While reading, I came across the following:


Translation: Riko and Mai stopped seeing each other gradually.

My question is very similar to A negative verb conjugated as an adjective?. However, I would like to verify if my reasoning is correct.

Doing some research, from Essential Japanese Grammar by Masahiro Tanimori and Eriko Sato, we have:

There are some auxiliaries and suffixes that create new adjective-like words by following other words, and they doubtlessly follow the conjugation and derivation patterns of I-adjectives (tai, nai, and rashii).

Page 28

The non-past plain negative form of 会う is 会わない, which ends in ない. To obtain 会わなくなりました, we can modify 会わない as follows: assuming 会わない functions as an adjective, we can conjugate it in its く-form, 会わなく.

From the same book, we have:

The ku-form of adjectives is made by replacing the final i of the adjective in the dictionary form with ku. The ku-form of ii 'good' is yoku. The ku-form can serve as an adverb. Accordingly, it can be used with verbs such as suru 'to do' and naru 'to become' to express some changes.

Page 29

Because of the above, we can combine 会わなく with なる, 会わなくなる. Finally, we just change the tense to the past polite form, 会わなくなりました.

会わなく modifies なりました, which is a verb. Therefore, 会わなく is an adverb.

Adverbs express the manner of the action expressed by the verb in a sentence.

Page 36

Is this correct?

  • In the text you quoted it said "can serve as an adverb". It's not saying it always serves as an adverb.
    – A.Ellett
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:08
  • @A.Ellet Could you expand? 会わなく seems to function as an adverb because of the provided definition.
    – Nameless
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:11
  • I shall elaborate, but you're missing the point of what I was highlights. "can serve" does not mean "does serve". It need not be viewed as an adverb just because it looks like one in form.
    – A.Ellett
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


Adverbs describe the manner in which something happens. In your example sentence, there is no manner being described. Rather, the sentence describes a transition into a particular state of being. (After a number of comments, perhaps it's just best to jump to the end of this post where I walk through the traditional Japanese grammatical way of thinking about this. Japanese is not like Indo-European languages, and so at some point, clinging to Indo-European grammatical categories can get in the way.)

Thinking from an Indo-European Perspective

I would be careful about how deeply you try to parse the grammatical forms. Form and function are two different things. It's important to keep them straight (particularly when using non-native terminology to talk about the grammar).

In English, you can say adverbs end in ly. Does that mean that bully is an adverb or that silly is an adverb? But, fully is indeed an adverb.

Analyzing 会わなく as an adverb is not going to help you understand the Japanese any better. 会わない is in form an i-adjective, as such it inflects much like an i-adjective does.

If I want to say, My apple is red, you would say.


If you wanted to say My apple is turning red, you would say,


This does not say, My apple is becoming redly.

会わない is how you say "they don't meet". If you want to say, "they've stopped meeting", then one way to say this is to use なる. But the grammar of なる requires a particular form precede it.

If it's a noun, then になる


He turned into a frog.

If it's an i-adjective, you replace い with く


It'll get warm.

No one understands these as "He becomes froggily" or "It'll get warmly".

Yes, in form these could be construed as adverbs, but they don't actually function that way in the sentence; it's just part of the form into which the word must inflect to function properly in the sentence.

I can say


Last year I read books everyday but recently I've stopped reading books.

The last half of this sentence is not saying

I've become in the manner of not reading books

As convoluted as that sounds in English is just how convoluted it would be for an individual to understand 読まなく as an adverb in Japanese.

In summary

An adverb describes the manner in which something happens. But in these example above, we're not describing the manner in which something happened but rather that state into which things transitioned.

Likewise, Riko and Mai transitioned to a state where they were no longer meeting each other. They did not become not-meetingly.

ADDENDUM: Thinking from a native Japanese grammatical perspective

The construction that you have is as follows

あう + ない + なる

to link these together, you must sequentially construct the [連用形]{れんようけい} of each component--this not entirely true, please read on.

The 連用形 of あう is あい

The 連用形 of ない is なく

Except that ない does not attach to the 連用形; it requires the [未然形]{みぜんけい}. Which, in the case of あう is あわ

Now you can take

あう + ない + なる

and modify the forms so that they can be glued together


and thus you get


Perhaps the key here to help you understand what's going on is to remember (or discover if you didn't already know) that Japanese is largely an agglutinative language. That means (pardon me if you already understand this much) that words and grammatical structures are essentially built up by stacking them on top of each other. But before you can stack them, they must be tweaked into the proper form to match the requirements of the parts that are being glued together.

  • Because 会わなく is not an adverb, what is it? Is it only named a prenominal modifier?
    – Nameless
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:56
  • @Nameless it can't be a prenomial modifier. There's no noun it's modifying. In fact, it's not modifying anything. I think you are parsing this wrong. It's not 会わなく followed by なる; it's just 会わなくなる as the fully inflected form.
    – A.Ellett
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:59
  • 1
    @Nameless In Japanese grammars 会わなく is the 連用形 of 会わない. This literally means the attaching form. There is no similar construct in English; so you won't find a convenient English word to describe this.
    – A.Ellett
    Aug 23, 2021 at 18:03
  • 1
    This literally means the attaching form --「連用形」は、「the attaching form, 連用する形」って意味じゃないです。「 言になる 」(ようげんにつらなるかたち)って意味です。It literally means "the form that connects to conjugatable words".
    – chocolate
    Aug 24, 2021 at 0:43
  • 1
    う~ん、、まず、「連用形 literally means the attaching form」は正しくないですよね、「連用形」は、文字通りにそういう意味じゃないですから。それに、「連用形」の「用」を無視して、"連用形 literally means the attaching form" って言ってしまったら、「連形」との違いがわからなくなりますよね。連用形・連体形は、何に連なるかを示す語なので、 何に連なるかが重要なんです。連体形は、体言に連なる形, the form that connects to unconjugatable words (nouns), 連用形は用言に連なる形, the form that connects to conjugatable words (verbs, adjectives)、ですよね。attach を使うなら、 連体形 = "the form that an unconjugatable word attaches", 連用形 = "the form that a conjugatable word attaches" でいいですか?
    – chocolate
    Aug 24, 2021 at 1:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .