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  5. "いいえ、日本人ではありません。"


Translation:No, I am not Japanese.

June 7, 2017



I learned "ga arimasen" where it's "de wa arimasen" here. I know there's a difference, but not sure what.


"~ga arimasen" means "there is/are no ~/there is/are not ~" in the sense of does not exist (however, instead of "arimasen", "imasen" is used for living beings).

"~de wa arimasen" means "I/you/he/she/it/we/they/someone/something is not/no ~" in the sense of negating a characteristic of something/someone.


Can "de wa arimasen" be broken down further? Do we have "wa" because it's the topic marker, or is it another thing here?


It looks like it originally was:

  • -で (=the -て form after a noun. Often this can be translated as “being” or “as”, for example: 学生で妊娠する “to get pregnant as/while being a student”)
  • -は (the topic particle)
  • ありません “doesn’t exist”

So basically something along the lines of “(Subject) does not exist as an x”. However at least today it’s pretty much a fixed ending. If it weren’t you would expect いません rather than ありません when the subject is animate, but in practice it’s always ありません. (Unless maybe it should be interpreted as “[the fact of] (subject) being x does not exist”? If so, I would have expected to see a filler verb after -で, maybe: -でいる/あるの(こと)はありません. But maybe that verb got deleted as the phrase turned into a fixed ending? I don’t know.)


Mind = blown 0_0 Thank you I needed this


So if I said I have no cat then I should use imasen?


がありません basically means the (object) plus が (particle to state object as affected) ありません (there is not), "there" being an important aspect of this. If this made any sense, it is basically saying, "There is no pencil".

ではありません differs in the sense that it is the negative form of です。Whilst desu means "is" in a sense, dewa arimasen is the equivalent of "is not".

Here are some examples. えんぴつがありません There is no pencil

えんぴつです It's a pencil

えんぴつではありません It's not a pencil


I also learned saying じゃありません, with a じ at the beginning. I don't know the different tho... hehehe


I'm far from an expert, but here's what I understand:

  • か (ga) marks the subject of the sentence (the person doing the action)
  • を (o) marks the direct object of the sentence
  • は (wa) marks the topic of the sentence

The topic takes the place of the subject once the subject has been introduced. Marking the topic allows you to omit that noun in subsequent sentences.

The basic flow goes:

  1. introduce subject using か
  2. mark it as the topic using は (i.e. in the best sentence)
  3. omit it from future sentences (it is now implied)

Here's an article on the subject:



Very interesting indeed, although I'm not sure if it fully answers the question entirely. For example, it doesn't address where the 「で」 comes from.

Incidentally, be sure not to forget the dakuten in your 「が」 (you wrote it as 「か」 twice in your comment).


What does "de" do here?


「ではありません」 is the negative form of 「です」. 「では」 often gets contracted into 「じゃ」so more informally you would say 「じゃありません」 or 「じゃない」.


I also heard じゃないです as a negative form of です before. Is there a difference to ではありません?


「じゃないです」 is also correct. I would say it is slightly more informal than 「ではありません」 and more formal than 「じゃない」. Often 「です」 is used as a word to express politeness rather than being used as a copula. (I believe that is why i-adjectives take です in their long form, as you can see from their plain form that a copula is not needed, unlike na-adjectives where the short form does take a copula).


What's a "copula"?


A word that connects the subject of a sentence to the predicate. For example, I am a student, the word "am" links "I" to "student". In Japanese it would be 私は学生です。 Here です links 私 to 学生, so です is a copula.


We really should be able to break these sentences down :(


You can tap on parts of the sentence and it will tell you what they mean by themselves. In this case: いいえ(no)、日本人(Japanese person)ではありません(not be (polite)). So more literally: “No, [implied subject] is not Japanese.” By default you would assume that the speaker is talking about themselves, that’s why the model solution is “I am not Japanese”, but depending on the context it could also be he, she, we, they – even you (though you have to imagine a situation involving amnesia or maybe a very small child something to make it plausible for the listener to not know their own nationality).


The only part in the sentence which doesn’t have its pronunciation written is the kanji word 日本人(にほんじん), and at least for me Duolingo constantly keeps testing me on its pronunciation in isolation. The rest is Hiragana which are phonetic (barring two or three minor exceptions with common particles such as ~は being written as “ha” but pronounced “wa”).

