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Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by mdbvma, Nov 21, 2012.

  1. mdbvma Senior Member

    Canada, English
    その日、私はホームに入ってきた電車に飛び乗った。ところが、電車は反対方向に走り始めた(   )。私は電車の行き先を確かめなかったことを後悔した。
    1 ではない  (2 ではないか)  3 のではない 4 のではないか

    This is a question from the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test practice test which was posted online. According to the answer key, the answer is #2. My question is, what is the grammatical reason why #4 is unacceptable? Until now I had thought that "ではないか" and "のではないか" meant basically the same thing.
  2. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    その答えは合ってるのではないか? Is that answer correct, isn't it? (I guess the answer is correct, don't you think?)
    あなたは鍵を失くしたのではないか? Have you lost the key, haven't you? (I guess you have lost the key, are you sure?)
    This makes interrogative, and good when you asking or wondering about the topic, confirming it with someone. Without somebody, just asking to and confirming with yourself is also possible.
    私は鍵を失くしたのではないか(な)?I guess I might have lost the key?

    Plus, 電車は反対方向に走り始めたのではないか sounds like yes, you're asking and making sure to a person if the train did so or not. You can omit the ? mark unless you want to emphasise.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  3. Wishfull Senior Member


    One hundred out of 100 Japanese people will choose No.2.
    You cannot reach the correct answer by using grammatical analysis.
    It's just an idiom.

    ではないか=lo and behold
    電車は反対方向に走り始めたではないか=Lo and behold, the train started moving to the opposite direction.

    Only reading a lot of Japanese is the solution of answering this kind of question, I think.
  4. mdbvma Senior Member

    Canada, English
    Thank you for your help, frequency and Wishfull.
  5. 巻き舌外人 New Member

    It may have to do with the speaker's level of certainty.

    Here the speaker is witnessing the event so there is absolute certainty. Therefore, the answer is "ではないか". In a more colloquial expression, you might say "じゃん" which is "じゃないか" which is "ではないか". I may be wrong be I think it would be weird to say a sentence that ended in "のじゃん" as "じゃん" presupposes certainty.
  6. Nobu.0

    Nobu.0 Senior Member


    It doesn't really have to do with the levels of certainty. These are similar sounding, but different phrases.
    ~ではないか is an exclamatory phrase, while ~のではないか is simply a question. "Lo and behold", as someone mentioned, would be a nice translation. "To my surprise" is good too. Some is an example I can think of:

    桃を開けてみた。すると、そこには男の子がいるではないか。(I opened the peach. And, lo and behold, there was a boy!)
    中から音がするが、もしかしてこの桃の中には人がいるのではないか。(I hear something from inside. I wonder if there might be someone in this peach.)​

    Hope this helps.
  7. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    電車は反対方向に走り始めたじゃん cannot be used in this "discovery" situation like 電車は反対方向に走り始めたではないか can be. The former is always for confirming the event with someone else.

    Just then, you remember? the train started moving to the other way round.

    The speaker and the listener witnessed the same thing and the speaker is now evoking the event to make their point in the conversation.
  8. mdbvma Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I presume that there are some exceptions to this rule, however. I recently saw this sentence in a grammar book for instance, "日本でもほとんど普及していないではないか". This was translated as "Even in Japan it has practically no popular support, has it?"
  9. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    Provided the writer wonders and is asking, this 'has it?' version is good. In addition, the reader obviously understands that the writer is wondering in the light of the context you'd read. Or, another possible case is that the writer has forgotten to add a question mark.

    mdbvma, what do you say when you get on a wrong train? 'OMG the train starts running the direction oppose to my expectation!' ~ではないか is this in a formal fashion, expressing a surprise. In your example, if the writer wants to add a surprise for the unpopularity, I think the translation is wrong.
    You'll understand in which case your example is going to mean. And I have to add ではないか sometimes covers a wider range than '4' does, with a slight informality.

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