Japanese

How to Say NO in Japanese

Hey, there are some words that you just gotta know, and how to say NO in Japanese is one of them. What’s cool is that Japanese actually has a couple different words that can all be translated as “no” in English.

Why so many? Well it’s because each one carries a different nuance. Some are also more informal, so you wouldn’t say them to your boss. Friends are okay though 🙂

The Different NOs

いいえ (iie) = No
This is the normal way to say “no.” This is the version that you should use when talking politely with anyone, be it your boss, someone you just met, etc.

It is ALSO a way to say “you’re welcome.” This would be like in English when you do something for someone and they say “thank you” and you reply with “no problem” or “not at all.”

 

ううん (ūn) = No (informal)
You can use this version as long as you’re with friends. It works the same way as いいえ. Although, be sure to elongate that “u” sound because if you don’t, then you will accidentally say うん (un) which means YES!

Some other ways to say “No”

So now that we are done with the basic ways to say “no”, both formal and informal, let’s check out a few other ways. These are pretty common to hear in anime so you’ve probably heard them before.

結構です (kekkō desu) = No thank you (I’m fine)
If someone offers you something, like more food or drink, you can use this phrase to say “no thanks.”

ちょっと。。。(chotto…) = Well… (no)
This one literally means “a little” and it is often used as a polite way to say “no” to some sort of request. It conveys the feeling of “well, it’s a little inconvenient. Sorry, I have to say no.”

いや (iya) = I dislike
Here is a good way to say “no” to someone and to imply that it’s because you don’t like it.

だめ (dame) = It’s no good
Say someone offers you some sort of solution, but you know it’s total crap. That’s when you would use this one to say “no way / it’s not going to work.”

やめてください! (yamete kudasai) = Please stop!
If someone keeps bugging you with a request or something and you’re at the end of your rope, this is how you would say “No, and please stop bugging me!”

Better to know and not need to

Hopefully you won’t need to use these phrases too much. But just the same, it’s a good idea to know them. And you will definitely hear them in anime and read them in manga!

And if you’d like to know how to say “YES” in Japanese, you can find it here!


Know of any other ways to say “no” in Japanese? Leave a comment below and let us know!


 

6 Comments

  • Dana

    I really enjoyed this article. We have a language learning website ourselves, and while it is not directed at one language in particular, I’m especially drawn to Japanese because our son has spent years living in Japan. He, too, is very much a fan of anime. He tries to explain the Japanese language to me, as he teaches English to them, so your article holds special meaning to me. Best wishes on your quest.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey thanks! That is super cool that you guys are teaching languages too! I often read other people’s sites myself to look for more and better ways for people to learn. After all, lots of other people have methods that work, so they are worth giving a try.

      And that is awesome that your son knows Japanese and teaches English! A man after my own heart, haha!

  • Judy

    Nick,

    It was interesting to learn that there are so many ways to say “No” in Japanese. I enjoyed reading the post.

    As you said, it is better to know than to need to know. I can see how lack of knowledge could be embarrassing for someone or possibly cause them to get into trouble.

    I wouldn’t want to say the wrong thing to my boss. Good tips for travelers.

  • Steve & Kris

    I had no idea there were so many ways to say “No” in Japanese. Very interesting that there are so many applications. If you think about it, in English, depending on how you say the word, it can mean many different things. I understand English is one of the hardest languages to learn, because of all the nuances. “No” can be discipline, or unsure, or funny. It just depends on the circumstances.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I’ve also heard that English can be very hard to learn. Lots of nuances and it doesn’t follow its own rules. It’s pretty cool to see how Japanese is similar to English, and also how it’s different!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *