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There are many words to convey "not at all"

  • 全然
  • 全く
  • 少しも
  • ちっとも
  • さっぱり
  • 一切
  • 一向に
  • まるで
  • これっぽちも
  • まるっきり

I think have a decent idea of formality, with 一切, 一向に, and まるで feeling formal, and これっぽちも sounding slangy. Also, I associate さっぱり with "mental words" like わかる and 思う but I don't know accurate that is, and I also can't really distinguish between them.

What are the real distinctions between these words?

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  • You mean not at all as a form of no? Or also including the set phrase used when someone says thanks?
    – sundowner
    Mar 1, 2022 at 2:01
  • Another thing, I cannot come up with a natural example where すっきり could be translated as not at all. Either way the question seems a little too broad, I suggest you break down the question into several (e.g. the diff of さっぱり and すっきり).
    – sundowner
    Mar 1, 2022 at 2:04
  • @sundowner I meant in the sense of "completely not." I once saw すっきり used in this context, and saw it in the dictionary, but google exact search is showing few results for it, so I'm guessing this is very rare. I'll remove it from my question.
    – MegaZeroX
    Mar 2, 2022 at 4:30

1 Answer 1

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まったく and 全然 are generally neutral and can be used for most cases.

すこしも/ちっとも/これっぽっちも literally means not even the smallest amount, and as such they sound more idiomatic when some amount is under discussion.

A few examples:

  • 彼は全然来ない/少しも来ない

The former normally means simply he does not come at all (while you are waiting). The latter means his visits are rare (= the number of his visits is close to zero). Note also that the 全然 version can be used in the same sense as the latter, that is, it is ambiguous to an extent.

  • スマホが全然見つからない

In this case 少しも is not natural unless you are looking for many smartphones. In the likely case where you are looking for your (single) smartphone, 全然 is more natural.

That said, my feeling is that the difference is generally subtle and mostly the words in the question are roughly interchangeable (some may sound more odd than others, but mostly acceptable).


If you want something more precise, there is an explanation in 類義語使い分け辞典. The following is a short summary.

少しも:期待しているのに、動作・状態・事態などが同じままで変化しない

全然:客観的に動作・状態・事態などが、発生・成立しないことを強調する

  • ちっとも is a colloquial version of 少しも
  • さっぱり is used when nothing happens despite expectations or efforts; it also expresses the feeling of resign.
  • まるで~ない means zero possibility; まるきり/まるっきり is its colloquial version. さっぱり assumes (more) expectation while まるきり assumes efforts. E.g. 景気はさっぱり cannot be expressed with まるきり because there is nothing an individual can do for the economy.
  • 一向に is synonymous with 少しも but assumes passing of time. It is for writing. E.g. 一向に来ない = the state of (someone's) non-coming has lasted for a long time.
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