4 Ways to Say Yes and No in Chinese

Posted by Lilian Li on 20/04/2016 1:11 AM 606

In every language, there is a word for yes or no, but Mandarin Chinese is an exception. When you learn Chinese, especially at the beginning stage, it’s important to understand that there is no exact word for yes and no to fit in all the situations. We have a particular structure for this. Let’s have a look at them in different scenarios.

1. To say yes

According to the verb used in the previous question, you repeat the verb for yes.

Scenario 1: If someone asks, “Nǐ hē kāfēi ma? 你咖啡吗?” (Translation: Do you want coffee?), you would say “Hē, xièxie! ,谢谢!”(Translation: Yes, thank you.) And literally, you’re answering "Want, thank you." In this case, you repeat the verb “hē 喝” for yes.

Scenario 2: Or if someone asks “Nǐ qù le Běijīng ma? 你去了北京吗?” (translation: Did you go to Beijing?), here we can see the verb is “qù le, 去了” indicating an action in the past. So for the answer of yes, we simply repeat “qù le,去了” literally meaning “went”.

Sceanario 3: We’ve seen the verb for present tense and past tense, then let’s see how to say yes if the verb used is in the future tense.
A: Nǐ míngtiān yào kāihuì ma?你明天要开会吗?(Translation: Will you have meeting tomorrow?)
B: Yào kāihuì. 要开会 (Translation: Will have meeting.)
In this case, “yào kāihuì 要开会” is the verb we used and it is in future tense, in which yào is the symbol of future tense. Also, you can just say "Yào" for short.

Scenario 4:
A: Nǐ máng ma? 你忙吗?(Translation: Are you busy?)
B: Máng.
In the question, the adjective máng functions as a verb. Therefore, in order to answer the question, we repeat "máng".

You probably think these are complicated, now I can offer you simple solution: "是的 shide" for "Yes", and " dui" for "right/correct" to affirm a statement. But be careful it may not always be correct to answer all questions. In order to be 100% correct, it’s better to use the methods mentioned in the first 4 scenario.

2. To say No

First thing to know: To say no, you must add a negation word in front of the verb or adjective, either “bù 不” or “méi (yǒu) 没(有)”. We’ll use the first 4 scenario to see how it works.

Scenario 1:
A: Nǐ hē kāfēi ma? 你咖啡吗?
B: Bù hē. 不喝

Scenario 2:
A: Nǐ qù le Běijīng ma? 你去了北京吗?
B: Méi (yǒu) qù.没(有)去

Scenario 3:
A: Nǐ míngtiān yào kāihuì ma?你明天要开会吗?(Translation: Will you have meeting tomorrow?)
B: Bú yào (kāihuì). 不要(开会)

Scenario 4:
A:Nǐ máng ma? 你忙吗?(Translation: Are you busy?)
B: Bù máng. 不忙

From these, we can conclude that to say “no”, to negate the verb in present and future tense, and to negate the adjective, we add “Bù 不” before the verb or adjective, and to negate the verb in the past, we add “Méi (yǒu) 没有” before the verb.

Thank you for reading my post, and if you want to learn more daily Chinese with me, here to get started!

About The Author

Lilian Li

Lilian has a master’s degree in linguistics and didactics from Rennes University in France. An expert in linguistics and educational psychology, she has taught Chinese as a foreign language for several years, primarily in France. Her classes follow a logical and thorough path to ensure students build a methodology of learning that will continue to help them improve their language ability. She likes jogging, swimming, partying, and hang out with friends! Learn Chinese online with Lilian Li >>

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