Mastering the Unsaid: How to Say Impossible in Japanese

If you’re learning Japanese, you know that mastering a language isn’t just about knowing vocabulary and grammar. It’s also about understanding the cultural nuances of communication. One of the most important concepts to understand in Japanese is how to express impossibility. In this section, we will explore the various ways to say “impossible” in Japanese and provide you with the knowledge to enhance your language skills.

Understanding the Japanese word for impossible, its translation, and the unique expressions used for expressing impossibility in conversations will allow you to communicate more effectively. Knowing how to pronounce these words and phrases correctly is also crucial. So, let’s dive in and explore the different ways to say impossible in Japanese.

The Japanese Word for Impossible

When it comes to expressing impossibility in Japanese, there are several words to choose from. However, the most common Japanese word used for “impossible” is 不可能 (fukanou).

The word itself is composed of two kanji characters: 不 (fu), which means “not,” and 可能 (kanou), which means “possible.” Together, they form a word that can be translated as “not possible” or “impossible.”

While fukanou is the most straightforward way to express impossibility in Japanese, it is worth noting that there are other words and expressions that can convey similar meanings. For example, 無理 (muri) can also be used to indicate that something is impossible or unreasonable.

The Nuances of Fukanou

It is important to understand the nuances of fukanou when using it in Japanese conversations. While it may seem like a direct translation of the English word “impossible,” there are some subtle differences.

For one, fukanou is often used to express a sense of finality or definitive impossibility. It implies that there is no way for something to happen, and that the idea of it is completely out of reach.

Furthermore, using fukanou in Japanese can also indicate a sense of resignation or acceptance of a situation. By saying that something is impossible using this word, a speaker may be indicating that they have given up hope or don’t see any possibility of things changing.

Overall, fukanou is a powerful word that shouldn’t be used lightly. However, by understanding its nuances and when it is appropriate to use, you can enhance your proficiency in Japanese and communicate more effectively.

Translating Impossible into Japanese

If you are looking to directly translate the English word “impossible” into Japanese, two primary phrases capture its meaning:

Japanese Romaji Translation
不可能 Fukanō Impossible
できない Dekinai Can’t do it

While “fukanō” is the more direct translation of “impossible,” “dekinai” can also be used to convey the idea that something cannot be done.

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It’s essential to note that Japanese culture values indirectness and often uses euphemistic language. Therefore, instead of using a direct translation, phrases like “muri desu” or “yatte wa ikemasen” may be used. These phrases convey the idea that attempting something is impossible or not appropriate.

It is crucial to use the appropriate phrase for the situation and context.

Expressing Impossible in Japanese

When it comes to expressing impossibility in Japanese, direct translations of the word “impossible” may not always convey the appropriate nuance. Japanese language and culture offer unique phrases and idiomatic expressions that can help you more effectively convey the idea of impossibility in your conversations.

The following are some common Japanese phrases used to express impossibility:

Japanese Romaji English Translation
不可能だ Fukanou da It’s impossible
ありえない Arienai It’s out of the question
とても無理だ Totemo muri da It’s very difficult (to the point of impossibility)

When using these phrases, it’s important to consider the context and your relationship with the person you are speaking to. Avoid being too direct or blunt, especially in formal settings, as this may be seen as impolite.

In addition to these phrases, Japanese culture also uses various idiomatic expressions to convey impossibility, such as:

Japanese Romaji English Translation
鬼に金棒 Oni ni kanabo A demon with an iron club (meaning something that is impossible to defeat)
空想科学 Kuusou kagaku Fictional science (referring to something that is impossible)
天邪鬼 Amanojaku A stubborn person who does the opposite of what is expected (referring to the impossibility of convincing them)

Using idiomatic expressions

Idiomatic expressions are a powerful tool for expressing impossibility in Japanese, but it’s important to use them appropriately. These expressions are typically more informal and are often used in casual conversations with friends or family.

When using idiomatic expressions, it’s important to consider your audience and the context of the conversation. Using these expressions in a formal setting may be seen as inappropriate or disrespectful. However, in the right context, using idiomatic expressions can add depth and nuance to your Japanese language skills.

By mastering these phrases and expressions, you can more effectively convey the idea of impossibility in your Japanese conversations and gain a deeper understanding of Japanese language and culture.

The Pronunciation of Impossible in Japanese

Pronunciation is a crucial aspect of learning any language, and Japanese is no exception. When it comes to saying “impossible” in Japanese, it’s essential to understand how to correctly pronounce the word to avoid any miscommunications or confusion.

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The Japanese word for “impossible” is pronounced as “fukanou” (不可能) which is made up of four syllables, “fu”, “ka”, “nou”, pronounced as “foo-kah-noh-u.” The “ou” at the end of “nou” is a long vowel sound, which is held for a longer duration than a standard “o” sound.

It’s important to note that Japanese is a language with pitch accent, which means that even if you pronounce the word with correct syllables, the stress and tone of your voice can change the meaning of the word. In the case of “fukanou,” the stress falls on the first syllable, “fu,” and the pitch should rise on the second syllable, “ka,” and then gradually fall on the final two syllables, “nou.”

One way to practice your pronunciation of “fukanou” is by using online resources, such as Japanese pronunciation guides or language learning apps that offer audio recordings and feedback on your pronunciation.


In conclusion, mastering the various ways to express impossibility in Japanese can greatly enhance your language skills and cultural understanding. By learning the most common Japanese word for “impossible” and understanding its nuances, you can effectively communicate in a variety of situations.

Additionally, by familiarizing yourself with the different phrases and idiomatic expressions commonly used to convey impossibility in Japanese conversations, you can navigate cultural interactions with confidence.

Finally, correct pronunciation is crucial for effective communication in Japanese. By breaking down the pronunciation of the word for “impossible” in Japanese, we hope to have provided guidance for your language learning journey.

Overall, expressing impossibility in Japanese requires careful consideration of words, phrases and pronunciation. We hope this article has been a helpful guide in your efforts to master the unsaid in the Japanese language.


Q: How do I say “impossible” in Japanese?

A: The most common Japanese word for “impossible” is “不可能” (fukanō).

Q: Are there other translations for “impossible” in Japanese?

A: Yes, there are other expressions that capture the meaning of “impossible” in Japanese. Some include “無理” (muri), “到底無理” (tōtei muri), and “できっこない” (dekikkonai).

Q: How can I express impossibility in Japanese conversations?

A: Along with using specific words for “impossible,” you can also convey impossibility through idiomatic expressions like “絶対無理” (zettai muri), which means “absolutely impossible,” or “どう考えても無理” (dō kangaetemo muri), meaning “no matter how you think about it, it’s impossible.”

Q: How do I pronounce “impossible” in Japanese?

A: The pronunciation of “不可能” (fukanō) is “foo-ka-noh.”

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