In English, abbreviated sentence structure can convey contempt, disgust, anger, etc. — "I'm a doctor, not a mechanic" has a much stronger impact than "I am a doctor. I am not a mechanic." Articles also strengthen impact - "I am the doctor" carries a strong implication, while "I am a doctor" is very mild.

How does that impact translate to Japanese, where negation is tied to the verb, and articles like 'a' and 'the' are implied/interchangeable? If I want to say "I am the wind, not the willow", it seems almost impossible to convey that same... ferocity? Or is there a way to express that impact?

私は風です seems fine enough to start.

私は風です、私は柳の木ではありません is the most literal translation, but feels like it has no impact.

私は風です、私は柳の木ではない has a little more impact, but seems to change the meaning.

私は風です、柳の木ではありません is stronger, but can I leave out 私は in that fashion?

私は風です、柳ではありません is the closest to what I'm trying to say, but does using 柳 for 柳の木 translate the same as saying Willow for Willow Tree in English? Or is that like saying "I am the blue". ...the blue what?

How do you convey the same impact of shortened English sentence structure?

  • 1
    Kindly consider that the best expertise probably comes from native Japanese, and some may be as bad in English as this non-native English speaker writing this, so while the "doctor" example was an "ESL-friendly one", the "wind / willow" one was not. Also, even in general, not needing to focus on 2 things: 1) translating sayings [Is that the right word? I mean, like, "you have guts" not being a medical statement] and 2) translating the "tone" , makes it easier to answer + makes the dialogue more helpful for also, not only Finns like me, but also other non-Japanese + non-English natives.
    – Tuomo
    Jul 20, 2019 at 14:35
  • Thank you for the feedback. It did occur to me that understanding what I'm trying to translate would be as difficult for a native Japanese speaker as translating it would be for an English speaker, but I'm not sure how to avoid that. The wind/willow statement is what I'm trying to translate, not an example.
    – James King
    Jul 21, 2019 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


It is actually much simpler than you appear to somewhat firmly believe. To give you the answer first, you can say:


「なく」is the 連用形{れんようけい} ("continuative form") of the adjective 「ない」; therefore, it can be correctly used mid-sentence and the sentence can still continue on. Use of 連用形 would surely help you write impactful sentences. For instance,

「空{そら}は青{あお}広{ひろ}い。」 is more concise and impactful than 「空は青、そして広い。」. 「青く」 is, of course, the 連用形 of 「青い」.

All of your own attempts are grammatical and they convey your intended meaning, but they sound too wordy. Using 「私」 twice in such a short passage makes your writing sound very "foreign".

Japanese is an extremely contextual language. If it is clear from the context that the speaker is talking about none other than himself, you will not have to use 「私」 even once. 「柳(の木)ではなく、風です。」 is a perfectly natural-sounding and grammatical sentence in Japanese.

but does using 柳 for 柳の木 translate the same as saying Willow for Willow Tree in English?

No, it does not. 「柳」 can refer both to the species of tree and the actual tree itself.

  • Thank you for that... sorry to take so long to accept, but I needed to absorb your answer, and time/life got the better of me for a bit. I knew I was reaching pretty far out of my level; thank you for an excellent and detailed answer.
    – James King
    Oct 8, 2019 at 4:01

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