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The differences between “不” and “没”

Chinese words, learning Chinese, Chinese grammar

Both 不 (bù) and 没 (méi) can be placed in front of a verb or adjective to negate its meaning. However, 不 (bù) and 没 (méi) are not usually interchangeable, so it's important to learn when you must use 不 (bù) rather than 没 (méi), and vice versa.

"不"和"没"都可以放于动词和形容词之前表示否定,不过,"不"和"没"一般不可相互替换,因此,学会何时使用"不"而不是"没"很重要,反之也一样。

 

不 is for negating in the present and future

 

不 (bù) is generally used to negate an action that you do not want to do or do not intend to do (in the future). So expressing things like "I don't want to go" or "I'm not going" would be uses of 不 (bù).

"不"一般用于否定你不想做或不打算做(将来时)的动作。因此,表达类似"I don't want to go"或"I'm not going"时应用"不"。

 

Subj. + 不 + Verb

 

Examples

 

我今天晚上不喝酒。

wǒ jīntiān wǎnshang bù hējiǔ.

Tonight I'm not going to drink.

 

爸爸不回来吃晚饭。

bàba bù huílái chī wǎnfàn.

Dad is not coming back to eat dinner.

 

我知道这个周末不下雨。

wǒ zhīdao zhè ge zhōumò bù xiàyǔ.

I know it's not going to rain this weekend.

 

你女朋友不跟你一起去吗?

nǐ nǚ péng yǒu bù gēn nǐ yī qǐ qù ma?

Is your girlfriend not going together with you?

 

不 is used to negate habitual actions

 

不 (bù) can be used to negate habitual actions, such as eating meat, or watching TV, or drinking alcohol. This is simply done by placing 不 (bù) in front of the verb.

"不"可以用于否定习惯性动作,比如吃肉、看电视、喝酒。这个用法只需将"不"放于动词之前。

 

Subj. + 不 + Verb + Obj.

 

Examples

 

我不吃肉。

wǒ bù chī ròu.

I don't eat meat.

 

你们都不喝酒吗?

nǐmen dōu bù hē jiǔ ma?

Do you all not drink alcohol?

 

他不喜欢说话。

tā bù xǐhuan shuōhuà.

He doesn't like to speak.

 

你不用手机看书吗?

nǐ bù yòng shǒujī kànshū ma?

Do you not use your phone to read books?

 

不 is normally used with adjectives

 

When it comes to a simple negation of an adjective (such as "not cold"), use 不 (bù).

只需简单否定一个形容词的时候(例如"not cold"),使用"不"。

 

不 + Adj.

 

Examples

 

我们不饿。

wǒmen bù è.

We're not hungry.

 

你不胖。

nǐ bù pàng.

You are not fat.

 

我家离公司不远。

wǒjiā lí gōngsī bù yuǎn.

My house is not far away from the office.

 

不 is used to ask questions

 

There are couple ways to use 不 (bù) to ask questions. One such way is through affirmative-negative questions. This is done by stating a verb and then immediately repeating that verb in a negative state (with 不 (bù)):

用"不"提问的方式有几种,正反疑问句便是其中一种。这种方式是先说一个动词之后紧接着重复动词的否定形式(带"不"):

 

Subj. + Verb + 不 + Verb + Obj.

 

Examples

 

你是不是我的老师?

nǐ shì bù shì wǒ de lǎoshī?

Are you my teacher or not?

 

她想不想来?

tā xiǎng bù xiǎng lái?

Does she want to come?

 

你们周末上不上班?

nǐmen zhōumò shàng bù shàng bān?

Do you go to work on weekends?

 

你的老外朋友们喜不喜欢吃中国菜?

nǐ de lǎowài péngyoumen xǐ bù xǐhuan chī Zhōngguó cài?

Do your foreign friends like to eat Chinese food or not?

 

没 is used to negate past actions

 

没 (méi) and 没有 (méiyǒu) can both be used to negate actions that occurred in the past, or to say that something has not happened yet.

