あまり〜ない

    • Phrase
    あまり〜ない indicates that the degree or extent of something is not high or great, as in "not very" or "not much."

    Table of Contents

    The Basics

    Used on its own, あまり is a noun that indicates "excess" or "remainder." When it's paired with a negative statement, it's almost always written in kana, as in あまり〜ない, and works as an adverb that indicates "not many/much" of something exists. It's often translated as "not very" and can also conveniently be used to describe something you don't do "very often" or "very much."

    Let's take a quick look at an example of a sentence with and without あまり to see how it works.

    To start off, suppose someone asks you where the nearest convenience store is. You want to tell them that there is no convenience store, so you say:

    • コンビニがない
    • There is no convenience store.

    Simple, right? Now let's add あまり to the sentence, like:

    • あまりコンビニがない
    • There aren't many convenience stores.

    By adding あまり, the meaning changes to there being some convenience stores, but "not many."

    Used in casual spoken conversation, it's important to note that あまり often becomes あんまり, as in:

    • あんまりコンビニがない
    • There aren't many convenience stores.

    Easy peasy, right? Here, the meaning doesn't change, just the pronunciation of あ(ん)まり. Let's continue the scenario. So after mentioning that there aren't many convenience stores around, you're asking about your shopping habits. They say:

    • えっ、あんまりないの?じゃあ、買い物どうしてるの?
    • Wow, not many convenience stores? So what do you do for your shopping?

    If you don't go shopping at all because you just shop online, you may respond with something like:

    • 買い物に行かない。全部オンラインで買うから。
    • I don't go shopping. Cuz I buy everything online.

    But if you just don't go shopping very often because you mostly use online shopping, you can use あまり〜ないand say:

    • あまり買い物に行かない。ほとんどオンラインで買うから。
    • I don't go shopping very often. Cuz I buy most things online.

    あまり〜ない is a versatile expression that can be used with nouns, adjectives, and verbs, so let's get into the details of how it works with the patterns of use!

    Patterns of Use

    あまり + Noun + がない

    As you saw in the example あまりコンビニがない (There aren't many convenience stores), あまり〜ない can be used with a noun in the pattern あまり+noun+がない.

    In this pattern, it generally indicates something still exists but isn't abundant, as in "there isn't many/much…" of whatever noun you're talking about.

    If you're talking about something that you or someone else owns, the translation becomes "don't have many/much…" For example, to say that you don't have much money, you can use あまり〜ない like this:

    • あまりお金がない
    • I don't have much money.

    And to talk about the past, simply replace ない with なかった, as in:

    • あまりお金がなかった
    • I didn't have much money.

    The replacement of ない with なかった applies to all the other uses below, too.

    あまり + な-Adjective + じゃない・ではない

    Combined with an adjective, あまり〜ない indicates that the degree of that adjective is not high/great, as in "not very…" To use this pattern with a な-adjective, you need to add じゃ or では after the stem.

    For example, imagine you booked a hotel that was advertised for its tranquil setting, but when you arrive it's not very quiet. You can use あまり〜ない with the な-adjective しずか (meaning "quiet") and say:

    • あまり静か[じゃ・では]ない
    • It's not very quiet.

    You're pretty bummed that it's not as quiet as you anticipated. To express how you feel, you can use 好き with あまり〜ない, like:

    • あまり好き[じゃ・では]ない
    • I don't like it very much.

    Note that although "to like" is a verb in English, its Japanese equivalent, 好き, is a な-adjective.

    As you can see from this example, じゃ and では are essentially interchangeable. Which one you use will usually depend on whether you're speaking or writing. じゃ is the contracted version of the formal では, and more casual. So you often hear 〜じゃない in conversation, whereas 〜ではない is used more frequently when writing.

    あまり + い-Adjectiveくない

    Remember, あまり〜ない is a negative statement, so to use it with an い-adjective, you need to conjugate the い-adjective into its negative form. To do this, simply remove the final い and add くない.

    For example, to say something isn't むずかしい (difficult), it works like this:

    あまり + 難しい + くない → あまり難しくない

    • あまり難しくない
    • It's not very difficult.

    Not very difficult, right? You might even say that it's fun! But if you disagree, you can use あまり with 楽しい (fun) in the くない form and say:

    • あまり楽しくない
    • It's not very fun.

    I hope that's not how you're actually feeling, though!

    あまり + Verbない

    When あまり〜ない is used with a verb in the negative form, it indicates that the frequency or quantity associated with that verb is low. Thus, depending on the context, あまり+Verb+ない could imply either "not very often" or "not very much," or sometimes both.

    Depending on the type (or group) of verb, how you conjugate it in the ない form will vary.

    To add 〜ない to a godan verb, you'll need to change the final character to the correct あ-line character from the hiragana chart. For example, 飲む (to drink) is a godan verb that ends in 〜む. So to conjugate it into the ない form, you would remove the final 〜む and replace it with 〜ま, then add 〜ない, giving you 飲まない, like this:

    飲む + ま + ない = 飲まない

    So, to say your dog doesn't drink water very often, you can use the あまり〜ない pattern like this:

    • あまり水を飲まない
    • She doesn't drink water very often.

    To add 〜ない to an ichidan verb, simply remove the 〜る at the end and add 〜ない. Take the ichidan verb 食べる (to eat), for example. In the ない form it becomes:

    食べる + ない = 食べない

    So, if your dog doesn't eat very much kibble, you can say:

    • あまりドッグフードを食べない
    • She doesn't eat very much kibble.

