Posted on

Dictionary-Form VERB + な as “Don’t VERB” (Verb Conjugation/Sentence Ending Particle)

Dictionary-Form VERB + な as “Don’t VERB” (Verb Conjugation/Sentence Ending Particle)

When the character な is attached at the end of the Dictionary-Form of a VERB word, it forms the negative command grammar pattern that expresses “Don’t VERB.”

Context:
While this grammar pattern has been used since pre-modern Japanese times, its classification can be a bit vague. It is said to be a type of verb conjugation (though it is technically just plugging the character な after the Dictionary-Form of a VERB word, which is considered the most standard VERB form) as well as a type of sentence-ending particle (in which the character な acts as what is called the “prohibition particle”). Regardless, distinguishing between what type of grammar pattern Dictionary-Form VERB + な as “Don’t VERB” is is not compulsory for understanding its usage.

Corresponding to how simple it is to form, this negative command form is considered to be the most direct and terse and as a result can come off as extremely impolite and rude. Many times, speech patterns as such associated with forwardness and frankness are considered masculine speech, but Dictionary-Form VERB + な is commonly used by both male and female speakers.

While not completely nonexistent in spoken language (it may become very common in friendlier, more informal conversations), it can much more commonly be observed works of fiction.

Example(s):

たべるな
taberu na
“don’t eat”

のむな
nomu na
“don’t drink”

みるな
miru na
“don’t look”

こっち来るな!
Kocchi kuru na!
“Don’t come here!/Stay away!”

*On the topic of works of fiction such as anime, an even more slurred version of this grammar pattern can be sometimes be observed (e.g. the first example こっち来るな becomes こっちくんな, するな becomes すんな, etc.)

 

An important thing to note is how easily this grammar pattern may be confused with other grammatical forms.

[1] The use of the sentence-ending particle な to express emphasis after a Dictionary-Form VERB word.

Example(s):
そんなこと言うな
Sonna koto iu na
*This can be interpretted as both “You sure do say things like that” and “Don’t say things like that.” Various minor additions to the sentence (e.g. the sentence-ending particle よ, the small っ, an exclamation mark, a trailing ぁ after the な, an ellipsis, etc.) can make it clearer as to which one is meant to be said.

[2] The affirmative command grammar pattern Pre-ます-Form VERB + な as “Do VERB,” which is effectively the complete opposite of Dictionary-Form VERB + な’s meaning. This grammar pattern is an abbreviated version of the Pre-ます-Form VERB + なさい as “Please do VERB” grammar pattern. Through its abbreviation it becomes more of a forceful statement.

Example(s):
聞きなさい (kikinasai) “please listen”
聞きな (kikina) “listen”
聞くな (kikuna) “don’t listen”

Similar Grammar Pattern(s):