What is the 'opposite' of 「そうだ 」?

I’m puzzling through some of the nit-pickier minutiae of grammar intertwined with vocab. So, I’m looking for a little help untangling my thinking/understanding.

Here’s my current tangle (definitions pulled from Jisho/JMdict by using 10ten Reader browser plugin):

(1) (int) that is so; that is right; it looks to me; that’s my impression
(2) (exp) people say that; it is said that; I hear that (after plain form of a verb or adjective)

What is the ‘opposite’ or perhaps ‘negation’ of そうだ, meaning “that is so”?

The First Way

(aka longer but maybe more logical?)

Here’s one way of thinking about it…

Please expand for full train of 'grammatical reasoning'

だ is the plain copula:

(1) (cop) be; is (plain copula)
(2) (aux-v) did; (have) done (た after certain verb forms; indicates past or completed action)
(3) (aux-v) please; do (indicates light imperative)

The main idea here is to ‘negate’ だ. However, that is not necessarily so straightforward – this is, after all, an essential aspect of the main question of this post.

Luckily, we can go a slightly different route which has a more well-defined ‘negation’. The ‘formal’ coupla is である, which has the same definition as だ (acting as the plain copula):

(cop,v5r-i) (form) be; is

So, if we can figure out the ‘negation’ of である, then we can likewise figure out the ‘negation’ of だ – since definitionally, である ≡ だ, so it should follow that, definitionally, neg(である) ≡ neg(だ).

The ‘negation’ of である is given straightforwardly by でない. (It even says so in the definition!)

でない (exp,adj-i) is not; am not; are not (negation of である)

It seems to me that this makes sense if and because である = で + ある, where で is:

で, にて
(1) (prt) at; in (indicates location of action; にて is the formal literary form)
(2) (prt) at; when (indicates time of action)
(3) (prt) by; with (indicates means of action)
(4) (conj) and then; so
(5) (aux) and; then (indicates continuing action; alternative form of 〜て used for some verb types)
(6) (prt) (ksb:) let me tell you; don’t you know (at sentence-end; indicates certainty, emphasis, etc.)

and ある is:

有る, 在る [ある]
(1) (v5r-i,vi) (uk) to be; to exist; to live (usu. of inanimate objects)
(2) (v5r-i,vi) (uk) to have
(3) (v5r-i,vi) (uk) to be located
(4) (v5r-i,vi) (uk) to be equipped with
(5) (v5r-i,vi) (uk) to happen; to come about

And because the negation of ある is the special case, ない:

無い [ない]
(1) (adj-i) (uk) nonexistent; not being (there)
(2) (adj-i) unowned; not had; unpossessed
(3) (adj-i) unique
(4) (adj-i) not; impossible; won’t happen (as …ことがない, etc.; indicates negation, inexperience, unnecessariness or impossibility)
(5) (adj-i,aux-adj) not (after the ren’yōkei form of an adjective)
(6) (adj-i,aux-adj) to not be; to have not (after the -te form of a verb)

So, the ‘lesson’ I’m taking from here, so far, is that:

  • でない (= で+ない) is the ‘negation’ of である (= で+ある)
  • ない is the ‘negation’ of ある


  • if we can figure out what で+ない means, we will thus have the answer to ‘what is the negation of the copula?’

And since ‘the copula’ means the same thing whether it’s である or だ, then
neg(である) ≡ (で + ない) ≡ neg(だ).

So, all that remains is to figure out what で + ない means.

And this involves figuring out which definitions of で and ない to use from the above-given definitions.

For で, it is either (4) or (5). To refresh our memories, they are:

(4) (conj) and then; so
(5) (aux) and; then (indicates continuing action; alternative form of 〜て used for some verb types)

My hunch/assumption is that it is kind of a combination of both of them. In particular, I think the で in this case is the 〜て form of だ (def’n 5) which also happens to be the conjunctive で (def’n 4), because you get the conjunctive form of a verb (or in this case, a copula) by putting it in 〜て form.

So, if my hunch is correct, then で = Te-form(だ).

Next, we must figure out which of these definitions of ない is the one being used here? It seems to me that only (1) and (6) might make sense; the others are ruled out for various reasons of grammar, e.g. (5) doesn’t make sense because in でない, the ない is definitely not following ‘the ren’yōkei form of an adjective’, since the で is not an adjective. For refresher:

(1) (adj-i) (uk) nonexistent; not being (there)
(6) (adj-i,aux-adj) to not be; to have not (after the -te form of a verb)

Well, if で = Te-form(だ), then it looks like (6) is probably the most correct one. [Let me know if I’m wrong here and (1) actually is the correct one.]

So then, ない = to not be, or, to have not.

So then, で + ない = Te-form(だ) + ‘to not be’.

