Negative verb

Negative verb

A negative verb is a type of auxiliary that is used to form the negative of a main verb. The main verb itself has no personal endings, while the negative verb takes the inflection. The English auxiliary "don't" or "doesn't" performs a similar function: one says "we don't make", where "make" has no inflection, and "don't" is essentially a negative verb that indicates the person/number of "we" (contrast "he doesn't" with a different person/number).


Negative Verb in Uralic Languages

The negative verb is typical of the Uralic languages. Uralic languages inflect by person, thus one word, the negative verb corresponds to e.g. "I don't" (Finnish en) or "doesn't" (ei).


The negative verb is conjugated in moods and personal forms in Finnish. In the present tense, the form of the main verb is just the stem of the present form without a personal ending, e.g. lähdenen lähde ’I leave’ – ’I do not leave’, menisitet menisi ’you would go’ – ’you would not go’, syöneeei syöne ’he/she may eat’ – ’he/she may not eat’, ottakaammeälkäämme ottako ’let us take’ – ’let us not take’. In the imperfect tense, the form of the main verb is the past participle, e.g. otinen ottanut ’I took’ – ’I did not take’, otimmeemme ottaneet ’we took’ – ’we did not take’.

Indicative, conditional, and potential

Person Singular Plural
1. en emme
2. et ette
3. ei eivät


Person Singular Plural
1. - älkäämme
2. älä älkää
3. älköön älkööt


Although the negative verb is conjugated for mood and person in Estonian, the indicative, conditional and potential no longer have distinctive forms for each person (cf. the Finnish negative verb above).

Indicative, conditional, and modus obliquus

Person Singular Plural
1. ei ei
2. ei ei
3. ei ei


Person Singular Plural
1. - ärgem
2. ära ärge
3. ärgu ärgu

Inari Sami

The negative verb is conjugated in moods and personal forms in Inari Sami:

Indicative, conditional, and potential mood

Person Singular Dual Plural
1. jie´m eän ep
2. jie´h eppee eppeđ
3. ij eä´vá


Person Singular Dual Plural
1. eällum eäl´loon eällup
2. ele ellee elleđ
3. eä´lus eällus eällus

Northern Sami

The negative verb is conjugated in moods and personal forms in Northern Sami.

Indicative, conditional, and potential mood

Person Singular Dual Plural
1. in ean eat
2. it eahppi ehpet
3. ii eaba eai


Person Singular Dual Plural
1. allon allu allot
2. ale alli allet
3. allos alloska alloset


Hungarian has lost most evidence of a negative verb, but the negation particle "nem" becomes "ne" before verbs in the jussive/imperative (also sometimes called the conditional mood, or J-mood). Furthermore, the 3rd person present indicative of the copular verb (lenni) has unique negative forms nincs(en) and nincsenek as opposed to "nem van" and "nem vannak", but only when the particle and verb would occur adjacently. In all other instances the copular verb acts regularly.

These forms are also unique in that they have an existential role "there is (not)" and "there are (not)". In the present indicative 3rd person, copular verbs are not used, rather the absence of a verb (with or without a negation particle) implies the copula.


The basic pattern is u becomes anai.

Type Negative Examples Negative
Irregular verbs
suru shinai benkyō suru benkyō shinai
kuru konai
aru nai
da de wa nai

ja nai

masu stem masen ikimasu (go, polite) ikimasen
Regular verbs
u wanai tsukau (use) tsukawanai
ku kanai yaku (burn) yakanai
gu ganai oyogu (swim) oyoganai
su sanai shimesu (show) shimesanai
tsu tanai matsu (wait) matanai
nu nanai shinu (die) shinanai
bu banai yobu (call) yobanai
mu manai yomu (read) yomanai
ru (consonant stem) ranai hashiru (run) hashiranai
iru, eru (vowel stem) inai, enai kigaeru (change clothes) kigaenai
i adjectives ku nai itai (painful) itakunai
na adjectives de wa nai

ja nai

kantan kantan de wa nai

kantan ja nai

  • The nai ending conjugates in two ways.
    1. As an i adjective. For example the past tense of tabenai is tabenakatta and the te form is tabenakute.
    2. There is a special te form made by adding de. For example, tabenaide. This is used, for example, in tabenaide kudasai: "Please don't eat (this)".


Korean verbs can be negated by the negative verbs 않다 anta and 못하다 mothada or by the negative adverbs an and mot. The copula 이다 ida has a corresponding negative copula 아니다 anida.

Verb Tense Affirmative With negative verbs With negative adverbs
않다 anta 못하다 mothada an mot
Nonpast 간다
가지 않는다
gaji anneunda
가지 못한다
gaji mothanda
안 간다
an ganda
못 간다
mot ganda
Past 갔다
가지 않았다
gaji anatda
가지 못했다
gaji mothaetda
안 갔다
an gatda
못 갔다
mot gatda
Nonpast 먹는다
먹지 않는다
meokji anneunda
먹지 못한다
meokji mothanda
안 먹는다
an meongneunda
못 먹는다
mot meongneunda
Past 먹었다
먹지 않았다
meokji anatda
먹지 못했다
meokji mothaetda
안 먹었다
an meogeotda
못 먹었다
mot meogeotda

Dravidian languages


The negative mood in Kannada is conjugated by adding the PNG (Person-Number-Gender) marker to the root without a tense marker. It is occasionally used in common speech conjugated, usually with a few common defective verbs in the Negative Mood. e.g. ಸಾಲದು (saaladu) - It is not sufficient , ಕೂಡದು (kUDadu) - It is not fitting ( Not possible / Should not) However, it is very often used in negative adjectives derived from verbal roots' participial forms.

Singular Meaning Plural Meaning
ಮಾಡೆನು (maaDenu) I do (will) not do ಮಾಡೆವು (maaDevu) We do (will) not do
ಮಾಡೆ (maaDe) You (Informal) do (will) not do ಮಾಡರಿ (ಮಾಡಿರಿ) (maaDari (maaDiri)) You (Formal) do (will) not do
ಮಾಡನು (maaDanu) He does (will) not do ಮಾಡರು (maaDaru) They do (will) not do (This can also be used to refer formally to the third person)
ಮಾಡಳು (maaDaLu) She does (will) not do ಮಾಡರು (maaDaru) They do (will) not do
ಮಾಡದು (maaDadu) It does (will) not do ಮಾಡವು (maaDavu) They do (will) not do

West Flemish

West Flemish makes use of such a verb as well:

Singular Plural
nink I don't niew we don't
nèjg you don't nèjg you don't
nieg one doesn't nèns they don't

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