12 Ways to Say NO in Chinese

12 ways to say no in Chinese

How to Say No in Chinese?

“How to say NO in Chinese?” This fact might surprise you, but there is no “direct” way to say “yes” or “no” in Mandarin Chinese.

There are two common words for negating, one is “不 bù/bú,” and another one is “没 méi.”

However, they are not interchangeable. Let’s see some examples.

不 bù/bú 

Negates the action in the present or future

Present:

他现在不想吃东西。


Tā xiànzài bùxiǎng chī dōngxī.

(He doesn’t want to eat now.)

Future:

我们明天不用去学校。

Wǒmen míngtiān búyòng qù xuéxiào.

(We do not need to go to school tomorrow.)

Negates habitual actions

我不喜欢喝咖啡。

Wǒ bù xǐhuān hē kāfēi.

(I don’t like drinking coffee.)

Negates an adjective

今年夏天不热。

Jīnnián xiàtiān bú rè.

(This summer’s not hot.)

For asking questions

她是不是你的女朋友?

Tā shì búshì nǐ de nǚ péngyǒu?

(Is she your girlfriend?)

Almost exclusively with certain verbs: 是 (shì)、在 (zài)、知道 (zhī dào)、认识 (rèn shì)

你以前不是一个老师吗?

Nǐ yǐqián búshì yīgè lǎoshī ma?

(Weren’t you a teacher before?)

没 méi

Negates past actions

我昨天晚上没睡觉,现在好累。

Wǒ zuótiān wǎnshàng méi shuìjiào, xiànzài hǎo lèi.

(I didn’t sleep last night. I am so tired now.)

Only 没 negates 有

You never use “不” to negate 有.” Since “有” means “have”, “没有” means “do not have.” (没有 can be shortened to 没)

他没有弟弟,只有一个哥哥。

Tā méiyǒu dìdì, zhǐyǒu yīgè gēge.

(He doesn’t have any younger brothers, only one older brother.)

  • 没有 can be shortened to 没

我没那本书。

Wǒ méi nà běn shū.

(I don’t have that book.)

For making comparisons

今年夏天没有去年夏天热。

Jīnnián xiàtiān méiyǒu qùnián xiàtiān rè.

(This summer is not as hot as last summer.)

 

12 Ways to Say “No” in Chinese

12 ways to say no in Chinese

Saying No to Yes/No Questions

When answering a yes or no question, it depends on the “verb” in the question. If the answer is “yes,” you can simply repeat the verb as a short answer. If the answer is “no,” you add “不” or “没” before the verb.

The pattern looks like this,

Answer with “yes”

Short answer: verb

Sentence answer: Subject + verb (+ object)

 

Answer with “no”

Short answer: 不 or 没 + verb

Sentence answer: Subject + 不 or 没 + verb (+ object)

(If you are not sure when to use 不 or 没, check the section “How to negate a sentence in Chinese” above.)

See the examples below,

Saying No to Yes/No Questions in Chinese

 

Example 1:

Q: Are you a college student? (“Are” is the verb which is “是” in Chinese.)

     你 大学生 吗? 

     (Nǐ shì dàxuéshēng ma?)

A: NO, I am not. 

    我

    (Wǒ bú shì.)

Example 2:

Q: Do you know him?

     你 认识 他吗?

     (Nǐ rènshí tā ma?)

A: No, I don’t know him.

     我 认识 他。

     (Wǒ bù rènshí tā.)

 

Saying No to Decline An Invitation

Keywords

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
对不起duì bù qǐsorry
不好意思bù hǎo yì sisorry,
(also means embarrassing, embarrassed)
不舒服bù shūfúnot feeling well
抱歉bàoqiànapology

When you need to decline an invitation, a simple “no” probably will hurt other people’s feelings. By using the keywords above, it can make your tone much softer.

Saying No to Decline An Invitation

Example 1,

Q: I would like to invite you and your family over for dinner tomorrow. Are you available?

     我想请你和你家人明天来吃晚餐,你们有空吗?

     Wǒ xiǎng qǐng nǐ hé nǐ jiārén míngtiān lái chī wǎncān, nǐmen yǒu kòng ma?

 

A: I am really sorry. We are going to a concert tomorrow night.

    真的 很 抱歉,我们明天晚上要去听音乐会。

    Zhēn de hěn bàoqiàn, wǒmen míngtiān wǎnshàng yào qù tīng yīnyuè huì.

 

Example 2,

Q: Are you free this weekend? Wanna go shopping together?