And, lo and behold, this does comport with the previously-mentioned definition of でない:

でない (exp,adj-i) is not; am not; are not (negation of である)

But now we have a tiny little bit more detail and structure to it. Specifically, we know that it’s not just a single word spelled ‘でない’, it’s actually Te-form(だ), followed by ‘to not be’.

And so, bringing it all together, we can answer the original question:

The ‘opposite’ (or ‘negation’) of そうだ is obtained by negating だ, which is the same as negating である, and this negation is でない which we can now interpret with a bit more detail as で + ない, which is really Te-form(だ) + ‘to not be’.

So, the opposite of そうだ = そうでない, which, if I’m correct, should mean something like
そうで + ない = Te-form(そうだ) + ‘to not be’
~= (the statement that “that is so”) is not.
~= “that is not so”

So, if this is correct, then the ‘opposite’ of そうだ is そうでない, and it means “that is not so”.

Checking in with our definitions, we find this entry:

そうでない (exp) not so

Seems pretty close!

But I’m not 100% sure. Because…

The Second Way

(aka shorter but maybe the wrong idea?)

One of the first rules we learn in grammar is that the ‘negation’ of (A)だ is (A)ではない or, equivalently, in terms of definitions, (A)じゃない.

Therefore, the ‘opposite’ of そうだ, by this rule, should be そうではない.

Now, unfortunately, そうではない does not appear directly in Jisho/JMdict, so we can’t just pull up a definition (using this dictionary anyway).

Instead, we’ll have to try something like Google Translate (same result with or without terminating 「。」):

「そうではない。」, 「そうではない」
it’s not; it is not; that is not the case

or DeepL (result depends on if it’s a sentence fragment or terminated full sentence):

not so; it is not

no, it isn’t; it isn’t; not exactly; no, it is not

So, I’m not 100% sure what to make of this either. We get a more complete thing like ‘it is not’, but in some cases we also get the same fragmentary result that the Jisho def’n gave for そうでない, like ‘not so’.

As a final sanity check, let’s see what GT and DeepL make of そうでない. First GT:

「そうでない。」, 「そうでない」
not so; that’s not the case

(both get ‘re-translated’ as そうではありません, which is weird; why switch to polite?)


not so; not really; it is not

not so; not likely to (do); not really

Trying to help with using the (rare) kanji version, 然う, doesn’t work, as GT misreads it as ‘shika u denai’, and DeepL misreads it as ‘zen u denai’

The question remains, and new questions remain

What is the ‘opposite’ (or perhaps ‘negation’) of そうだ ? Just, like, in general?

But also: Is そうでない correct? Is そうではない correct? Are both correct? What’s really the difference between the two, anyway? What’s the ‘grammatical reasoning’ that makes sense of this? What’s the ‘closest’ English translation?

In particular: Did you find any problems in my line of ‘grammatical reasoning’? Please let me know if so. This is the kind of nit-picky minutiae I’m trying to wrap my head around – and there’s a deeper purpose to this exercise, as it’s a prelude to another problem I’m trying to figure out, which may have some actual relevance to some of BP’s Vocabs and perhaps even some of their Grammar points.

And also: Is ‘opposite’ the right word? ‘Negation’? Is there a more-correct term for this question?

Are there different kinds of ‘opposites’ of sentences/phrases? Like, you could ‘negate’ the English “That is so.” in ‘different’ ways, like “That is not so.” or “It is not the case that ‘That is so’.” or maybe “‘The opposite of that’ is the case.” or whatever!

Any thoughts, commentary, direct answers, whatever you can think of, would be appreciated! :sweat_smile:

I use “うそ” but I think something like えっと。。。多分 can get the point across just as fine.

in all seriousness, I’d say そうじゃない would be okay, in a formal situation. in a casual conversation ではない may be better.

Personally, though I’ve never heard anyone just say that. They normally counter with a different sentence rather than “that’s not it” basically.

In general, I feel it would be “そうではない” as a shortening of “そうではありません”, with ではありません being the negation of です. Would be useful in formal and semi-formal conversations, with そうじゃない being applied to more casual conversations.
Like @Rukifellth said though, it’s not as common as more convenient, more expressive, or more contextually relevant counter statements (I think).

I recommend looking into the bunpro lessons on そうもない and そうにない. Though the other posts are great too! The original negative format is more common in usage from what I have heard. Hope this was helpful :3


Hey @wct !

The そうでない and そうではない both work as the ‘opposite’ of そうだ, but they do have a difference in nuance.

Since そうでない is conjugated using そう+ the negated version of である, it is used to simply mean, ‘it is not so’. On the other hand, そうではない/そうではありません/そうじゃない is conjugated using そう+では+ない. Due to the use of the particle は, it gives this phrase the nuance of ‘it is not this, but it is actually…’.


