Beginner Lesson 10.1 – Negative with 不

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Negative In Chinese: Say Not In Chinese

In this video lesson we'll learn how to say not in Chinese. We will focus on the character 不, an adverb used to express negative in Chinese.

  • Negative in Chinese: 不
  • Daughter and son in Chinese: 女儿 儿子
  • Teacher in Chinese: 老师
  • To know someone: 认识



Grammar 1: Negative in Chinese with 不 · HSK 1

bù(bú) 不 no; not

不 is a negation adverb in Chinese. It can be pronounced in two different ways: bù and bú because of its tone change rule. We put 不 right before the verb to express negative in Chinese:

+ Verb

Here are some example sentences where by using 不, we can say not in Chinese.



wǒ dìdi
my little brother



wǒ dìdi
my little brother

Lǐ Lǎoshī
Teacher Li


Lǐ Lǎoshī
Teacher Li


Grammar 2: To Know Someone in Chinese · HSK 1

rènshi 认识 to recognize; to know (someone personally)

When we want to say we know someone in Chinese, we can use the verb 认识. For example:

  • wǒ rènshi tā 我认识他。 I know him.

But 认识 usually means you know someone personally. For example if you know a celebrity, you don't necessarily say you 认识 them. And even if you do say you 认识 some celebrity, you cannot say they 认识 you. For example:

Q: nǐ rènshi Lǐ Xiǎolóng ma
      Do you know Bruce Lee?
A: wǒ rènshi tā, tā bú rènshi wǒ
      I know him, (but) he doesn't know me.

认识 also means to recognize something, for example:

  • wǒ rènshi zhège hànzì
    I know this Chinese character.


Grammar 3: Daughter and Son in Chinese · HSK 1

In Chinese, ér 儿 and 子 both mean son; child; kid. But when 儿 and 子 are put together, érzi 儿子 only means son. 女 literally means female, so 女儿, "a female child" means daughter.

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daylelightPremium Student September 7, 2021 at 10:01 pm

I have a question about one of the sentences in the quiz. Sorry it’s so long.
The English translation is given as, “Aren’t you his big brother?” and the Chinese is, “你不是他的哥哥吗?”
It looks to me like the Chinese question would be better translated as, “Are you not his big brother?” which to me doesn’t really imply quite the same thing as, “Aren’t you his big brother?” But I’d like your thoughts on the translation.
I feel like the question construction, “Aren’t you so-and-so?” suggests that the asker assumes the answer is yes, but is asking to be sure, while the construction, “Are you not so-and-so?” suggests that the asker assumes the answer is no, but is asking to be sure. Essentially, the same question, but the opposite underlying assumption. This all opposed to, “Are you so-and-so?” which is neutral, and makes no assumption either way.
Usually this wouldn’t matter, I guess, but in some situations it could sound presumptuous. Like asking someone, “Is he your boyfriend?” is relatively neutral, but asking, “Isn’t he your boyfriend?” sounds more like something a nosy older relative might ask to suggest, “you really might as well say already, because I already assume the answer is yes.”
So, does this work similarly in Chinese? Are there any assumptions implied by asking a 吗 question with a negative sentence? Is doing so with a positive sentence considered fairly neutral? I understand this is a pretty subtle difference, but digging into grammar and little differences like this in language is something I enjoy that often isn’t covered much, because, well… it’s getting rather nitpicky, isn’t it?
So that’s my question. (And I’ll also throw in once more the suggestion about switching the translation to, “Are you not his big brother?” unless of course the original sentence isn’t actually saying what I think it is saying)

When asking “A不是B吗?” in Chinese, it is implied that the speaker assumes that A is B, and is expecting “yes” as the answer.

daylelightPremium Student September 22, 2021 at 10:20 pm

Ah, so it does imply the same thing as, “Aren’t you…?” That’s very interesting, and not what I would have thought. Thanks.

kat-rPremium Student May 3, 2021 at 8:47 am

So… does this mean I can ask somebody how many children they have, analogue to asking a small child how old they are? I.e. 你几儿?Assuming they have fewer than ten, which seems like a fair assumption in most cases?

In what context would people use the existential expression of “I am not you”?

You can use it like “I’m not you, I wouldn’t do something like that.” or “I’m not you, I don’t come from a rich family.”

blankohagen7Premium Student April 2, 2020 at 9:46 am


Len ATTARDPremium Student October 13, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Lili, thank you for these videos and the clarity of your explanations.
With Nu ‘er and ‘er zi why is there an apostrophe before the “e”?

Thanks Leonard! I’m glad that you’re enjoying the lessons!

The apostrophe is one of the Pinyin Spelling Rules(Here’s a lesson on all the Pinyin Spelling Rules).

Some Chinese syllables don’t have an Initial(Consonant) at the beginning and only have a Final, for example 儿 is just “ér”. The apostrophe is there to separate it away from the previous Syllable.

For example penguin is 企鹅(qǐ’é) in Chinese. Wihout the apostrophe it might confuses us when we see (qǐ é) – especially in hand-written form or when the tones are not marked.

MichaelPremium Student June 25, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Hi Lili: what’s the four word greeting you say at the end of each video (two identical characters and then two different ones)? Thanks! Michael.

I’m glad you asked Michael. It’s 谢谢, 再见! 谢谢 means thanks, 再见 is goodbye. You will see them in Lesson 11 and 12. 😀

dietrichPremium Student September 16, 2018 at 3:44 am

Or maybe:
再 = again
见 = see
再见 => again see => See you again 🙂

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