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Looking into a travel book on Japan, you’d think that foreigners were obsessed with cherry blossoms.  It’s pretty hard to find a travel book without some sort of cherry blossom photo in it.

It’s not just us foreigners, though: the Japanese are equally as obsessed as we are!

Hanami (花見 = はなみ = flower + see = “cherry blossom viewing”) is all anyone seems to talk about… for the one week or so that it’s happening.

And that’s the problem: Knowing when the cherry blossoms are blooming.  Maybe you’re going to Kyoto.  You might hear a sentence like:

京都の桜はまだきれいかもしれない。
Kyouto no sakura wa mada kirei kamoshirenai.
(The cherry blossoms in Kyoto might still be beautiful.)

That “might” comes from the grammar function kamoshirenai, which I’ll talk about in this post.

Kamoshirenai

Kamoshirenai, or the more formal kamoshiremasen, is a grammar function used to express that something “might” happen.

The level of certainty in that “might” is probably hovering around 50% (though no one’s keeping track).  This means that the probability of accuracy is a little less than a darou sentence and a lot less than a ni chigainai sentence.

彼は日本語が話せるかもしれない。
Kare wa nihongo ga hanaseru kamoshirenai.
(He might be able to speak Japanese.)

彼は日本語が話せるだろう。
Kare wa nihongo ga hanaseru darou.
(He probably is able to speak Japanese.)

彼は日本語が話せるにちがいない。
Kare wa nihongo ga hanaseru ni chigainai.
(He must be able to speak Japanese.)

Cherry Blossoms Up Close

Kamoshirenai Grammar Breakdown

Here’s a look at how to conjugate kamoshirenai / kamoshiremasen.

verbs
{ 食べる / 食べた }  かもしれない
{ taberu / tabeta } kamoshirenai
(someone might eat / might have eaten)

i-adjectives
{ 高い / 高かった }  かもしれない
{ takai / takakatta } kamoshirenai
(something might be / might have been high)

na-adjectives
{ 静か / 静かだった }  かもしれない
{ shizuka / shizuka datta } kamoshirenai
(something might be quiet / might have been quiet)

nouns
{ 学生 / 学生だった }  かもしれない
{ gakusei / gakusei datta } kamoshirenai
(someone might be a student / might have been a student)

Using kamoshirenai

Unlike a lot of Japanese grammar, where you only hear it sparsely used in conversation, kamoshirenai pops up everywhere!  Sometimes it might be reduced to to simply kamo, as in:

山田先生は病気かも。
Yamada-sensei wa byouki kamo.
(Yamada-sensei might be sick.)

This usage is extremely informal, though, so use with caution!

When I first learned kamoshirenai it was at a University… so, as is expected, I was taught kamoshiremasen, which is the more formal counterpart.  So you always have that at your disposal, too.  Maybe if you’re talking to your teacher or boss it will come in handy.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Lunch

Getting a spot for Hanami is an all-day affair.

Caution!

A small mistake that is very easy to make with kamoshirenai is to use it for visual conjecture.  In other words, you see a cake, and so you think it’s delicious.  Kamoshirenai, though, is based on logical conjecture.  So it’s only used for something that uses your brain (and not just your vision).

In cases where a conjecture is strictly visual, you would use souda.  As in,

このビールうまそうだ。
Kono bi-ru umasouda.
(This beer looks delicious.)

But you can’t use kamoshirenai for that sentence.  You think the beer is delicious only because of the way it looks, not because you’re thinking about the logical taste of beer… if that makes sense.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if I made some foolish mistakes!

Good luck with your studies, everyone.

Keep swimming!

Niko

p.s. Here’s my free course, bundled with awesomeness (and love):

Niko

Yo! I'm Niko, the founder of NihongoShark. I'm also a Japanese translator, writer, and all-around language nerd.

I created this site to help as many people master Japanese (any language, really) as possible.

Uh, what else? Well... I live in Tokyo, Bangkok, Sapporo, Saigon, San Diego, Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Portland, Oregon! So if anyone wants to meet up for a refreshing nama beer, I'm probably down for that. Or a coffee. Learning Japanese is tricky-tikki-tavi. But we're in this together. ファイト!

Good luck with your studies!

Niko

p.s. If you like my articles, you may very well love my daily lessons.