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~ませんか Posted by on Nov 18, 2009 in Grammar

For today’s post we’ll take a look at the ませんか construction. Let’s take a look at this sample sentence, “にほんご を べんきょうしませんか“. (にほんご = Japanese language. = wo. べんきょうしませんか = won’t you study.) In English this sentence would mean “Won’t you study Japanese [with me]?”. To form the “Won’t you” construction, take the present polite negative ません ending and add the interrogative particle to it. In this case the present polite negative of “to study” is べんきょうしません then add the question marking particle and you get べんきょうしませんか.

For added emphasis you could add the phrase “with me”, but it’s already implied that you are extending an invitation to someone to do something with you, so you don’t absolutely need to say “with me”. For example, you could have said, “わたし と のみませんか“. (わたし = me.  = with. のみませんか = won’t you drink.) In English this would mean “Won’t you drink with me?” You can also change the pronoun わたしlike in this sentence, “わたしたち と おさか に いきませんか“, which means, “Won’t you go to Osaka with us?” (わたしたち = us.  = with. おさか = Osaka.  = ni particle. いきませんか = won’t you go.)

The English translations for ませんか all vary depending on the author. Some translate ませんか as “Will you…”, others as “Why don’t we…”, still others as “What do you say to…”. Technically there is no set phrase for ませんか in English. As long as the English translation expresses an invitation to someone, it’ll do. One other thing I want to point out is the difference between a question like “えいが を みますか” versus “えいが を みませんか versus “えいが を みましょうか“. (えいが = movie. = wo particle. みる = to see.) At some point we’ve talked about all three of these types of sentences, but let’s review.

In the very beginning we talked about asking questions using the particle. So a question like “えいが を みますか” will be “Do you watch movies?” This type of question is different from “えいが を みませんか” (Won’t you watch a movie with me?) because the latter question was a question inviting someone to do something, while the former question was simply just a question. The last question, “えいが を みましょうか” means “Shall we watch a movie?” is different in that this question is a question offering someone a suggestion to do something rather than inviting someone to do something.

Ok, that’s it for today, またね! (later!)

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