"没"和"没有"均可以用于否定过去发生的动作,或描述尚未发生的事情。

 

Subj. + 没(有) + Verb + Obj.

 

Examples

 

他没有打电话给我。

tā méiyǒu dǎ diànhuà gěi wǒ.

He did not give me a call.

 

我昨天没喝酒。

wǒ zuótiān méi hē jiǔ.

I did not drink wine yesterday.

 

妈妈没做晚饭

māma méiyǒu zuò wǎnfàn.

Mom did not cook dinner.

 

Only 没 is used to negate 有

 

没 (méi) can be used to negate the verb 有 (yǒu) ("to have") to mean "do not have." You can only use 没 (méi) to convey this meaning. It is grammatically incorrect to use 不 (bù) to negate 有 (yǒu).

"没"可以用于否定"有(to have)"这一动词,表示"do not have"。你只能用"没"表达这种意思,用"不"去否定"有"在语法上是错误的。

 

Subject + 没有 + Object

 

Examples

 

我没有钱。

wǒ méiyǒu qián.

I don't have money.

(WRONG) 我不有钱。

 

他没有女朋友。

tā méiyǒu nǚpéngyou.

He doesn't have a girlfriend.

(WRONG) 他不有女朋友。

 

他爸爸没有工作。

tā bàba méiyǒu gōngzuò.

His dad doesn't have a job.

(WRONG) 他爸爸不有工作。

 

他们没有孩子。

tāmen méiyǒu háizi.

They don't have children.

(WRONG) 他们不有孩子。

 

没 is used to make comparisons

 

没 (méi) or 没有 (méiyǒu) can be used to make simple comparisons meaning "not as… as…":

"没"或者"没有"可以用于简单的比较,意思是"not as … as …"。

 

Noun 1 + 没有 + Noun 2 + Adj.

 

Examples

 

你没有我高。

nǐ méiyǒu wǒ gāo.

You are not as tall as me.

(WRONG) 你不有我高。

 

我的手机没有他的手机贵。

wǒ de shǒujī méiyǒu tā de shǒujī guì.

My cellphone isn't as expensive as his.

(WRONG) 我的手机不有他的手机贵。

 

上海的冬天没有北京的冬天冷。

shànghǎi de dōngtiān méiyǒu Běijīng de dōngtiān lěng.

Winter in Shanghai is not as cold as in Beijing.

(WRONG) 上海的冬天不有北京的冬天冷。

 

You can only use 没 (méi) or 没有 (méiyǒu) for this purpose, and not 不 (bù).

此种用法你只能用"没"或"没有",而不能用"不"。

 

不 is used almost exclusively with some verbs

 

Certain verbs just don't get negated by 没 (méi) or 没有 (méiyǒu) ever. These include the verbs 是 (shì) ("to be") and 在 (zài) ("to be (in a place)"), as well as some psychological verbs such as 知道 (zhīdào) ("to know") and 认识 (rènshi) ("to know (a person)"). For these verbs, it's best to just take them on a case-by-case basis. Being aware of their existence can save you a fair bit of confusion.

一些特定动词从不跟"没"或者"没有"构成否定,这些动词包括"是"和"在",还有一些心理动词如"知道"和"认识"。对于这些动词,最好是逐个拿下它们,要知道它们的存在可以省下你相当多的困惑。

 

他不是我的老板。

tā bù shì wǒ de lǎobǎn.

He was not my boss before.

(WRONG) 他以前没是我的老板。

 

我不知道他要来。

wǒ bù zhīdào tā yào lái.

I didn't know he was coming.

(WRONG) 我没知道他要来。

 

他小时候不认识她。

tā xiǎoshíhou bù rènshi tā.

He did not know her when he was young.

(WRONG) 他小时候没认识她。

 

Note that in non-standard Chinese you might encounter exceptions to this rule. However, it's still useful to know the rule!

注意,在非标准中文里你或许会遇到这个规则的例外,不过,知道这个规律还是很实用的!

 

Translated from: allsetlearning

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2016-06-21

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