I understand that お腹が空きました means "I am hungry" since its literal translation would be "My stomach has become empty". Meanwhile, お腹が空きます is closer to "I get hungry" as in よくお腹がすきます. So far things are clear.

However I'm confused about negating the sentence to mean "I am not hungry". The books says it's either (...)空いていません or 空きません. I'm fine with 空いていません, but shouldn't 空きません be 空きませんでした instead? What's more confusing is お腹が空きませんでした means "I was not hungry" while I thought it should be "I am not hungry" since it negates お腹が空きました.

Could you please clarify my confusion?


1 Answer 1

  1. お腹が空きます = "I (always) get hungry" (habitual); "It makes me hungry; It's appetizing" (one-time)

    Seeing fish (always) makes me hungry.

  2. お腹が空きません = "I don't get hungry" (habitual); "It doesn't make me hungry; It's unappetizing" (one-time)

    Seeing fish never makes me hungry.

  3. お腹が空いています = "I am hungry (now)" (teiru-form for resultant state)
  4. お腹が空いていません = "I am not hungry (now)"
  5. お腹が空きました = "I am hungry (now)" (past-form effectively describing the current state); "I got hungry (at that time)" (simple past-form)
  6. お腹が空きませんでした = "I didn't get hungry" (past)

    I ate nothing yeasterday, but I didn't get hungry.

  7. お腹が空いていました = "I was hungry (at that time)"
  8. お腹が空いていませんでした = "I was not hungry (at that time)"

First, お腹が空きません never means "I am not hungry (now)". It's either you've misread the textbook or your textbook is wrong. Sentence 4 is the only one that means "I am not hungry (now)".

Next, if you compare Sentences 5 and 6, they do look inconsistent, and it's certainly a tricky part of tense/aspect in Japanese. This is a FAQ, so please read: Why is a verb in the past (た形) contradicted with ~ていない?

  • I'd also use お腹が空いていません to mean "I'm not hungry". But quoting from here, "we usually say in Japanese when we don't want to eat anyting. 「全然お腹がすきません」", and "so this sentence means “My stomach never gets empty.”=“I’m not hungry at all.”". Maybe it's a set expression for this specific case.
    – xiver77
    Feb 8, 2023 at 6:08
  • Does 完了しませんでした mean "it was not finished"? If so, it seems to be an interesting grammatical difference to Korean where the direct translation would mean "it is not finished".
    – xiver77
    Feb 8, 2023 at 6:28
  • 2
    @xiver77 As explained in my answer, if I heard 全然お腹がすきません, I wonder if the speaker is ill (I think you understand why). It's not something we say to mean "I'm not hungry now". お腹が空いていない人 is someone who is not hungry, and お腹が空かない人 is someone like this. 完了しませんでした refers to a past event regardless of the current state. If you want to say something is incomplete, 完了していません is usually better.
    – naruto
    Feb 8, 2023 at 8:12

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