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Does it exist as such, the double negation of an i-adjective, e.g.: おいしくなくない? I was told that I should use おいしくなく は ない instead. Is that right? Is it a rule? Would it depend on context which was a question like: Are the meals at that restaurant good? Or is it just the style of the person I talked to?

Of course, I could also use e.g. まずくない instead, but this is not the question here.

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  • なくない? is sometimes used by the young as a tag-question. Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 13:00
  • @Yuuichi Tam - you mean like じゃない?
    – mic
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 13:15
  • Yes, it's a slang. おいしくなくない? (It is not delicious, is it?) Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 13:40
  • @Yuuichi Tam - Don't you mean: She is cute, isn't she? With your translation just ない would be the tag-question and not なくない.
    – mic
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 13:49
  • 彼女はかわいくない?(She is cute, isn't she?) 彼女はかわいくなくない?(She is not cute, is she?). However, adults rarely say the latter. Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 14:07

3 Answers 3

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The double negation of i-adjectives not only exists, but it is quite commonly used among us native speakers when expressing opinions indirectly.

Take 「おいしい」 ("tasty") for example, by far the most common double-negative form would be:

「おいしくなくない」

which means:

"(the food) is okay/passable if not great"

That sounds fairly indirect, doesn't it? The direct phrase would simply be 「まずい」 ("bad-tasting") or 「おいしくない」, which would often be considered too direct for the Japanese taste (pun intended).

We also say:

「おいしくなくない」

which means practically the same thing as 「おいしくなくない」.

I do not think that careful speakers would use 「おいしくなくない」 with no particle between the 「なく」 and 「ない」 to mean the same as the two above. I would, however, not be surprised if I heard it in careless hurried speech.

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I think you may occasionally hear some ギャル say これ美味しくなくない? when, for example, going to a highly reviewed restaurant, being somewhat disappointed by the food, then asking a friend for affirmation.

In normal speech, however, you will quite commonly hear people say double negatives with a particle in between.

美味しくなくはない。
It doesn't taste bad.

忙しくなくはない。
I wouldn't go so far as to say "not busy".

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From a grammatical point of view you can make double or triple or whatever-iple negations, though it's not something you'd throw in a normal conversation. As an example from Ace Attorney:

-そんなことないよ。
-そんなことなくないッ!
-そんなことなくなくない!
-そんなことなくなくなくなくなく...

With exception of comic effect I hardly can imagine situation where you may need this.

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