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What is the difference between 決して~ない and まったく~ない?

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There's definitely an overlap in the "completely/absolute" domain between 決して...ない and まったく...ない

If we want to split them apart, then Chocolate has a good pair of sentences to help illustrate the difference:

「決して忘れません」

= definitely don't forget.

決して usually relates to volition or decisional completeness / finality.

Or the opposite of not being committed to remembering.

Command-related usage is quite common for 決して so it also has a kind of 必ず sense.

「全くわかりません」

=I don't understand at all

Or we could say there's nothing in the contents I understand (the opposite of understanding all of the contents).

まったく relates to completeness of things.


A further signal other than looking at usage that tells us 決して is more formal is that 決して depends on the 音読み of  whereas まったく when written in kanji uses one of the 訓読み of 全.

0

They basically mean the same thing, except the latter is more informal.

  • 3
    でも・・「全くわかりません」I don't understand at all「決して忘れません」I'll never forget は「決してわかりません」「全く忘れません」には言い換えられないですよね・・・ – Chocolate Jun 1 '18 at 4:04
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    Hmm, I also thought they mean the same thing, but @Chocolate is right, those are not interchangeable. Maybe contrasting the same verb with those two forms might help think through the subtle difference, like 「決して言わない」 vs 「全く言わない」 – Kohsuke Kawaguchi Jun 1 '18 at 5:23
  • there's also 一切...ない – Igor Skochinsky Jun 1 '18 at 8:40

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