The difference between 没 and 不

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Vocabulary

In this article, I would like to discuss the vital difference between 没[mei2] and 不[bu4] when both of them are used to make a question sentence.

In Chinese language, apart from 吗 (ma), the other way to make a question sentence is to use the positive form of a word plus the negative form of the word. For instance, 你忙不忙?[ni3 mang2 bu4 mang2] (are you busy?) In this sentence the positive form is 忙 and the negative form is 不忙。 More examples can be: 你好不好?(ni3 hao3 bu4 hao3] (how are you?) 你看没看书?[ni3 kan4 mei2 kan4 shu1] (Have you read the book?/did you read the book?).

The difference between 不 and 没 is fundamentally semantic one. Both 不 and 没 can be used to negate an action ( or a verb, structurally speaking), but 不 is used to talk about you own intention, whereas 没 is used to negate a past fact.

EX:你吃没吃饭? Have you eaten (or not)?

EX:你吃不吃饭?Do you want to eat or not/Are you going to eat or not?

In most statements, 不 is usually used to describe the change of the state of something. However, 没 is usually to describe a negative fact.

EX:车不走了 (the car is not going anymore) in this sentence, it indicates the car was going/working but now it is not going/working anymore.

EX:车没走 (the car hasn’t gone) in this sentence, in indicates that the car is still here.

Enjoy it! Best wishes for a new year!

Thank you Delia

Michael and Jing


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