What's the meaning of ない

I understanding ない carries the idea of “negative” like ではない means not in some sense

However the word 少ない means few which is the same meaning as 少.

So how do I know when ない is being used to negate something VS when it is being used to turn something into an “adjective form” like 少ない

I don’t think that’s a suffix at all. 少ない is just a word itself, the ない isn’t an ending added on.

Is there a trick for recognizing when it’s a suffix and when it’s an add on?

At first I had the same issue with 危ない (dangerous).

I don’t think there’s really a trick but at the same time I don’t think there’s really a possible ambiguity if you think about it: if 少ない were a negative form, what would be the affirmative? Can’t be 小い because that would become 小くない in the negative.

As far as I can tell the only way it would work if is you had an ichidan verb *小る whose negative form would become 小ない, but there’s no such word as far as I know.

So it’s like those な-adjectives or nouns that end in い like 嫌い or 装い, if you see them on their own it can be confusing but in context it should always be clear by the way they’re used that they’re not in fact い-adjectives.


That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that word translated as scary. Interesting!

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It’s not, it’s dangerous, I’m just a dumb dumb.