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3.7: Lesson 2 Grammar - Standard negation with 不 (bù)

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  • 不 (bù) is generally used to negate a verb in the present or future, or to talk about what you do not do, as a habit. So expressing things like "I don't want to go" or "I'm not going" or "I don't eat meat" would be typical uses of 不 (bù).


    The standard way to negate verbs in Chinese is with 不 (bù). To negate a verb, simply place 不 (bù) before it:

       Subj. + 不 + Verb + Obj.


    • 他们不是坏孩子。
      Tāmen bù shì huài háizi.
      They are not bad kids.
    • 我们不喝酒。
      Wǒmen bù hē jiǔ.
      We don't drink alcohol.
    • 我今天不想工作。
      Wǒ jīntiān bù xiǎng gōngzuò.
      I don't want to work today.
    • 你不喜欢我吗?
      Nǐ bù xǐhuan wǒ ma?
      Do you not like me?
    • 为什么你不喜欢喝咖啡?
      Wèishénme nǐ bù xǐhuan hē kāfēi?
      Why don't you like to drink coffee?

    Almost all verbs can be negated with 不 (bù), unless you are referring to a past event.  We will learn later on how to use 没 (méi) as a negation particle when talking about the past.  The only verb that can never be negated with 不 (bù) is 有 (yǒu).

      Wǒ bù yǒu shíjiān.
    • 我没有时间。<< GOOD EXAMPLE
      Wǒ méiyǒu shíjiān.
      I don't have time.

    Negating Stative Verbs ("Adjectives") 

    As it turns out, the structure with a stative verb (or "adjective") is basically the same as the one with an action verb.


    Subj. + 不 + Adj.


    • 我不饿。
      Wǒ bù è.
      I'm not hungry.
    • 这个不贵。
      Zhège bù guì.
      This is not expensive.
    • 公司不大。
      Gōngsī bù dà.
      The company is not big.
    • 老板今天很不高兴。
      Lǎobǎn jīntiān hěn bù gāoxìng.
      The boss is very unhappy today.
    • 我哥哥不高,但是很帅。
      Wǒ gēge bù gāo, dànshì hěn shuài.
      My older brother is not tall, but he is very handsome.

    [adapted from AllSet Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki, Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA 3.0]

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    Any Questions? 

    If you have any questions about this grammar point, please ask in the class forums!