– By Ruoran Helen Bai
How to say No in Chinese? It seems like a simple answer — just one simple click on either your phone or your computer, either on Google or Pleco. Well, this simple character “不 bù” does not only play its role as “No” in Chinese. But it’s more than just refusing someone, or being direct or rude. “No” in Chinese can actually be helpful when you get to know how to use it in authentic ways in different occasions.
Saying no with 不bù
‘不bù+V./Adj.’ is one of the foundational expressions that you must know when you start your journey of learning Chinese. As you can see,不bù here means no, and it’s before a verb or an adjective, so that means this expression is to reject or deny the fact of action that the verb is referring to or a situation that the adjective is indicating. Hope the examples in the chart below can help you to get it more straight.
I’m a Chinese teacher, I’m not an English teacher.
She doesn’t like red color, she likes blue color.
They don’t buy phones, they buy computers.
Going to bed late is not good for health.
These bananas are not fresh, let’s buy some fresh bananas tomorrow.
It’s not cheap to rent a house in downtown Shanghai.
Verbs and adjectives that go after 不bù can vary, not just limited to the six examples. In general, 不bù is like ‘don’t’ when it goes with a verb, and it refers to ‘isn’t’ when followed with an adjective. For instance, verbs like 不愿意búyuànyì (don’t want to), 不适合bùshìhé (don’t fit), 不后悔búhòuhuǐ (don’t regret), adjectives like 不大búdà(is not big), 不忙bùmáng (is not busy), 不热闹 búrènào (is not lively), etc.
Btw, I assume that you have already noticed that 不bù is pronounced differently when in the negative form of a verb or an adjective. Indeed, when the 不bù goes before the first tone, second tone, and third tone, it remains fourth tone bù, and 不bù only turns to the second tone bú when there is a fourth tone right behind it(see the above Pinyin in red).
Saying no with 别bié
Besides 不bù, there is another No word in Chinese, that is ‘别bié’. Indeed, 别bié is often seen and used before a verb too, but ‘别bié+V.’ doesn’t mean the same with‘不bù+V.’, and there is no ‘别bié+Adj.’ at all. ‘别bié+V.’ often indicates a commend or a request in a sentence to stop an action or a movement, which is its contrast with ‘不bù+V.’.
|A：你别走，等等我们。Don’t go, wait for us. (request)
I’m not going, I will waiting for you guys outside of the classroom.
She doesn’t eat in order to lose weight.
Don’t keep a diet, you are not fat at all, you are healthy (request).
Xiaoli doesn’t go home after work, he has a date.
Don’t go home after school today, play soccer with us.
You don’t like watching movie? Then what do you like to watch?
I like to watch reality shows.
Let’s don’t go for movie on Friday, let’s go shopping!
In some situations, you can say no using “méi 没”. Read here about méi 没’ and ‘bù 不. Hope that helps to say no in Mandarin Chinese!