Well, you might be surprised to learn that there is no direct way to say "yes" or "no" in Mandarin. In fact, how to say "no" in Chinese is often dependent on what you are saying "no" to.
The common structure to express "no" or negative meaning is: negation (否定) marker + verb (动词).
For example: the answer to a yes-or-no question like "Do you want to go for a walk?" in English can be "No" or "No, I don't." However, a proper and complete answer in Mandarin Chinese would be "我不想去 (wǒ bù xiǎng qù)" which literally translates as, "I not want to go."
There are also many ways to indicate tense and express something happened in the past/present/future. That's why we have some alternative negation markers in Mandarin Chinese. Different negation markers can be used in different situations.
Here we'll make an elaborate introduction on the two most frequently used negation markers in Mandarin Chinese– "不 (bù) and "没/没有(méi/ méi yǒu).
1. "不" IS USED INDICATE A PERSONAL DECISION AND WILLINGNESS.
他不来了 (tā bù lái le)
Translation: He has decided not to come.
他不喜欢我。(tā bù xǐ huān wǒ)
Translation: He doesn't like me.
2. "不" IS USED TO INDICATE THE CHANGE OF THE STATE.
火车不走了。(huǒ chē bù zǒu le)
Translation: The train was going before but now it stops.
3. "不" IS USED TO GIVE A NEGATIVE JUDGMENT ON A CERTAIN THING.
这个中餐馆不好。(zhè gè zhōng cān guǎn bù hǎo.)
Translation: This Chinese restaurant is not good.
4. "不" IS USED TO NEGATE SENTENCES WITH "是(SHÌ, TO BE)", INDICATING SOMETHING/ SOMEONE DOESN'T BELONG TO A CERTAIN CATEGORY.
它不是蓝的。(tā bú shì lán de.)
Translation: It isn't blue.
他不是美国人。(tā bú shì měi guó rén.)
Translation: He isn't American.
5. "不" IS USED TO NEGATE SENTENCES WITH "能 (NÉNG, CAN)" OR "可以 (KĚ YǏ, CAN)", EXPRESSING INABILITY OR PROHIBITION.
你不能在这里吸烟。 (nǐ bú néng zài zhè lǐ xī yān.)
Translation: You can't smoke here.
没/没有 (méi / méi yǒu)
1. "没/没有" IS USED TO DESCRIBE SOMETHING HASN'T TAKEN PLACE OR A NEGATIVE FACT. IT MEANS "NOT" OR "NOT HAVE."
他没来. (tā méi lái.)
Translation: He hasn't come.
火车没走。(huǒ chē méi zǒu)
Translation: The train is still here. It hasn't gone yet.
2. 没/没有" CAN BE USED TO DESCRIBE THERE IS/ARE NOT HAVE SOMETHING OR SOMEONE DO/DID/DOES NOT HAVE SOMETHING.
我没有钱。(wǒ méi yǒu qián.)
Translation: I do not have money
美国没有大熊猫。(měi guó méi yǒu dà xióng māo.)
Translation: There aren't giant pandas in America.