How to say no in Japanese: All you need to know!

How To Say No In Japanese

The most direct translation of the English word “No” is “いいえ” iie.

いいえ iie

But, in contrast to the English word “no” which is a common part of everyday language, the word iie isn’t used much in Japanese.

It might seem strange that such a fundamental word isn’t used in a language, but it’s not that people in Japan just say “yes” to everything, it’s just that the way of saying “no” is different in every situation in Japan.

Kind of annoying if you are learning Japanese as a foreign learner, right?

But don’t worry, it’s not that complex really.

Usually saying no in Japanese is achieved by just using a negative form of what has been said, or asked, to you.

So, for example, if someone said, “are you going to eat that?”, in English you might reply simply “no, I’m not”. In Japanese, rather than using a word that directly means “no”, you would say something that means “I’m not going to eat that”.

So, this example looks like this:


sore, taberu?

Are you going to eat that?



no, I’m not

Using No in Japanese sentences with verbs

You can use the pattern above with all kinds of verbs in Japanese.

Basically, when someone asks you about doing something in Japanese, you usually reply with the same verb with a negative ending in a form that is like “I don’t do that” in English.

So the basic structure for negating verbs in Japanese is:

Verb stem + nai

In its simplest form (which is actually quite common in Japan) it sounds like:


Are you going?



No, I’m not.

Here are some more examples of “No” In Japanese with various verbs:


penn aru?

Have you got a pen?


gomen, nai desu.

No, sorry.


afurika ni itta koto arimasuka?

Have you ever been to Africa?


itta kotonaidesu.

No, I’ve never been.


chesu ga dekiru?

Can you play chess?


dekinai ne.

No, I can’t.


kyou wa tenisu suru?

Will you play tennis today?


Kyou wa shinai.

No, I won’t.

Can you put iie in front of these sentences?

Yes, it is quite common for people to put いいえiie in front of sentences where they are saying “I won’t” or “I can’t”.


jyon san wa mainichi unndou shimasuka?

Do you exercise every day, John?


Iie, shimasen

No, I don’t.

Overall, you can see that this sentence structure is actually quite similar to English.

Handy, right?

How to Say “No, I don’t think” in Japanese

The most common way to say “No, I don’t think” in Japanese is:

verb stem + nai + to omou (informal) or omoimasu (more formal)


korekara nedan ga agaru to omoimasu ka.

Do you think the prices will go up?


iie, agaranai to omoimasu.

No, I don’t think they will.

Alternatively, you can use the word “think” 思う omou in its negative form as 思わない omowanai or 思いません omoimasen, but this tends to emphasize the fact that you, as a personal opinion, do not think.

So, in the above example, you would be more likely to use this form to negate what someone else had just said, to assert your opinion:


korekara nedan ga agaru to omoimasu ka.

Do you think the prices will go up?


Agaru to omoimasu.

I think they will.


Watashi ha agaru to omoimasen.

I do not think they will go up.

Using No in Japanese sentences with Adjectives

Negating adjectives is similar to negate verbs.

Now, Japanese is a little complicated by the fact that it has i adjectives and na adjectives. The i adjectives are the ones that end in a i sound such as takai expensive, yasui cheap, ookii big, chiisai small.

The na adjectives are all the other ones like kantan simple, fukuzatsu complex, shizuka quiet, benri convenient.

The form looks like:

i Adjective Stem + ku + nai

na Adjective Stem + jya (less formal) or dewa (more formal) + nai

Once again, in its simplest form it is like this for an i adjective:


Atsui ne.

It’s hot, isn’t it?


Atsukunai yo.

No, it’s not.

or for a na adjective, it looks like this:


Kantan desyou?

Simple, right?


Kantan jyanai yo!

It’s not simple!

Here are some more examples:


kono kuruma wa takai desuka?

Is this car expensive?


Takakunai desu.

No, it’s not.


sono mise no ryōri wa oishii desu ka.

Does the food at that restaurant taste good?


oishikunai desu.

No, it doesn’t.


asoko no toshokan wa shizuka desu ka.

Is that library quiet?


iie, shizuka de wa nai desu.

No, it’s not.


sono hon wa fukuzatsu desu ka.

Is that book complex?


fukuzatsu de wa nai desu.

No, it’s not.

How to say “No, I don’t like it” in Japanese

The most basic way to say you don’t like something in Japanese is:


suki janai

I don’t like


amai mono wa suki desu ka.

Do you like sweets?


suki janai desu.

No, I don’t.

How to Indirectly say no to an invitation in Japanese

Japanese people are famous for being indirect in their expression (although, they can conversely be very direct when talking about things like personal appearances).

So, one way to decline an invitation is to just say that something is “a bit…” and then trail off, leaving the explanation unsaid.

For example:


ashita eiga mi ni ikanai?

Do you want to go and see a movie tomorrow?


ashita wa chotto.

Sorry, I can’t.

