Colloquial use of「〜て〔い〕ない」, maybe instead of 「〜なかった」



It's not the first time I hear it, but I've found it in this scene. I understand that, as in 知る or 始まる, a started action whose consequence remains is expressed in continuous form. However, I thought that the negative form was constructed in present or past, as 知らない or 始まらなかった, but not in continuous. I find examples as the linked video using instead the negation of the continuous (見ていない). In this case I would've used 「見なかった」.

Am I missing something or is it a slang transformation? In that case, which form should be used? Thanks a lot!


EDIT: corrected misspelling/bad grammar. Tremendous lapsus :(


Posted 2011-09-06T21:32:27.613

Reputation: 63

Please use a spell checker next time. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-09-06T21:59:22.697

I do not think that it is fair for you to claim that you corrected misspelling and bad grammar, because it is me who corrected most of them. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-09-08T20:50:23.677

@Tsuyoshi Ito - I think the OP just meant that he corrected the 「見なくなかった」 part, but I agree that it would be more gracious of him to acknowledge your contribution. – rdb – 2011-09-08T21:11:02.473



I hear 「まだ見ていない。」, which seems entirely normal, comparable to the English construction "I still haven't seen it." => "I'm in a still-continuing state of not seeing it." I suppose there's some element of volition here; it's still possible for her to see it if she wants to. For example, if a pterodactyl flew overhead, and you missed seeing it, you would say 「見なかった」. You're no longer in a state of being able to see it, even if you wanted to. It wouldn't make sense to express it as a continuing state in such a case.

BTW, is 「見なくなかった」 a typo?


Posted 2011-09-06T21:32:27.613

Reputation: 2 617

Addendum: in the context of the video, it implies that she wants to see it. If it was みなかった, then it may mean that she's not interested in seeing it in the first place. – syockit – 2011-09-07T11:04:48.537

+1 Spot on, and a good contrast between the state of being able to see something at any time versus missing a one-time event. – Derek Schaab – 2011-09-07T13:46:14.087

@syockit - In fact, she explicitly says she wants to see it: 「自分の目で確かめたいの。」 – rdb – 2011-09-07T17:07:42.447

Definitely the pterodactyl example confirmed what I get to know after a while. Just wasn't very sure about it.

@rdb : And well, that thing I wrote was not a typo, was a "lapsus menti", don't know if this latinism is used in english. I messed myself up. But in the title and in 始まらなかった of course I conjugated right, so forget it ^^'

Thanks for your comments people! – ferran – 2011-09-08T18:22:12.487

@ferran - We Americans, being much less refined than our British cousins, would say "brain fart".(笑) – rdb – 2011-09-08T22:06:41.590


I second @syockit's comment above. 「〜なかった」 is neutral with respect to volition, while, for volitional verbs such as 「見る」, 「書く」 and 「行く」, the 「〜て〔い〕る」 construction implies volition. This means 「〜て〔い〕ない」 shows volition but lack of execution/completion. Here's an example:

「小論、できました? Did you get your essay finished?」

  • 「いいえ、しませんでした・しなかったです No, I didn't do it.」
  • 「いいえ、〔まだ〕していません・して〔い〕ないです No, I haven't done it (yet).」
  • 「いいえ、〔まだ〕できていません・〔い〕ないです No, it isn't done (yet) / I haven't gotten it finished (yet)」

People drop the イ to make it more colloquial/less formal. Don't confuse this with 「〜てある・てない」, which is used to talk about the continuing result of a transitive verb:

  • 「ドアが開いている The door is open (neutral)」
  • 「ドアが開けてある The door is in the state of having been opened (implies an agent)」


Posted 2011-09-06T21:32:27.613

Reputation: 618

1(1) Neither “いいえ、しませんでした” nor “いいえ、しなかったです” is an appropriate response to “小論、できました?” (2) “Door” is ドア (or possibly ドアー (which sounds old-fashioned to me)), not ドーア. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-09-07T14:30:38.503

Thanks, but could you explain why 「しませんでした」 would be inappropriate here? Would 「書きませんでした」 also be inappropriate? – jefflovejapan – 2011-09-07T15:00:36.237

In fact, I do not know what you mean by しませんでした or 書きませんでした in this context. If you want to say “I have not even started to write it,” it would be いいえ、書き始めてもいません, but that would be unrelated to the question. – Tsuyoshi Ito – 2011-09-07T15:25:05.000

What if the speaker had no intention of writing the essay? It's my understanding that 「書いていない」 means "I haven't written it yet (but I intend to)", while 「書かなかった」 means "I didn't write it (and, possibly, I don't intend to)." – jefflovejapan – 2011-09-07T15:36:04.757

I think the response just doesn't logically fit the question. Even in English, "Did you finish your essay?" "No, I didn't do it./No, I didn't write it." sounds like a response to a different question. I could imagine someone saying it, but a more likely response might be something like "Finish it? I haven't even started it yet!" – rdb – 2011-09-07T17:25:01.153

1I don't see anything wrong with the English sentence, but maybe it's just me. In a high school classroom the person asking the question may have the expectation that the other party is going to do the essay, but that doesn't mean that the other party is intending to do it. If he or she willfully or neglectfully didn't write the essay despite knowing it was due, it seems to me that "I didn't do it," would fit perfectly. It establishes that the person didnt write the essay, while being intentionally vague about any intent to get it finished. – jefflovejapan – 2011-09-07T23:58:27.180

Like I said, I could imagine it being said, and in fact, the scenario you describe is exactly the way I did imagine it. But strictly speaking, "I didn't do it." in this scenario, answers the question "Did you write it?", not "Did you finish it?". In English, it's comprehensible when you load in some suppositions, but I have the feeling that Japanese is not quite so forgiving. – rdb – 2011-09-08T03:44:57.970

I understand why you think it sounds odd here, but the point of the example was to show the reasoning behind using 「〜て〔い〕ない」 for volitional verbs. Using 「しなかった」 is at best evasive and at worst incorrect (at least in response to a direct question of this nature). To me, that just reinforces my original point, that people use 「〜て〔い〕ない」 to be clear about volition. – jefflovejapan – 2011-09-08T04:08:25.087

I have to admit I don't quite follow what you're saying here, but OK. – rdb – 2011-09-08T04:48:39.290

@rdb You said in your response: "I suppose there's some element of volition here" Did you mean that if there's no volition, could've she said 見なかった? Imagine that she doesn't really care, but is still there for some reason. That's what syockit also said, I just don't know if you agree or not. Thanks to you all for replying! – ferran – 2011-09-08T18:30:31.053

I suppose that in your hypothetical, she could say it either way. Not being a native speaker, I'm not certain that you could go so far as to infer from "見なかった" that she doesn't want to see it, and has no intention of trying to see it. However, if there is no longer a possibility of seeing something, there can be no volition, so I think it would be illogical and odd to say "見ていない”. – rdb – 2011-09-08T18:56:14.133

「笹原君、宿題しましたか」「いいえ、(反抗期モード)しませんでした」「そうですか。廊下に立ってろ」 – syockit – 2011-09-09T04:10:57.207

Oops, I confused 笹塚 (from 苺ましまろ) with 笹原 (from 日常) – syockit – 2011-09-09T04:20:04.680