The Japanese class of 16th of May

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Keiko’s Japanese students are progressing really well, as we can see from this message about the class of the 16th of May.

Isshoni tenisu wo shimasen ka?

Shall we play tennis together?


The interesting point here is that in Japanese the preferred question format is negative. Thefore the word-by-word translation of this sentence sounds as follows:

Shell we NOT play tennis?

Why the negative?

This negative form is out of polite considerations. So by negating the verb, the recepient of this message is symbolically provided with the chance to easily wiggle out, if (s)he is not willing to accept this invitation. Although in fact this is a conventionalised invitation and as such it will be understood as a genuine invitation.


Furthermore one of the students in the class deducted the logic behind this negative form. Which was quite impressive, considering that I myself was not able to explain to students why such a negative verbal form is preferred.

Keiko will start a new Japanese for beginners class in September. Please contact The Modern Language School, to register your interst.