Bengali: Negation


Hey everyone,

In the related Hindi/Urdu language, negation is a rather simple affair - the word नहीं typically does the job. For the purposes of this thread, consider the following sentences:

1) I am not married.
2) There are no books
3) Don't you know?

In Hindi then, their translations would be straightforward, with नहीं being used everywhere:

1) मैं शादीशुदा नहीं हूँ।
2) किताबें नहीं हैं।
3) क्या तुम नहीं जानते?

But according to Google Translate, the Bengali translations for these use different words for negation:

1) আমি বিবাহিত নই.
2) কোন বই নেই
3) তুমি জান না?

So what exactly is the difference between নই, নেই, and না? If I had to take a guess I would say that নই is used in conjunction with "to be" (so "I am", "He is", etc.) even though Bengali is considered a zero-copula language; নেই is used for indicating absence ("there is no/there are no"); and না is used to negate verbs.

Is my understanding correct?
  • Hello hello!
    1. নই is the negative form of the regular kind of “to be” verb, which a verb itself. However, at least in East Bengal’s local dialects, it is often confusingly replaced by না (for all persons). The conjugations of this verb are আমি নই, তুই নোস(নস), তুমি নও, সে নয়, আপনি/তিনি নন. You’re right.
    2. নেই is the negative of “there is/are”, so “there isn’t/aren’t any” I suppose. You’re right again.
    3. না means “no” but is also used to make the other normal verbs negative. You’re right once more.
    I completely agree with stormmaashrooms. However, I'd like to add some information:

    1. Replacing, নই, নও, etc. by না is perfectly normal also in West Bengal. Moreover, in the colloquial speech of younger speakers from Kolkata, the conjugation নই, নও, etc. is getting replaced by an invariable নয়.
    2. নেই is invariable, and has an older variant নাই, which is still commonly used in the East.