In various grammar resources, I've read that a present/future-tense volitional verb, in negative-question form (買いませんか?) becomes an invitation pattern, unless ~の(ですか) is added.

「買いませんか?」 = invitation. 「買わないの(ですか)?」 = negative present/future-tense question.

Based on past experience, invitation seems to mean the speaker and listener doing something together. 「朝ご飯を食べませんか?」 "What do you say to having lunch with me?" 「テニスをしませんか?」"Will you play tennis with me?" 「ズームで話しませんか?」 "Shall we talk over Zoom?"

But I'm getting held up on an example I saw in a beginner-level storybook, of a hat salesman in a marketplace shouting 「帽子を買いませんか?」

Based on the rules above, this should be an invitation, but obviously only the listener(s) will be doing any hat-buying. It isn't a shared activity. Instead it just sounds like a negative question: "Won't you buy a hat?"

So, which one of the 2 options below reflects this situation?

(a) ...ませんか invitation patterns don't necessarily have to include the speaker participating in a shared activity. Depending on context, ...ませんか could just be an invitation for the listener alone to do something.

(b) ...ませんか with a volitional verb may not always be an invitation pattern. Sometimes, depending on context, it's just a negative question, even without ~の(ですか).

  • 2
    Think about why don't you...?
    – sundowner
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 10:38

1 Answer 1


Both (a) and (b) are correct. There is no such rule that ~しませんか always implies "together". 買いませんか is typically a simple suggestion, "Why don't you buy it?"

But depending on the context, the same sentence can be a confirmation, "So you won't buy it?", too. 買わないのですか can sound like the speaker is slightly dubious or disappointed because of the の's function of seeking clarification, whereas 買いませんか is more neutral.

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