    Apart from godan and ichidan verbs, you also need to watch out for the three irregular verbs 来る (to come), する (to do), and ある (to exist). Here's how they conjugate in ない form:

    る + ない =  ない する + ない = しない ある → ない

    If your dog doesn't come very often when you call her, you can say:

    • あまり私のところに来ない
    • She doesn't come to me very often.

    Maybe it's because you don't often take her outside for a walk. In that case, you can say:

    • あまり散歩をしないからだ。
    • It's because I don't walk her very often.

    Though, I hope if you're not walking the dog that another family member is!

    If you aren't familiar with the verb ない form and want to learn more, you can check out its dedicated page.

    Politeness

    Now you've learned how to use あまり〜ない with various types of words. One thing you haven't learned is how to use the phrase politely.

    There are two ways to make あまり〜ない polite. One way is to add です at the end, as in あまり〜ないです, and the other is to use ありません instead of ない.

    Conversational あまり~ないんです

    Between the two, 〜ないです is more common in conversation, so while it's a typical response to a yes-no question, it's pretty direct used as-is.

    Let's say someone asks if you drink coffee, and your answer is "not often/much." In this case, you could respond with:

    • あまり飲まないです
    • I don't drink it very [often/much].

    But if you are voluntarily telling someone that you don't drink coffee, it sounds a bit off to say:

    • 私、あまりコーヒー飲まないです
    • I don't drink coffee very [often/much].

    In this case, it's more natural to add ん between ない and です, like:

    • 私、あまりコーヒー飲まないんです
    • I don't drink coffee very [often/much].

    Here, ん serves as a communication tool that gives the statement an explanation-like vibe. It shows that you're bridging the communication gap between you and the other person. So when bringing up new information in conversation, ん is essential to making your statement feel more natural. If you want to learn more about how this works, check out its dedicated page.

    Formal あまり~ありません

    Compared to 〜ない(ん)です, 〜ありません is more formal and may be reserved for polite explanation. This pattern is also a bit trickier grammatically, so that's something to watch out for with this expression.

    With あまり + noun, な-adjective, and い-adjective ~くない, you can simply replace ない with ありません:

    • あまりお金がない。→あまりお金がありません
    • I don't have much money.
    • あまり静か[じゃ・では]ない。→あまり静か[じゃ・では]ありません
    • It's not very quiet.
    • あまり難しくない。→あまり難しくありません
    • It's not very difficult.

    However, with verbs, you can't just swap ない with ありません. Instead, you need to change them into the ます form, a.k.a. stem form, and then add ません.

    For example, to add 〜ません to the verb 飲む, you need to conjugate it into the ます form, which is 飲み, and then add 〜ません. Like this:

    • あまり飲みません
    • I don't drink it very [often/much].

    In the same way, to add 〜ません to the verb 食べる, you need to conjugate it into the ます form, which is 食べ, and then add 〜ません. Like this:

    • あまり食べません
    • I don't eat it very [often/much].

    If you're not sure how to conjugate verbs into the ます form, or if you could use a refresher, check out its dedicated page!

    Beyond The Basics

    あまり〜ない with Other Verb Forms

    You can use あまり〜ない with other verb forms, too. Let's take a look at a couple examples to see how it works.

    あまり〜ていない for "Haven't Done (It) Very Much/Often"

    You can use the 〜ている form of verb with あまり〜ない. For instance, if you have a flu and haven't had much of an appetite, you can say:

    • あまり食べて(い)ない
    • I haven't been eating very much.

    Here, 〜ている, or its shorter casual version 〜てる, indicates that you're talking about a certain period of time related to the activity of eating, and あまり〜て(い)ない shows the activity hasn't been performed very often during that period (here, it probably indicates the onset of the flu to up until the time of the conversation).

    Just like the other あまり+Verb+ない examples, it can also indicate that the frequency of an action has been low. For example, say someone asks you if you've at least been drinking enough water. If you think you haven't, you can say:

    • あまり飲んで(い)ない
    • I haven't been drinking (water) often enough.

    Again, in this case, 〜ている indicates that you're talking about a certain period of time associated with the activity of drinking water, and あまり〜て(い)ない shows the activity hasn't been performed often up until the point of conversation.

    Whether あまり〜て(い)ない indicates the quality or frequency of the action totally depends on the speaker's intention, and often it can mean both. For example, if you haven't been drinking frequently enough, then it probably means you haven't had much to drink, either.

    あまり〜られない for "Can't Do Very Much/Often"

    You can also use the potential form of a verb with 〜られる ending with あまり〜ない. Let's continue the flu example. If you're too sick to eat much, you can say:

    • あまり食べられない
    • I can't eat very much.

    Again, depending on the context, the same statement can imply low frequency. For example, say your friend brings you some rare fruits as an omimai (get-well-soon) gift. Surprisingly, you have enough of an appetite to eat everything. So you do, and you tell your friend that you could eat it all because you don't have the opportunity to eat rare fruit "very often."

    • こんな美味しい果物、あまり食べられないから、つい いきおいづいちゃった。
    • I don't get to eat this kind of delicious fruit very often, so I got a little carried away.

    It's usually easy to guess the implied meaning of あまり〜ない, though! Just keep in mind that it has the potential to imply two different things.