Hanbridge Mandarin's Blog

No means No– Except When It Means “Don’t Have


To express the meaning of “no” Chinese speakers typically use one of two methods: “不(bù)” or “没有(méiyǒu).”

To distinguish between these two similar words and to understand how to use them properly requires a little instruction and lots of practice.

Both “不(bù)” and “没有(méiyǒu)” have anegative meaning and it is permissible to put either in front of verbs and adjectives expressing the negation of certain actions, characters and states.

However, even if be used in front of the same verb or adjective the two words express different meanings.

“不(bù)” is usually used to negate people’s subject, will, desire or actions of the past, present and future.

“没有(méiyǒu)” is typically used to negate the object description and the happening or accomplishment of the actions or states. Therefore, “没有(méiyǒu)” can only be used to indicate the present and past, not the future.

Check out a couple examples below:


我明天不去上班。(I won’t go to work tomorrow.)


我昨天没有上班。(I didn’t go to work yesterday.)

If your intention is to negate the regular or habitual actions or verbs of no action , you should use the word “不(bù).” And if you want to negate “有(yǒu),” you should use “没(méi).” If you want to negate “是(shì)” you should use “不(bù).”


我不是医生。(I’m not a doctor.)


我没有裙子。(I don’t have a dress.)

At Hanbridge, we’re passionate about teaching Chinese. Contact us today to learn more about our Chinese classes where we can help you go from 我不说中文 to 中文没有问题。



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