〜な For ''Don't...!''

    • Particle
    When な is added to the plain form of a verb, it marks a strong negative imperative. It's like very strongly saying "Don't…!" in English.

    Table of Contents

    The Basics

    Without any softening elements, 〜な is a very strong way to tell someone not to do something. For example, if a police officer spots a thief and orders him not to move, they may use 〜な to give him a stern command, such as:

    • 動く
    • Don't move!

    This is an extremely direct order and comes across as forceful. 〜な is rarely used in ordinary conversation, unless the speaker is extremely emotional and can't help expressing themselves bluntly.

    What would that kind of scenario look like?

    Let's assume you invite your buddies over to your house, where there is an exquisite model ship on top of your bookcase. When you go to the bathroom and return, you realize that one of your friends is reaching out to take the ship. You're instantly worried they'll break it and shout out:

    • 触る
    • Don't touch it!

    If it's ever used, 〜な is likely to come out as an emotional reaction like this. Again, this is a blunt directive with a very strong tone, so it's likely to startle your unguarded friend. It's also worth noting that 〜な is traditionally regarded as a masculine expression.

    Are you getting a sense of how powerful 〜な is? Having said that, there is a way to soften the tone, and this softer variant is frequently used in everyday speech. We'll get to that soon, but first let's look at the patterns of use.

    Patterns of Use

    Plain Form Verb + な

    To form a negative imperative, you attach な directly to the plain form, a.k.a. dictionary form, of a verb.

    For example, if you want to say "don't eat," you can simply combine 食べる (to eat) and な and say:

    • 食べる
    • Don't eat it!

    In the same way, if you don't want someone to come any closer to you, you combine 来る (to come) and な and say:

    • Don't come!

    Note that in casual speech, る at the end of a verb often contracts to ん, like:

    • 食べんな
    • Don't eat it!
    • んな
    • Don't come!

    Now, be careful about getting this mixed up with the stem form of a verb paired up with な, such as 食べな or な. This is actually a very casual way of telling someone to "eat" or "come," so it's the total opposite of the "Don't" meaning that we're covering here!

    Additional Elements for Making 〜な More Friendly

    You've already learned that the negative imperative with 〜な has a very strong tone. There are, however, ways to soften the tone and make it sound more friendly. The most common way is to add the particle よ, as in:

    • 嘘つくなよ
    • Don't lie.

    This よ is a so-called sentence-ending particle — a type of particle that adds nuance or tone to a sentence, and it indicates that the speaker is offering new information or a new perspective to the listener. So by adding よ, you can make it sound more communicative — sort of like, "Hey, I'm letting you know this" — and less like a direct order.

    If you say the 〜なよ statement sternly, it can still sound strong, but よ lets you say it more playfully, giving the imperative a familiar or friendly ring. As a result, 〜なよ may be used to tell a family member or friend not to do something.

    Let's take a look at another example. This time, you have a friend who is working extremely hard to accomplish his dream. You want him to make it happen, but you're worried he'll overwork himself and burn out. In this case, you could say:

    • 無理すんなよ
    • Don't overwork yourself.

    Here, because "don't overwork yourself" is a thoughtful message in and of itself, regardless of how you say it, 〜なよ shows that you're giving friendly advice. Note that the direct nature of 〜な still persists in both examples above, and it can sound brusque and masculine.

    Another common way to make 〜な more friendly is adding 〜って or 〜ってば, as in:

    • 嘘つくなって(ば)
    • Don't lie.


    • 無理すんなって(ば)
    • Don't overwork yourself.

    Here, 〜って is a colloquial particle that marks a quote, so it adds a nuance like, "I'm saying…" and often shows your frustration that the listener does not understand your feelings or concerns, and stresses it. 1

    Just like よ, it can sound really frustrated depending on your tone, but it can also allow you to use 〜な in a nicer, more friendly or concerned manner.

    Neutral 〜な for Slogans

    Because 〜な is the most direct and succinct way to tell someone not to do something, you may see it used in titles or slogans. In this case, it doesn't usually carry an aggressive tone and just helps to make the title or slogans more crisp and clear.

    In the winter, for example, you might see a poster promoting moisturizer to combat seasonal dryness. The poster may use 〜な and say:

    • 乾燥に負ける
    • Don't let your skin become dry!
      (Literally: Don't be defeated by the dryness!)

    In Japan, there is also a well-known slogan encouraging people not to drive after drinking:

    • 飲んだら乗る、乗るなら飲む
    • If you drink, don't drive; if you drive, don't drink!

    〜な not only strengthens the message, but it also makes the slogan more succinct and vigorous.

    Beyond the Basics

    Neutral 〜な for Indirectly Referring to Past Speech

    You may not always quote a previous statement word for word, but you can make it more concise and indirectly refer to it, right? For example, imagine your roommate politely asks you, "I'm sorry, but could you not watch TV after 10 o'clock?" But later on, you may refer to the request indirectly, like "She asked me not to watch TV after 10." This happens in Japanese too, and 〜な can be used in the concise version of someone telling someone else not to do something. The following is the examples:

    [In the actual dialogue]

    • 十時以降はテレビを見ないでもらえないかな
    • Could I ask you not to watch TV after 10 o'clock?

    [Indirect reference to past speech]

    • 十時以降はテレビを見るなって言われたんだ。
    • She asked me not to watch TV after 10.

    In this use, 〜な is neutral and doesn't carry a brusque tone. It's merely a quick recap of past speech (or sometimes thought), and the listener will understand that you're not giving a direct quote.

    This simplification occurs frequently in writing where the narrator tells a story from the past, so don't be surprised if some gentle character's request is suddenly cited with 〜な.

    1. 〜ってば is a contraction of 〜って言えば (if I say…).