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.

  • なくない? is sometimes used by the young as a tag-question. Jan 21 '20 at 13:00
  • @Yuuichi Tam - you mean like じゃない?
    – mic
    Jan 21 '20 at 13:15
  • Yes, it's a slang. おいしくなくない? (It is not delicious, is it?) Jan 21 '20 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
    Jan 21 '20 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. Jan 21 '20 at 14:07

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:


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:


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.


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.

It doesn't taste bad.

I wouldn't go so far as to say "not busy".


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:


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

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.