In Japan, giving reasons for not doing things is actually a lot less common, or expected, than in the West. Even in the example above, where you are declining an invitation to go to a movie, in the West, it would generally be considered a little rude or “short” to just say “sorry, I can’t”. At the very least, you would probably say something like “Sorry, I’ve got something on tomorrow”. This is not as expected in Japan, and people often decline things with an ambiguous “tomorrow’s a bit…”

Wait around to find out what tomorrow is a bit of, and you will be waiting until your hair turns gray.

How to indirectly say no to someone’s argument in Japanese

Another ambiguous word you hear a lot in Japan when people want to say “no” is かな kana, which means “to wonder”.

So if someone says they love a movie, and you hated the movie, a conversation could go:


ano eiga wa saikō deshō.

That movie is the best, right?


Sou kana.

I don’t know about that.

How to say “No thank you” in Japanese

To say “no thank you” in Japanese, you usually say something that like “I’m good”, or “I’m fine”, rather than directly saying “no thank you”.

How to say “No thank you” politely in Japanese

A polite way to say no in Japanese is as:


kekkou desu.

I’m fine.

For example:


ocha ikaga desuka.

Would you like some tea?


kekkou desu.

I’m fine, thank you.

It is actually quite uncommon for people to say “I’m fine” and then put “thank you” after it, as we almost always do in English. It is possible, though, to say:


kekkou desu. arigatou.

I’m fine, thank you.

How to say “No thank you” casually in Japanese

To say “no thank you” in a more casual way, you can say:



I’m good.

For example:


kyō gakkō ni tsureteikimashō ka.

Shall I take you to school today?


Ii desu.

I’m good, thanks.


Daijyobu desu.

I’m okay.


Terebi miru?

Do you want to watch TV?



No, I’m okay.

I’ve also written a whole page about saying “okay” in Japanese here.

How to Say “that’s no good” in Japanese

Another useful word for saying “no, I can’t do something” in Japanese is だめ dame

dame enables you to say that you don’t want to, or can’t do something as if things are beyond your control. This means you can be less direct about turning someone down or telling someone “no”.

So for example, if someone asked you if you wanted to do something Tuesday:


kayōbi ni nanika suru?

Do you want to do something Tuesday?

You could answer


kayōbi wa dame desu.

Tuesday is no good.

I go more in-depth into using dame in Japanese here.

How to say “no, stop it” in Japanese

There are a variety of ways to say “no, stop it” or “stop that” in Japanese. I’ve got a whole post about how to say stop in Japanese.

Some of these phrases for saying “No, stop it” in Japanese have actually become quite well known outside of Japan amongst people who are into Japanese anime and media. Phrases in this category, which I have written about in the past include:

やめてください yamete kudasai

やめろ yamero

だめ dame

How to say “No Smoking” in Japanese

“No smoking” in Japan is said as 禁煙 kinen.


kono heya wa kinen desu.

This is a no-smoking room.

No That’s Not It in Japanese

Another word you often hear people using to negate things in Japan is:

違う chigau.

This word literally means “different”, but it is often used as a way of saying no or negating something.



kore wa jyon san no kaban desuka

Is this John’s bag?



No, it’s not.

“No, you can not” in Japanese

A common way to say “cannot” in Japanese is to say いけない ikenai or ikemasen .



sakka- de wa te o tsukatte mo ii desu ka.

Can you use your hands in soccer?


iie, sakka- de wa te o tsukatte waikemasen.

No, you can’t use your hands in soccer.

No Problem in Japanese

The most direct translation of the English phrase “no problem” is 問題ない mondai nai.

Of course, this is a massive simplification, and there are actually a lot of ways to say “no problem” in Japanese, which I’ve written about in the past.

How to say “No” Forcefully in Japanese

To get across a short, sharp “No!” in Japanese you can say いや iya!


issho ni kaeranai?

Do you want to go home with me?


iya! henna koto iwanaide yo.

No, don’t be weird.

iya いや can also mean you don’t like something.

How to say “Oh No” in Japanese

There are a few words you hear Japanese people saying when they make a whoopsy.

These include:

Oh no/Oops





shimatta! saifu o wasureta!

Oh no, I forgot my wallet!



Oh-oh/oh no

For example:


yabai, hantai hōkō no shasen ni haitteshimatta.

Damn it, I’m in the lane going the other direction.

Learning how to say no in Japanese can, conversely, open doors for you. It has many benefits including the ability to assert yourself and gain respect and authority. There are different ways to say no in Japanese and you need to choose the most appropriate one for your needs.

In Japan, saying “no” politely without offending someone is a delicate situation. While it may seem like a simple word, the Japanese culture can be heavily influenced by how things are said and done. Saying “no” to somebody that you don’t know well could potentially end up making them feel bad or insulted.

Hopefully, this guide has equipped you to say a solid, nuanced “no” in Japanese – in a range of situations.