In Japanese there are a few expressions which are close equivalents to English “never”, and in this post I’ll go over a few.
If you want to express the concept of “never” in Japanese, you can keep things simple and just use the negative form of a verb. Literally, this is close to “~will not”.
- Here it will never rain.
If you want to add emphasis, you can use the negative tense with “絶対に” (zettai ni), which means something like “definitely not”. You can usually omit “ni” if you like, especially if it is informal Japanese.
- You’ll never pass that test.
You can replace “zettai ni” with “全然” (zen zen) and retain the same meaning, though it sounds a bit more informal to me.
The word ’決して’ can be used to mean the same thing as “zettai ni”, though it sounds more formal and I don’t hear it in everyday conversation often. When I use it, it’s usually for dramatic effect.
- No matter how much Anime you watch, you’ll never become fluent in Japanese.
“全く” (mattaku) means the same thing as “決して” when used in a negative sentence.
- I never watch TV.
Here the use of “なんて” makes it sounds like the speaker is speaking negatively about TV.
The biggest difference between “全く” and “決して” is that the former can be used in positive sentences too to express something will definitely happen. According to the dictionary, “決して” can also be used in a similar sense, but I’ve never heard this in practice.
”一切” (issai) is yet another word that can be used to mean “never”, and like “決して” is has a formal feel to it. I usually only see this in writing.
If you want to say “never” in the context of something that was done before (i.e. “never again”, “never anymore”), you can use the word もう (mou).
- I’ll never eat Natto again.
If you want to add emphasis, you can put in “二度と” (nido to), which means “a second time”.
- I will never see you again!
In cases where it makes sense, you can use use a word like “一つも” (hitotsu mo) to express you wouldn’t use even one of something. I don’t think this is a very common expression, but just pointing it out as a possibility.
- I will never eat even a single fruit.
Another slightly more advanced way to say “never” is “non-past verb” + “ことはない”. Here “は” can omitted. This expression sounds a bit formal to me.
- I don’t think I will ever see him again.
- Literally: I think I will never see him again
As a side point, I should point out that most of the above words can be used in contexts where they wouldn’t translate to ‘never’, even when a negative verb is used. For example:
- I don’t have any money.
In this usage, “全然” (or similar words like “全く”) are used to express that there is “none” or “not at all” of something, which can be an object or something more abstract like a feeling.
Thanks to one of my readers for recommending this interesting topic. If anyone has any more requests for Japanese grammar explanations, please let me know!