September 8, 2022

あたたかくなかった It Wasn’t Warm – How to Pronounce the Impossible

Clay has always had a hard time with あたたかくなかった which is the negative past of あたたかい (warm) in Japanese. 

Learn about these important tongue-twisting conjugations of あたたかい and then practice by following the pitch accents (learn about that here) and speaking after Yumi. 

Video Contents

  • 00:00 Clay's introduction of あたたかい、あたたかくない、あたたかかった、and あたたかくなかった
  • 1:08 Kanji breakdown
  • 2:03 Practice section with pitch accents

 In theory, saying "It wasn't warm" isn't difficult in Japanese. 

You simply take the word for warm, あたたかい, and conjugate it to the negative form, あたたかくない, drop the い, and then add the 「かった」 past form to get: あたたかくなかった.

Easy, huh?

Try saying あたたかくなかった ten times fast. 

Scratch that. Try saying it one time slowly.

In this lesson, we'll practice saying this useful but difficult word by repeating after Yumi.

We will practice only four forms:

  1. あたたかい (warm - affirmative, non-past)
  2. あたたかくない (isn't warm - negative, non-past)
  3. あたたかかった (was warm - affirmative past)
  4. あたたかくなかった (wasn't warm - negative past)

And while the pronunciation is exactly the same (including the pitch accents), there are two kanji used for "warm." The difference is only in context:

  • (あたた)かい warm [usually air temperature; warm weather; the opposite is (さむ)い (cold)]
  • (あたた)かい warm [general; warm soup; warm hearts; the opposite is (つめ)たい (cool to the touch; chilly)]

But we are here mostly for the pronunciation. Listen and repeat after Yumi until you can say this near-tongue twister fluently.

BTW, if you are new to pitch accents, you can learn about it here. I highly recommend paying attention to them even as a beginner. While it isn't usually critical for understanding, I think you'll agree following along with the pitch accent patterns below helps with the pronunciation.

warm - affirmative, non-past


Slow Speed


Isn't warm - Negative, non-past


Slow Speed


Was warm - Affirmative, past


Slow Speed


Wasn't warm - Negative, past


Slow Speed


Getting your tongue used to saying tricky words like this takes time, but with practice it becomes easier.

What Japanese words trip you up? What do you think is the most difficult word to say? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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