Back to your example, it acts as a softner. The author might have just added it solely to soften the sentence, or implies there is some positive feeling he/she had regarding the cooking (maybe he/she at least felt grateful or whatever).

  • I upvote yours. I'm thinking it's more important to point out that は basically stands for partial negation when combined with negative forms of adjective before explaining the seasoned conventional usage.
    – user4092
    Jun 13, 2016 at 7:26

I would say that は after 好きに is not thematic nor contrastive. Calling it "emphatic" could be misleading. That は is purely optional, and the nuance of the sentence will not change a bit without it.

Please read this question and the accepted answer, especially the last paragraph.

Why is the topic marker often used in negative statements (ではない, ~とは思わない)?

It seems to me that originally, the pattern ~ではない was used to only mark a strong contrast of the entire predication to something else (e.g. something that was said or implied before by someone else), but later became more and more popularized until what originally was a contrast marker became an almost necessary feature of the negative form.

This kind of は can be almost necessary in main clauses which is negative, as discussed in the linked question. But I feel it tends to be often purely optional in sub-clauses.

  1. [?] これは彼の本でない。 (a bit unnatural)
  2. これは彼の本ではない。 (good)
  3. これは彼の本でない可能性がある。 (good)
  4. これは彼の本ではない可能性がある。 (good)

I can see almost no difference between 3 and 4. To me, neither is more politer, softer, more formal, etc. than the other.

  • Sorry, I gave the tick before you answered. @enno shioji's answer sounded very plausible. But then, so does your's. Sometimes there's no definitive correct answer and it's just a matter of opinion. It's not clear to me if this is the case here. I'll leave the tick for now and hope that further comments/votes make it clear what I should do. Jun 11, 2016 at 11:43
  • There is a lot of good information in this answer, but I was wondering about one thing: isn't ではない,ではありません a bit of a special case? The linked answer also mentions that copular negative is "special". To what degree can we extrapolate things applicable to では to e.g., this question's には? Jun 11, 2016 at 11:55
  • I feel a bit difference between 好きにはなれない and 好きになれない as Enno Shioji said. Jun 11, 2016 at 12:20
  • 1
    I'd argue there's definitely a difference when at least the verb isn't "neutral". E.g. consider ニュースを聞いても悲しく思わなかった vs. ニュースを聞いても悲しくは思わなかった. There is definitely a difference in nuance between the two. The former simply states the fact, while the later strongly implies that I wasn't sad (but I did feel something, albeit it wasn't sadness). Jun 11, 2016 at 12:57
  • Of course there are times when は is clearly contrasitive (like in the examples given by you and broccori forest). But every time you hear "ニュースを聞いても悲しくは思わなかった", do you really wonder "What else did you feel then"? I don't think so. In most cases, this means he was not sad, and that's all. People say 悲しくは思わなかった just because it sounds more common and natural than 悲しく思わなかった. On the other hand, 悲しくは思った or 彼のことを好きにはなった is always nuanced; I would certainly expect something contrasted to this statement.
    – naruto
    Jun 11, 2016 at 14:09

When a verb, adjective or adverb receives は and there doesn't seem to be anything contrasted with, it's likely that "yes" and "no", "is" and "isn't", or "do" and "don't" are contrasted. So these expressions often tell reluctant and/or comparative judgment "yes rather than no" or "no rather than yes".

泳げするが、ちょっと遅い I AM able to swim, just a bit slow

少し不自然であるが、気にならない It does have some weirdness, but isn't really distractive

Usage in ただしくは is more like thematic は; this ただしく won't fit in the sentence after, but is the overall theme that takes the rest as the rheme. It's compared to English parenthetic expression such as "to be accurate". cf. 本当は "to tell the truth", 厳密には "strictly speaking", 基本的には "basically", 私/僕/俺的には "IMHO; if you ask me" etc.

  • How about 泳げはするが、走れはしない? Jun 11, 2016 at 13:44
  • @YuuichiTam その場合は「泳げる」と「走れる」が対立してます。"there doesn't seem to be anything contrasted with" の場合はこういう意味になる、ということが言いたかったんです。 Jun 11, 2016 at 17:48

は has mainly three usages as topic maker, emphasis, and contrast.

I think は in 私は好きにはなれなかった is used as emphasis because this sentence don't have the comparable target as you said.

If your sentence is 今までは, this は is used as contrast because 今まで can compare これから.

  • What's the "emphasis" usage?
    – user4092
    Jun 12, 2016 at 4:14
  • @ user4092 I think it is a bit difficult to distinguish a emphasis and contrast because it is according to speaker's animus and nuance. I think if there isn't a comparable target and the phrase without は make sense like OP's one, it seems likely a usage of emphasis. For example, 泣いたりはしないぞ(this is my dictionary's example). 喜ばずにはいられない(this is goo dictionary's example) Jun 12, 2016 at 6:57
  • Thanks, I got it. It seems to mean the one that correspond with negative predicates. "Emphasis" is a misleading term, though.
    – user4092
    Jun 12, 2016 at 17:09

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