Personally I don’t think transcribing the sentence into the Latin alphabet is a good idea if that’s what you meant. In my experience it would just be too convenient to just read the transcription rather than the original sentence. And if a learner does that, they run the risk of rendering themselves next to illiterate in Japanese because they didn’t practice either kana or kanji enough. Indeed it could even be argued that this risk exists already to a smaller degree because the course writes quite a few words in hiragana which would normally be spelt in kanji (for example わたし(私, I), おちゃ(お茶, tea) etc.). I guess that is to make kanji a bit less overwhelming. Still I think this is preferable to transcribing into the Latin alphabet because at least you’re still practicing a native writing system.

That being said, I think it would be a nice improvement to add furigana (pronunciation indicators in hiragana/katakana) to the tooltips of kanji vocabulary (so you get it when you tap on/mouse over the word but it doesn’t jump at you at first glance).


Why is this ありません, and not いません? isn't いません for living things?


This grammar rule is used for "existence": ~には~があります/います。For ではありません the phrase is used for negation no matter what you are talking about.


Well, also understand that if you were to say, for example, "I am not at school" you would say: "(私は)学校にいません。" because as you correctly pointed out います is used to talk about living thing. However, a name is not living, nor would you want to use a form a verb that in the most basic sense means "to exist". Basically, ではありません is not used for negation regardless, it's used here because it is a possible present negative form of a verb that means "to be" (i.e. であります is effectively the same thing as です)


I'm sorry if this is weird, but I don't have perfect hearing. It sounds like "arimasem" rather than "arimasen" to me. Which is correct? The same for すみません and てんぷら, both of them sound like an M to me. (Of course, it doesn't help that it is spelled tempura.)


Hello andi_kan. The answer is "arimasen." In Japanese, 'n' is the only consonant that technically can stand alone without a vowel in trail. The standalone "n" can appear in the middle of the word or at the end of it, as with verbs ending in 'masen'. The rule is when the consonant 'n' is followed by a consonant made with the lips (p, b, or m), it is pronounced as 'm' and that gives you such words as tempura or kombu, which may appear to defy the the rule that only 'n' can stand alone, but as you pointed out, "tempura" written in hiragana or katakana uses the standalone n: てんぷら. I hope this helps.


Thanks for your clarification. It helps, though I'm sure I will stumble a few more times before this gets hammered into my head.


I hope my Japanese gets so good that one day I'll have to say this to someone


So im taking japanese classes in school and we learned that は = ha in hiragana words and is only wa when used as a particle, but in this lesson it uses は(ha) instead of わ(wa) in dewaarimasen.


Yes, that’s because the は in -ではありません is indeed the same one as in 私学生です. -ではありません is originally composed of -で (a case ending probably best rendered as “as” here) + -は (topic particle) + あr- (verb stem “to exist”) + -iません (negative verb ending). But for modern language it’s best to think of the whole of -ではありません as a single verb form. If it weren’t, you would expect it to use いる instead of ある for living subjects. But in reality it’s always -ではありません, regardless of subject.


Can you also use "いいえ、私は日本人ではありません。"?


You can, but Japanese has a tendency to leave out as much as possible if it can be inferred from context. And since this is an answer to a question, you can usually infer the subject from the question. For example, if somebody asks you: “Are you Japanese?“ Then you can leave out the subject and context makes it clear that the subject must be “I”. But given the right question it might be natural to add the subject because it’s not inferrable. For example:

  • マリアさんたちは日本人ですか? [talking to Maria:] “Are you (multiple people) Japanese?”
  • いいえ、私は日本人ではありません。 “No, I am not Japanese [although the other people might be].”

Here the question is about multiple people but the answer singles out only one among, so you can’t infer the subject from the question anymore.

TL;DR: You can add 私は but in most cases it would be more natural to omit it.


Ah, this makes everything clear! ありがとうございます!


I thought いいえ was uncommon? Isn't いや more common??


I looked them up and the second one means "disagreeable" rather than "no".


I know that 'ありません' is a word unto itself, and the 'では' isn't inherently part of it.

So...what's the actual break-down, here? What do these parts mean, both separately and in relation to each other? What changes when they're present and not present?


Why is this character used: り? In the previous courses I've learned another hiragana character for "ri", but I cannot find it in my keyboard, but it is the one in "kumori", "teriyaki" (looked a bit like リ. Thanks !


They are all the same character, just different fonts will display it differently. Duolingo doesn't use a dedicated font so the characters may appear different depending on which browser/platform you access it on.
Some fonts display the lift of the brush between the strokes while others show the light drag of the brush over the curve. You'll see this in most kana with curves/connected strokes (さ、き、ち、そ、り、こ)


Thank you very much, I didn't know that!


