City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Feb 2, 2021 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 210 views

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As a general rule, 不 appears before the word it negates. Therefore, the word order of a negative sentence affects its meaning.

我爸爸妈妈都不是老师。

Wǒ bà bà mā mā dōu bú shì lǎo shī 。

Neither of my parents are teachers.

Compare:

我爸爸妈妈不都是老师。

Wǒ bà bà mā mā bú dōu shì lǎo shī 。

My parents are not both teachers. (One is; the other isn’t.)

你身体不好,不可以喝酒。

Nǐ shēn tǐ bú hǎo ,bú kě yǐ hē jiǔ。

Your health is not good; you cannot drink (= you are not allowed to drink).

Compare:

你酒量不好,可以不喝酒。

Nǐ jiǔ liàng bú hǎo ,kě yǐ bú hē jiǔ 。

You get drunk easily; you don’t have to drink (= it’s OK if you don’t drink).

我的法文老师是日本人,他的法文不太好。

Wǒ de fǎ wén lǎo shī shì rì běn rén ,tā de fǎ wén bú tài hǎo 。

My French teacher is Japanese; his French is not very good (literally: not too good).

Compare:

我的英文老师是中国人,他的英文很不好。

Wǒ de yīng wén lǎo shī shì zhōng guó rén ,tā de yīng wén hěn bú hǎo 。

My English teacher is Chinese; his English is very bad.

[1] Yip, P. C., Rimmington, D., Xiaoming, Z., & Henson, R. (2009). Basic Chinese: a grammar and workbook. Taylor & Francis.

[2] Teng, W. H. (2016). Yufa! A practical guide to Mandarin Chinese grammar. Taylor & Francis.

answered Feb 2, 2021 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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1,901 questions
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