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Zenzen yoku-nai.

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Zenzen yoku-nai. (I do mind!)

Situation 1: At home, Mituso takes off his socks and leaves them in the living room. His mother scolds him.

母: 光男、ソックスを脱いだら、ちゃんと洗濯かごに入れなさい。

光男: うーん、そんな小さいこと、どうでもいいじゃない。

母: 全然よくない! 私の仕事をこれ以上ふやさないでちょうだい。

Haha: Mitsuo, sokkusu-wo nuidara, chanto sentaku-kago-ni irenasai.

Mitsuo: Ūn, sonna chiisai koto, dō-demo ii-ja nai.

Haha: Zenzen yoku-nai! Watashi-no shigoto-wo kore-ijō fuyasanaide-chōdai.

Mother: Mitsuo, after taking off your socks put them into the washing basket.

Mitsuo: Ah Mom, don’t worry about something like that.

Mother: I do mind! Please don’t add to my chores anymore.

Today, we will introduce the meanings and usage of the adverb 全然 (ぜんぜん/ never). 全然 is usually followed by the negative form of an adjective, adverb or verb, as in the mother’s 全然よくない (never okay), or as in 彼(かれ)は全然苦労(くろう)していないから、お金(かね)のありがたさを知(し)らない (Since he has never experienced financial difficulty, he doesn’t know the real value of money). In some cases only 全然 is used, without the predicate, since the listener can easily infer the unsaid part, as you can see in Mr. Mita’s first sentence in the Bonus Dialogue. It is pronounced ぜーんぜん for emphasis. In casual conversations, instead of the negative form of the adjective, adverb or verb, the affirmative form of words that have negative meaning like 無理 (むり/impossible), だめ (no good), etc., often follow 全然.

Situation 2: At home, Takako is looking at her blouse.

たか子: このブラウス、色落ちしちゃったなあ。なんか変な色!捨てようかな。

母: ええっ、それ、全然きれいよ! 捨てるなんて、もったいない。

Takako: Kono burausu, iro-ochi shichatta-nā. Nanka henna iro! Suteyō-kana.

Haha: Ee’, sore zenzen kirei-yo! Suteru-nante, mottainai.

Takako: The color of this blouse has faded. What an odd color! Maybe I’ll throw it away.

Mother: What? It’s completely fine! Don’t waste it.

This is a casual daily conversation where Takako says へん (awkward), and to negate that statement the mother could have said 全然へんじゃない (not awkward at all), indicating that it is still きれい (good). Instead, she says 全然きれい (completely good). Sometimes 全然 is used in this way. In order to emphasize the adjective or adverb, 全然 is often used, in slang, to mean completely, terribly, badly, etc., although, it has a connotation of negating a certain unsaid/inferred premise. For example, in the following conversation between students, the premise is that getting credit is not very easy: 「単位(たんい)もらえた?」 (“Did you get the credit?”) 「うん、全然だいじょうぶだった。」 (“Yeah, it was totally fine.”)

Bonus Dialogue: Mr. Sere asks his colleague Mr. Mita about the group date that he attended yesterday.

セレ: きのうの合(ごう)コン、どうだった? 何(なに)か、いいこと、あった?

三田: いや、ぜーんぜん! 参加者(さんかしゃ)は男女(だんじょ)4人(にん)ずつだったんだけど、男女ともに、一人(ひとり)に人気(にんき)が集中(しゅうちゅう)しちゃって…。

セレ: じゃあ、一組(ひとくみ)は成立(せいりつ)したわけだね?

三田: うん。その二人(ふたり)で消(き)えちゃったから、残(のこ)りの6人でカラオケに行(い)ったんだ。

セレ: なーんだ、けっこう楽(たの)しんだじゃない。

三田: いや、全然(ぜんぜん)楽しくなかった。みんな、どんどん自分(じぶん)の歌(うた)を入(い)れちゃうから、ぼくは、歌うチャンスが全然なかったんだ。一曲(いっきょく)も、だよ。

セレ: へえ!ぼくたちが三田(みた)くんとカラオケに行くと、三田くんが一番(いちばん)たくさん歌うのに…。

三田: まあ、そういうタイプの男女の中(なか)から、カップルは生(う)まれないだろうって、ぼく自身(じしん)、思(おも)うよ。

Sere: How was yesterday’s group date? Did anything nice happen?

Mita: Nothing! Four guys and four ladies came, but only one of the guys and one of the ladies were popular.

Sere: So you mean one couple was formed, right?

Mita: Yeah, they went out by themselves. The rest of us went to karaoke.

Sere: Okay, anyway you still enjoyed yourself.

Mita: It wasn’t enjoyable at all. They ordered one song after another, I had no chance to sing. Not a single song!

Sere: Oh really! When we usually go to karaoke with you, Mita, you’re the one who orders more songs than any of us.

Mita: I personally think that type of man and woman could never become a couple.

  • Jon E.

    This is extremely helpful. Thank you for providing these lessons for us!