Sentence meaning


#1

Hi, i was taking my lessons on the site and i came by this sentence
部屋には犯罪の証跡はなかったが、警察は殺人事件ではないかと考えていた。
The translation was:
Although there was no evidence of crime in the room, the police was determined that it was a murder.
Now i don’t get the second part of the sentence, how can “殺人事件ではないか” mean it was a murder, i would’ve thought it was a negative…


#2

Sometimes it’s used positively, though it initially appears negative grammatically… fun right?

Check out this explanation from Maggie Sensei, they go over examples of how it can be used both negatively and positively (the article explains じゃない, which is just the casual form of ではない)


#3

It’s like when you say “isn’t this a [something]” in English. It means you think it is that thing. Notice how it’s got the か (question particle) after ではない.


#4

Interesting… but what if we actually wanted to make it an actual negative, what would we change in the sentence above? just omit the か and change the tone of the words?


#5

If you omit the か then it’s just “they think it’s not [whatever]”.


#6

Taking out か does not necessarily make it a negative but it makes it more open to both interpretations. Because か here is essentially a question mark. The use of tag questions is pretty common in Japanese.

This is common in English too, take the sentence, “It’s not bread”.

Without additional information that sentence could be a statement of fact, it could be a question, it could be surprise. Even if we don’t have the tone of voice available to us, that sentence in context can almost always be interpreted just one way.


#7

Just to add my thoughts…I find it easier to hear this kind of thing than to read it. In a conversation, you can tell from peoples’ tone and specific circumstances whether the negative is negative or not a lot of the time. In an isolated sentence on a piece of paper, I personally find it harder to tell sometimes.