Tuesday, July 16, 2019

naku wa nai なくはない

WIP: this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.
In Japanese, naku wa nai なくはない is the i-adjective or auxiliary adjective nai ない in the adverbial form, plus the wa は particle, plus the auxiliary nai ない again.

If the first nai is an auxiliary, ~naku wa nai ~なくはない means something "is indeed" somehow. If the first nai isn't an auxiliary, then it depends on what the phrase is saying. The exact grammar has been explained in the article about ~ku wa ~くは.

Usage

Phrases ending in ~ku wa nai ~くはない affirm something "is not" somehow.
  • kawaii
    可愛
    [It] is cute.
  • kawaikunai
    可愛くない
    [It] is not cute.
  • kawaiku wa nai
    可愛くはない
    Cute, [it] is not.

Above, ~ku wa nai affirms it "is not" kawaii.

Then, with ~naku wa nai ~なくはない, it'll affirm it "is not" nai. But nai means "not." So it becomes it "is not not," nakunai なくない. Which means it "is."
  • kawaii
    可愛
    [It] is cute.
  • kawaikunai
    可愛くない
    [It] is not cute.
  • kawaikunakunai
    可愛くなくない
    [It] is not not cute.
    [It] is cute.
  • kawaikunaku wa nai
    可愛くなくはない
    Not cute, [it] is not.
    Cute, [it] is.

Yep, this is a confusing double negative.

To make matters more confusing, nai ない can be suffixed to a lot of conjugations. For example, in the potential:
  • taberu
    食べる
    To eat.
  • taberareru
    食べられる
    Able to eat. (potential.)
    [Something you] can eat.
    Edible.
  • taberarenai
    食べられない
    Not able to eat. (negative potential.)
    [Something you] can not eat.
    Inedible.
  • taberarenaku wa nai
    食べられなくはない
    Not able to eat, [it] is not.
    It's not [something you] can not eat.
    It's not inedible.

Usually, the phrase above, taberarenaku wa nai 食べられなくはない, means it's something that you would rather not eat, but that it's not like you can't eat it. For example, if there's nothing else to eat, you'll have to eat it. So it's not like you can't. But, if possible, you'd rather not.

無くはない

When naku 無く is not an auxiliary attached to a verb or adjective, it means "nonexistent," which is the antonym of aru ある.

The grammar of naku wa nai 無くはない remains the same, except this time we aren't negative a verb or adjective. Instead, we're negating something "not existing," or "not being in [our] possession," in other words, "[we] not having" something. For example:
  • okane ga aru
    お金がある
    There is money.
    [I] have money.
  • okane ga nai
    お金が無い
    Money is nonexistent.
    [I] don't have money.
  • okane ga naku wa nai
    お金が無くはない
    Money, nonexistent is not.
    Not having money, [I] don't.
    Having money, [I] do.
    • i.e. it's not like I don't have money, I do.

An example with the null particle:
  • kankei naku wa nai
    関係なくはない
    Relationship, nonexistent is not.
    • It's not like there is not a relationship.
    • It's not like this has nothing to do with that.

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