Grammar Info

N4 Lesson 3: 11/18

全然(ぜんぜん)

(Not) at all

Slang: totally・completely, exceptionally

Structure

ぜんぜん + Phrase
ぜんぜん + (Negative) Phrase

Details

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    Standard

  • 使用域

    一般

About ぜんぜん

In Japanese, there are several adverbs that are traditionally used exclusively with negative expressions (containing ない). 全然(ぜんぜん) is one of them. When used at the beginning of a ない (or ません) containing phrase, 全然(ぜんぜん) has the meaning of 'completely not (A)', or 'not (A) at all'.
  • やば、トイレットペーパー全然(ぜんぜん)ない
    Oh shoot, I don't have any toilet paper at all.
  • 彼女(かのじょ)家事(かじ)手伝(てつだ)全然(ぜんぜん)なかったので(わか)ました
    I broke up with her because she didn't help out at all with house chores.
In writing, it is equally as natural to use either 全然(ぜんぜん) as kanji, or hiragana only, so both forms may be used confidently.
ぜんぜん is more flexible (and friendly sounding) in casual conversation than (まった), a similar expression which has a formal (often negative) nuance.
  • 今月(こんげつ)(かね)全然(ぜんぜん)()からパンだけ()
    I don't have any money this month either, so I am only eating bread.
  • 昨日(きのう)後輩(こうはい)からもらっ土産(みやげ)(まった)美味(おい)くありませんでした
    The souvenir we got from our junior member yesterday was not tasty at all, don't you think?
While both of these sentences have the meaning of 'not (A) at all', まったく could give the listener the impression that you are not pleased with the situation. This will depend quite a bit on tone of voice, though.
Caution
Despite originally being used only with negative expressions, it is becoming more and more common for ぜんぜん to appear with positive expressions as well. In these cases, it just has the meaning of 'totally (A)', or 'completely (A)'.
  • 明日(あした)全然(ぜんぜん)いい
    Tomorrow? That's completely fine!
Although this is technically not grammatically correct, it is becoming so frequently used that it is considered correct by most people (especially the younger generation).

Examples

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  • (わたし)全然(ぜんぜん)英語(えいご)(はな)せないです

    I can't speak English at all.

    • あなた全然(ぜんぜん)理解(りかい)出来(でき)ていない

      You don't understand at all do you?

      • (いま)機嫌(きげん)(わる)くて全然(ぜんぜん)(うれ)しくならない

        I'm in a bad mood right now and there's no way at all I'll become happy.

        • (いま)髪型(かみがた)全然(ぜんぜん)()じゃないから明日(あした)()りに()

          I don't like my current hair style at all, so I'll go get my hair cut tomorrow.

          • 事故(じこ)あったけど(わたし)全然(ぜんぜん)大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)

            I was in an accident, but I am completely fine.

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