Can you help me with this line?


I know that (ん)じゃない doesn't necessarily make the sentence to be negative and when it comes to じゃない, intonation matters, so it's difficult sometimes to understand the meaning when you see it written.
The sentence I wrote doesn't have a question mark or か at the end that would have made me believe the speaker is using a rising intonation, so how can this line be interpreted?
The speaker wanted to save her mother, she regrets that she wasn't able to do it, thus I don't think she's saying "I didn't want to save her".
I'm not sure how the sentence would sound like...

  • Supposing this is a question, whose desire would she be asking about? Hers? Would that make sense to you?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 8:32
  • @aguijonazo It would be the speaker's. I don't understand if she want to say "I wanted to help/save mother" (didn't I?). It would have been easier if the sentence was 母さんを助けたくなかった ( I did not want to save her), because the sentence I wrote, formally it would be 助けたかったのではない , right? Which would have the meaning 助けたくなかった。 The speaker has a line after the one I wrote which is ambiguous, saying 私は母さんに– ("by mother). It doesn't say what the speaker wanted from their mother, I assume they wanted for her (the mother) to be the one to save the speaker (daughter). Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 8:49
  • Unless there is some really weird context, "It's not that I wanted to save my mother" is the natural interpretation. If you have doubts, please share the context in original Japanese. I guess this sentence is followed by a sentence explaining the speaker's intent.
    – naruto
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 9:04
  • I think that it might be like you said, that's how I considered that it might be the case, although it seemed contradictory with the character's story. Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 9:10
  • I think a few more surrounding lines would be helpful for us to understand the context. In any case, I don’t think that line with a rising intonation would make sense. It would make her sound like she is casually mentioning her opinion about what she might have wanted to do as if she were observing someone else.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


Like this case, じゃない works as an emphasis. So if it matches the context, 私は母さんを助けたかったんじゃない can be 私は母さんを助けたかった with emphasis added. That is, not a negative sentence.


Using the example in the linked post, きれいじゃない could mean

  1. きれいじゃない? (rising tone) Isn't it beautiful?
  2. きれいじゃない (falling tone) (a) It is not beautiful / (b) It is beautiful

The difference (of tone) between 1 and 2 is clear. That between 2a and 2b, to me, is something like the following.

  • 2a is pronounced like there is a pause between じゃ and ない. Or ない is pronounced distinctly. With exaggeration, it could be written じゃぁない.
  • In 2b, じゃない is pronounced as a single word.

I'm bad at explaining pronunciations, sorry if this is not very clear.


I found an article on the web. The sentence in the question should be considered as 強め用法 on page 6.

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