This question has been inspired by this Q&A, from which I learned about 未然形 + む(ん)'s various functions. I noticed two lines on the reference page @naruto points to under 推量, both seemingly sharing the same 未然形 + む(ん) structure. However, the first one is glossed as negative, while the second one translates in modern Japanese as a positive sentence.




Is there a reason for this? Or is this a mistake on the site editor's part?

  • 2
    Lol. I read this page a few months ago and faced this same confusion. I kinda got resolved by thinking 知らんや -> 知るだろうや -> 知らないだろうか. Take a look at this や entry. From the 係助詞 part:「③〔反語〕…(だろう)か、いや、…ない。」. Take me with a grain of salt, I might be wrong here...
    – Jimmy Yang
    Feb 16, 2022 at 0:04

1 Answer 1


The first example has 知らんや. It's important to note the ending particle や -- this is used in Classical Japanese after a suppositional ~む ending to indicate a rhetorical question with an implied negative outcome, a bit like English construction "would he know that?" → implying that he wouldn't.

The あらん examples with ~ん (from older suppositional ~む) are not followed by this same negative-rhetorical particle, so the translations into modern Japanese phrasing do not include any negative sense.

See also:

  • This Q&A about the term [烏有]{いずくんぞあらんや}, which includes that same ~むや construction.
  • The Kotobank entries for や, such as in Daijisen here, specifically sense 六.2.イ: 「2.文末用法。㋑反語を表す。…だろうか(いや、そうではない)。」

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