Translation:It is not necessarily bad.
Check out the following link. Based on that native speaker's response, it seems as though くはない emphasizes that while the person doesn't want to do, or the person doesn't believe that the previous is true, they may think or feel something else about the previously mentioned thing.
Here's the excerpt:
it is difficult to explain. these are the same meanings but nuance is little different.
彼は言った。「私はこれを食べたくない。」 he said ”i don't want to eat this.”
彼は言った「私はこれを食べたくはない」 he said ”i don't want to EAT this.” (he don't want to eat, but i feel he want to do this somehow, he might wants to take this out or he just might wants to smell or look this. but i don't know.)
It’s a source that shows the way in which adding は changes the nuance by putting special emphasis on the adjective (in the source 食べたい is a verb with a volitional ending "want to eat" but those behave like adjectives in most respects). So:
私はこれを食べたくない。 "I don't want to eat this."
私はこれを食べたくはない。 "I don't want to EAT this (but maybe just look at it or smell it, it's just EATING that I don't want to do with it)."
Transfer this to our sentence:
悪くないです。 "It isn't bad."
悪くはないです。 "It isn't BAD (but...)"
By using は you imply that while you don't want to call it bad, it is something else (judging by context probably something undesirable). The only way this can be translated to English is by strongly emphasising the word "bad". Or by adding an adverb like "necessarily" as was done by the contributors. I would expect it to be accepted without "necessarily" though.
AbunPang, I can't reply directly to you, but thank you for clarifying. I wouldn't have thought of the -tai form of the verb as an adjective. I think your explanation will help everyone understand the example better.
(You've left out the -ta in your explanation, though: 私はこれを食べたくない、私はこれを食べたくはない)
Not a native speaker but as far as I can see you could break it further down like this:
わるく: badly (adverb form of わるい)
は: topic particle attached to わるく
ない: is not, does not exist
です: politeness marker
So a very literal translation would be "as for badly, 'it' is not". Or a little more freely: "Bad is not the way in which [it] exists".
Note that it's essentially the same as わるくない without the は. The topic particle puts more stress on the "bad": "It isn't bad [but...]"
I'm basing my comment on other answers and my intuition, so take this with a grain of salt, but..
わるく is the adverb form of わるい, which changes it from "bad" to "badly". the は particle indicates topic, and ない is "not". so i think the best way to translate this that conveys the nuance would be, "as for 'badly', that is not the way in which this exists". idiomatically, it seems that this means, "it's not necessarily bad".
For people just getting up to this wanting more context on the は, I found this link helpful: https://japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/18662/%E3%81%8F%E3%81%AF%E3%81%AA%E3%81%84-vs-%E3%81%8F%E3%81%AA%E3%81%84-in-adjective-negations
Having read through it, I'm not sure Duolingo's "necessarily" translation makes sense. My take is that は makes the 悪い stronger, the same way "it's not bad, but..." sounds worse than "it's not bad" in English. But "necessarily" to my ears does the exact opposite, and softens the criticism. Thoughts?
I understand what they're doing with the translation, it's not perfect but translating Japanese nuance into English never is. When you say "It's not bad", to me there's usually a positive connotation. When you say "it's not necessarily bad" it implies that it's not necessarily good either. I can't think of a time when "not necessarily bad" would have a positive meaning, but maybe I'm just thinking too small.
I guess its still called a particle but here you guys go. It is not a mistake. http://www.guidetojapanese.org/forum/viewtopic.php?id=1686
So correct me if I am wrong but; isn't the は here making "わるく" part of the subject and then emphasizing the topic "ないです。"? If that is the case, shouldn't it be more like; "it IS NOT bad." Which is very different from "it is not BAD." unless. The only thing I can figure is that the は is not actually making わるくpart of the subject but still serving its role in de-emphasizing the subject. Which would imply that は, as a particle, is never allowed to start a sentence so if you want to de-emphasize the subject while at the same time omitting it; you have to do something like this. Right?
To come back to your original question (as the one about contrastive vs topic は seems already fairly exaustively discussed below): I’m afraid you’re getting a few things mixed up here (understandably – は is rather difficult to wrap your head around at first if you don’t speak a topic-prominent language already).
は does not mark the subject but the topic – the thing that is placed at the focus of the sentence and then commented on. The only way you can emulate this in English is with the rather contrived formula: “As for x,…” Oftentimes the subject also happens to be the topic because situations where we want to tell somebody what some person (whom we both know) did. But that doesn’t have to be the case. If it’s not, then the non-topic subject is marked with が instead (that is, if it’s not omitted because it can be understood from context). For example:
- この本は読みましたか？ (“As for this book, did you read it?” <- the object “this book” is the topic).