I usually go fishing if its sunny. When that is not the case, I’m at home loafing around

Senpai:Is this how I should do it?
Kouhai:No, that is not how to do it (but there is another way).

I hope this doesn’t further confuse you!


Opposite of そうだ?
I don’t know probably like tea or just regular water.
Sorry that probably isn’t helpful. I’ll let you know if I come upon any leads!


それはちょっと…, although not a direct negation, works well for indirectly expressing your reservations about something.

違う also works and can be conjugated for politeness.

The Japanese love to indirectly say “no” or “that’s wrong” as opposed to directly. Hence why 違う directly translates to “to differ” (or the like) but is often used to mean “that’s wrong”.

I’ve heard そうではありません(よ) in polite contexts too, however, and this I think is more direct but perfectly acceptable.

(Please take these suggestions with a grain of salt, as I’m not fluent, but they’ve kept me out of trouble nonetheless.)


I agree with @SudoNymm re: 違う.
In the kind of casual conversations you use そうだ for, 違うよ would work to negate or disagree.

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While そうでない and そうではない are correct, they sound very… “Authoritative”?

ではない and じゃない often times carry a nuance of being a refutation, and a lot of times it seems like Japanese people like to avoid being so direct. If your boss or coworker told you something and you used 「そうではありません」、It kinda feels like you’re talking down to them in a way. In these cases instead of going for a direct refutation and instead use 「違う」in a way described above.

For casual conversations, 「そうじゃない」work, but also seems like a refutation as opposed to a simple negation of 「そうだ」。「そうでない」also just sounds… stiff?

From a purely grammatically focused perspective, there’s nothing wrong with 「そうでない」and 「そうではない」、I’ve just never heard them used, where as 「違いそう」or other phrases to express “It doesn’t seem so”/“It seems different” I’ve seen and heard used before.


Good suggestion, thanks.

… Ah! Well, I just did that, and it turns out that those grammar points (そうもない (JLPT N3) | Bunpro, and そうにない (JLPT N2) | Bunpro) are actually using a different dictionary-definition version of ‘そう’.

In そうだ, the そう being used is this one, meaning ‘in that way; thus; such’:

然う [そう]
(1) (adv) (uk) in that way; thus; such (concerning the actions of the listener or concerning the ideas expressed or understood by the listener; with a neg. sentence, implies that something isn’t as much as one might think)
(2) (int) (uk) so (used to express agreement with something said)
(3) (int) (uk) so? (used to express doubt with something said)

However, the version being used by those grammar points is this one, meaning ‘appearing that; seeming that; looking like; having the appearance of’:

そう (aux,adj-na) appearing that; seeming that; looking like; having the appearance of (after -masu stem or adj. stem)

This version of そう is attached “after -masu stem or adj. stem”, so that looks like: 起こりそう(likely to occur), or 難しそう(seems difficult).

The version of そう I’m focused on here is the one that can basically stand alone without appending to another word (technically, as an adverb, I guess), and means basically ‘like that’, or ‘in that way’. So, like: 私もそう思う (I think like that, too).

But those grammar points are still useful to me in the bigger picture, so thanks for the recommendation!

Incidentally, the ‘deeper issue’ I’m trying to figure out is actually about the nature of these different versions of the word そう in the first place! :sweat_smile:

It seems that confusion over different versions of the word has even seeped into the Bunpro Vocab items for 然う (JLPT N5) | Bunpro and そう (JLPT N4) | Bunpro. But to pin those distinctions down in my mind, I first wanted to pin down this related question of the ‘opposite’ of そうだ. Hence I made this post first.

Great! Thank you!

Excellent examples! Thank you again!

The only confusing thing is why is the senpai getting advice from the kouhai and not the other way around?! :wink: :sweat_smile:

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Or confuse everyone and say 然もあらず


Okay, wow, I must admit I had never seen or expected anything like that before. Is that a real thing?? It passes the 10ten Reader test, with these definitions:

然も [さも] (1) (adv) (uk) really (seem, appear, etc.); truly; evidently (2) (adv) (uk) in that way

非ず, 有らず [あらず] (1) (exp) (form,uk) not (2) (exp) (form,uk) does not exist

But GT and DeepL struggle with it.

Did you make that up for fun, or is that like a really thing? Maybe using historical Japanese or something? :thinking:

Jmdict has pretty good word coverage but I’d suggest downloading more dictionaries to improve your coverage further.

You may recognise this 然(さ) from the “grammar point” さもないと. Here is an English article about other related archaic expressions which you may find interesting.

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侍: 「どいたどいた!さもないと死ぬぞ!」



That article was interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

Okay, so this “or else”, combined with the previously discussed grammar, results in this:

Samurai: “Get out of the way! Or else you’ll die!”