Where's the pronoun?


There isn't one. The subject is very often implied in Japanese based on context.


My translation was: "No, there are no japanese", is that wrong because it's "dewa arimasen" instead of "wa arimasen"?


Nihonjin = japanese (person, not language) and "dewa arimasen" basically means "not". Its just the polite negative form of "desu".


It would have been “wa imasen” for people in that construction.


ha is は and wa is わ. but why they pronounce は wa instead of ha?


Yes, but only the topic marker は. In other words it is pronounced as “ha” just like you would expect (e.g. 歯(は) "teeth": ha, 花(はな) "flower": hana).


Shouldnt it be いいえ, 日本人いいえです


No, that would be “No, Japanese people… no.” いいえ is the opposite of はい, and only that. It is not used for English “not” or “no + noun” (= “not a single”). For the former you have to use the negative form of the verb (which in the case of -です is -でわありません or -ではない). For “no + noun” Japanese usually uses a different construction and says “noun does not exist” (or on signs like “no entrance [allowed]” Japanese would formulate this as “entrance forbidden”).


Why is there no 「です」?


-です is the positive form. To negate it, you have to use -ではありません (or -ではない, but the model solutions usually seem to prefer the slightly more formal -ではありません).


Shouldn't there be a comma when translating it to english too? As in, it should be "No, I am not Japanese"?


Yes, that is correct and it is the correct answer listed at the top of the page.


Is there a kanji for ではありません? (sorry, I'm on the computer and cant seem to download a Japanese keyboard for some reason)


There are technically kanji spellings for ある: 有る or 在る (I suspect they were used for slightly different nuances but I can’t find any info on which would have been appropriate in this situation. If I had to venture a guess, probably 在る is more likely). But in modern writing ある appears to be pretty much always written in Hiragana. Even if it wasn’t as a free verb, it probably would be when it’s part of a fixed grammatical affix. At least in similar cases where an affix was derived from a word normally written in Kanji, the affix tends to be pure Hiragana. For example the ending -にとって “for, as far as… is concerned” is usually written in pure Hiragana, even though it’s derived from the verb 取る[とる] which is normally written with Kanji.


can someone break this sentence down for me

  • いいえ “no”
  • 日本人 “Japanese person” (consisting itself of 日本 Japan + -人 “person from …”)
  • -ではありません “am/are/is not” (in polite speech)

You could break down -ではありません:

  • -で “as”
  • -は (topic particle)
  • あり- “to exist”
  • -ません (polite negative ending)

So very literally translated you’re saying “It is not as a Japanese person that [I] exist”. (The “I” is not mentioned but unless context provides you with a different subject, “I” is assumed.)

However even though -ではありません historically comes from these components, it has for all intents and purposes a single cohesive ending in itself. So I would suggest you don’t worry about its components and just learn -ではありません as a single unit “am/are/is not”.


I find it weird that both desu is changed to dewa and arimasu is changed to arimasen. In english that would be double negative, no?


There is only one negative though では isn't negative, it is just で a form of です used when listing verbs/adjectives as well as the means/method particle and は the topic particle used here to add contrast and emphasize the negative
です itself is a short form of であります which is used in more formal writing.
ではありません is like saying [In the state of being X] [It does not exist]


This is what people will actually be asking me in real life cus i look SO japanese!


No, I'm not Japanese should be counted as correct, Please tell your algorithm.


Is "Arimasen" just for politeness? Or does it play an important part in making the sentence negative?


Yes "dewa arimasen" is the complete negative verb form, Scroll up to the MOD's answer.


Thank you for all explanations


"Not" wasnt an option


On a phone, make sure that you are in portrait mode and on a computer I had to zoom out to 80% to see all the tiles. Did they have "n't" which is a contraction of "not"?


Fun fact: Japan and China are the only countries that are not writen in katakana.


Not quite,
韓国 - kankoku - South Korea
北朝鮮 - kitachuusen - North Korea
台湾 - taiwan - Taiwan

formally on documents there are kanji versions for some common katakana countries as well
米国 - beikoku - the United States
英国 - eikoku - England
濠洲 - goushuu - Australia


Well, I meant when counting only hiragana and katakana.


I'm not sure what you mean by that
日本 - Japan and 中国 - China aren't hiragana either...


Well, except for these. I meant that they cannot be written in katakana. All of those maybe except of Far East can be written in katakana.

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