- あのマンションには幽霊があると聞きました。 (“As for in that apartment building, I heard there are ghosts [there].” <-- the place adverb “in that apartment building” is the topic)
If you want some guidelines on what should be made the topic, here are some rules of thumb I found:
- The topic is pretty much always “old information” – something that the speaker expects the listener to know about. It may be something that came up in the conversation before, a proper name that they expect the listener to recognize, or maybe a general category such as “dogs” or ”teachers” in general.
- The topic is never ever a question word such as “who, what, where”. Also in the answer to a question containing such a word, the part that answers the question word is never the topic either. So for example, if you want to ask who ate your cake, “who” couldn’t be the topic, the cake would be: わたしのケーキはだれがたべましたか？ And similarly, the culprit who answers “I ate the cake” couldn’t make “I” the subject because it answers the question “who”. So they would say: わたしがたべました。 The reason for this is actually the same one as the point above: If you’re asking a question, the question word – and the answer – represent new information that you don’t know yet. So it cannot be the topic. (I’m guessing it was examples like this one that gave you the idea of は having a de-emphasising effect? If so, I suggest forgetting that idea because it’s only a side-effect of its real purpose, and only in this kind of sentences.)
Now there is also a second application of は which some people like to keep separate as “contrastive は”, others understand it as a special application of the topicalising function. In any case, here は is used to contrast two (or more) things against each other. For example:
- 犬は好きんだけど、猫は大嫌いです。 (“I like dogs, but I hate cats.” <-- dogs and cats are contrasted with は)
- この映画はもう見たけど、あの映画はぜったい見ない、こわいから。 (“This film I have already watched, but that film I am absolutely not going to watch, it’s [too] scary.” <-- the two films are put in contrast. Note also how they are in fact emphasised here even though they are marked with は, because of the contrast.)
And as IsolaCiao pointed out, this is also the function it has in our example sentence above, only the second part of the contrast is left implicit. This is where the implicit “but” comes from – if it’s not bad, it must be something else: “It’s not bad [but…]”
You can view this as a second application of は if it helps you. I personally don’t view it as fundamentally different from the topicaliser は because it essentially still does the same thing: It takes two known things and puts them in focus, so you can make a comment about them. It’s just that those two things happen to contrast with each other in the greater context. But if it helps you to treat it as a separate function, then by all means, do that :)
は isn't a topic marker here, it is the contrastive wa.
This is a prime example of the contrastive は. What and where is the contrast in the sentence 「今の仕事は悪くはないです。」, then? It is left unsaid.
When a Japanese-speaker hears or reads a sentence like that using は, he will instinctively "know" that a few words were implied but not said. Those words would be something like 「でも、（特とくに）良よくもないです。」. Particles 「は」 and 「も」 are often used in a pair like that.
「このピザはまずくないです。」 means the pizza is at least average in taste. It may well be a little better than average.
「このピザはまずくはないです。」 means the pizza is average at best.
は is a sort of topic marker. Even I take a very long time thinking above this throughout my journey in Duolingo, but read AbunPang's explanation. As for two はs in these kind of sentences わたしはこれを食べたくはない, now I believe the two はs are both topic markers - one is in a broader context and the other is in a narrower one. (rf. the は～が structure)
A while back, I did think they are different, but after looking through all the examples people provided, I think the separation between a "topic" and a "contrast marker" is not clear-cut. Quite difficult to explain but what I now feel is that, to make a contrast, you must also bring up this topic although it may not be the intention.
"As for bad, it is not, but it can be better."
"As for me, talking about the desire to eat, I do not want to eat this but I order this for my friend."
I see what you're saying. My brain is just going in a different direction. This is one of the few sentence on duolingo that I didn't understand the grammar, and when I started to think of the wa as showing contrast, it helped me understand the structure better.
"It's not bad, compared to the other things it could possibly be."
"I don't want to eat it, compared to other things I might do with it (look at it, smell it)."
Umm, no, AbunPang's explanation above is 100% correct. わるく is the topic. ないです is related to the topic but is never the topic. は does not really de-emphasize the subject, but it only serves to bring up the topic (as to emphasize that the topic has some kind of relationship). In this case it is the comparison that it is not BAD but is something else.