My understanding --admittedly limited-- is that in Japanese, people say as much as they can with as little words as possible. So I wondered why ないだろう would be used in everyday speaking instead of まい? The latter seems shorter and easier to use than the former.

  • Your understanding is very flawed. For the quickest counter-example available, I recommend most 丁寧語 forms (but really, all of Japanese should work for that purpose).
    – Dave
    Commented May 20, 2012 at 16:49
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    I wonder sometimes if people really fully read the posts. I already said my understanding is limited. So your first sentence was unnecessary. Then you mention: most 丁寧語 forms without any link or explanation. But ok, thanks for posting.
    – dotnetN00b
    Commented May 20, 2012 at 18:04
  • I'd say that most if not all people posting questions here have some "flaw" (even if it's a minor one) on their understanding of Japanese, and it shouldn't be considered negative here. :)
    – atlantiza
    Commented May 20, 2012 at 19:20
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    I think we still use まい in daily conversations, only in a phrase「~~じゃあるまいし。」, e.g. 「小学生じゃあるまいし、それくらいわかるだろ?」「何駄々こねてんだ、子どもじゃあるまいし!」「聖徳太子じゃあるまいし、そんないっぺんに喋られて分かるか!」「完璧になんかできねえよ、機械じゃあるまいし。」etc...n-lab.org/library/mondai/…
    – user1016
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 6:17
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    With so much talk about flaws, how could I not make an appearance? =D
    – Flaw
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 16:01

1 Answer 1


To answer the question in the title, yes, it is generally only used in literary text and, I would say less often, on TV. It could also potentially be used in a really formal speech or something like that.

I remember in my 9th or 10th month of studying the language I tried this out on a Japanese friend, saying something like 行くまい instead of 行かないだろう. I got a weird look followed by a laugh, and he explained that it would never be used this way. The only explanation he could offer was that it sounded archaic, and this is the reason it's not generally used - the same reason that we don't start using old English in English conversations.

Sure, it's fair to say that users of the Japanese language tend to shorten things a lot, but that's not to say that the shortest way is always the normal or "modern" way. For example, the archaic form いかぬ meaning いけない is not used in modern Japanese.

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    But the derived form いかん is.
    – Angelos
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 12:28

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