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What's the difference between 'hanase masen' and 'hanashimasen'

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In Japanese, the masen ending is used for polite verbs to show a negative.

For example:
Hanashimasu - to speak
hanashimasen - to not speak


In my text book it gives the following example:
Nihongo wa hotondo hanase masen. Shoshinsha desu.
I can speak very little Japanese. I’m just a beginner.


Hanase means to speak, talk, understand
Masen is a suffix used to negate an item in the past

1) So why has the speaker used hanase masen instead of hanashimasen?
In particular, the sentence is used for to talk about a present ability (e.g. I can speak very little).

2) Why is masen being used when that is for the past?
3) Could hanase masen be replaced with hanashimasen? If so, would it change the meaning?

Thanks!
 

Mike Cash

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The answer is in your examples. Notice the absence or presence of "can".

In English, we add the auxiliary verb "can" to indicate potential (ability). In Japanese, the verb takes on a different form.

So "hanashimasen" is "do not speak" and "hanasemasen" is "can not speak".

Potential Form | Learn Japanese

May I ask what textbook you are using?
 

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@Mike Cash. Thanks that explained it perfectly.

The book is "Everyday Japanese phrases" although no author seems to be credited. Published by "Golden Flower Books". It's very handy, but I can't find it online. I think it's from the 90s.
 

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@Mike Cash. But if hanasemasen is cannot speak and hotondo is very little, then isn't the sentence saying: I can't speak very little Japanese (and thus the opposite of what is intended). Or I am just applying English double negative rules which don't occur in Japanese?
 

nice gaijin

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hotondo is like "almost" when used with a positive, and "almost not at all" when used with a negative, like:

Q: お菓子が残っている?
A: ううん、もうほとんどない

Q: Any snacks left?
A: Nah, almost all gone now.
 

OoTmaster

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Or I am just applying English double negative rules which don't occur in Japanese?
Japanese isn't like English with the double negatives. Context matters in determining what is meant by a Japanese double negative.
 

Mike Cash

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@Mike Cash. Thanks that explained it perfectly.

The book is "Everyday Japanese phrases" although no author seems to be credited. Published by "Golden Flower Books". It's very handy, but I can't find it online. I think it's from the 90s.

If you are serious about learning Japanese, you would be far better served by learning from an actual proper textbook rather than from a book of phrases. If you only wish to learn a few phrases by rote, then a phrase book is adequate.
 

Mike Cash

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You also need to read a wee bit more carefully:

image.jpeg
 

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@nice gaijin, @OoTmaster, @Mike Cash. Thanks for your help. That makes it clear!

If you are serious about learning Japanese, you would be far better served by learning from an actual proper textbook rather than from a book of phrases. If you only wish to learn a few phrases by rote, then a phrase book is adequate.

Do you have any recommendations? I have tried Michel Thomas Method (Basic and Advance), Collins Japanese, iStart Japanese, BBC Japanese and PuniPuni. They are all very good, but they only teach the very basics of grammar. Also, most of the vocabulary and phrases is stuff that I would never use in conversation.

I like the "Everyday Japanese phrases" because it has phrases I would use. But like you have noted, it is not very good for learning, because I keep on getting stuck understanding the grammar (the grammar I have learnt in the other books isn't advance enough to make sense of the phrases).

Thanks in advance for any recommendations you have. I am also learning Spanish and there seems to be a much better range of resources available for that. I love learning Japanese, but's it's like moving through treacle, because I can't find anything that's really good to help me.
 
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Do you have any recommendations?
I second the recommendation of Genki. I didn't use it but by now I'm pretty familiar with whats in it because so many people do use it. That means a lot of people more advanced than you will have used the same book and be better able to answer your questions, and also that if you search for answers first you'll often find the exact same question being asked about the exact same example from your book.

If at all possible, make sure your copy includes the accompanying CD. There may be editions without it and there are certainly used copies that no longer have it. (Unless they've put their audio online by now, not sure about that.)

Other popular textbooks are
Minna no Nihongo 3A Online/Japanese Language Texts/Minna no Nihongo Series
Not quite as popular as Genki, but I believe it's available in many languages.

Introduction to Modern Japanese An Introduction to Modern Japanese: Volume 1, Grammar Lessons - Books on Google Play
I have this one, and it's really very good. I only recommend Genki over it because of the lack of accompanying audio and the above mentioned advantages of using the most popular text.

Japanese the Manga Way Amazon.com: Japanese the Manga Way: An Illustrated Guide to Grammar and Structure (8601405895202): Wayne P. Lammers: Books
For people who want to have something more interesting than typical dialogs and/or want to feel like they're on a straight path to reading manga. I was at first a little suspicious that it was just a gimmick, but I've seen people achieve pretty good results starting with this book.

If for some reason the 'default' recommendation of Genki isn't acceptable for you, any of those would be fine too.
 

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Thanks, I'll check it out. For Genki, I note that there are several Anki decks available for it. Does anyone know which is the best Anki deck for Genki? Thanks!
 
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