     你这个周末有空吗?要不要一起去逛街?

     Nǐ zhège zhōumò yǒu kòng ma? Yào bú yào yìqǐ qù guàngjiē?

 

A: I am sorry, but I am going on a business trip this Friday. 

    真 不好意思,我星期五要出差。

    Zhēn bù hǎo yì si, wǒ xīngqíwǔ yào chūchāi.

Saying No to Correct Wrong Statements

Keywords

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
duìcorrect
cuòwrong, incorrect
shìis/are

If you would like to correct a wrong statement, you can correct the statement by using the keywords above.

Saying No to Correct Wrong Statements

Example 1,

Q: You have two younger sisters, right?

     你有两个妹妹,是 吗?

     Nǐ yǒu liǎng gè mèimei, shì ma?

 

A: No, I have one younger sister and one younger brother.

    不是,我有一个妹妹一个弟弟。

    Búshì, wǒ yǒu yīgè mèimei yīgè dìdi.

 

Example 2,

Teacher’s question: What is 4 times 27?

四 乘以 二十七 等于 多少?

Sì chéng yǐ èrshíqī děngyú duōshǎo?

 

Student’s answer: 104.

一百零四。

Yì bǎi líng sì

 

Teacher’s response: Wrong (incorrect). It is 108.

错 (不对),是一百零八。

Cuò (búduì), shì yì bǎi líng bā.

Saying No to Reject A Request

Keywords

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
可以kěyǐcan (permission)

xíngok (permission)

If someone asks permission from you, but you would like to say no. Adding “不” before the keywords above can reject the request.

Saying No to Reject A Request

Example 1,

Kid: Mom, can I have 10 pieces of candy today?

         妈妈,我今天 可以 吃十颗糖吗?

         Māmā, wǒ jīntiān kěyǐ chī shí kē táng ma?

Mom: Of course not!

            当然 不可以

            Dāngrán bù kěyǐ!

 

Example 2,

Q: May I use a cell phone here?

     我 可以 在这里用手机吗?

     Wǒ kěyǐ zài zhèlǐ yòng shǒujī ma?

A: I am sorry, you may not use it here.

    对不起 ,这里 不行 用手机。

    Duì bù qǐ. Zhèlǐ bùxíng yòng shǒujī.

Saying No to Deny A Past Action

Keyword

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
没有méiyǒuno, not (negates past actions)
méino, not (negates past actions)

(*没有 can be shortened to 没)

When you would like to explain that something did not happen in the past, you have to use “没有” or “没.” You CANNOT use “不” for negating a past action. 没有 can be shortened to 没. They both can be used interchangeably.

Saying No to Deny A Past Action 

Example 1,

Mom: Did you play video games last night?

            你昨天晚上打电玩了吗?

            Nǐ zuótiān wǎnshàng dǎ diànwán le ma?

Me: No! I did not!

        我 没有

        Wǒ méiyǒu!

 

Example 2,

Teacher: Did you do your homework?

老师:你做了你的功课了吗?

Lǎoshī: Nǐ zuòle nǐ de gōngkè le ma?

Me: I am sorry. I did not.

我:对不起,我 没做

Wǒ: Duìbùqǐ, wǒ méi zuò.

Saying No to Express The Lack of Ownership

Keywords

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
没有méiyǒunot have
méinot have

Since the word “有 yoǔ” means “to have,” adding a negative word before it can express the lack of ownership. Previously, we discussed using “没 méi” to negate “有 yoǔ.” Likewise here, 没有 can be shortened to 没. 

Saying No to Express The Lack of Ownership

Example 1:

I don’t have money!

没有 钱!

Wǒ méiyǒu qián!

Example 2:

He has candy! And I don’t have any!!!

他有糖果,我 没有

Tā yǒu tángguǒ, wǒ méiyǒu!

Saying No to Express The Lack of Ability

Keyword

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
huìto be able to do a skill

If you would like to express that you do not know how to perform a certain skill, you place “会 huì” after “不 bù.”

Saying No to Express The Lack of Ability

Example 1,

Q: Can you speak Spanish?

     你 说西班牙语吗?

     Nǐ huì shuō xībānyá yǔ ma?

A: No, I can not.

    我 不会

    Wǒ bú huì.

 

Example 2,

Q: Do you know how to draw a shark?

     你 画鲨鱼吗?

     Nǐ huì huà shāyú ma?

A: No, I do not know how to.

    我 不会

    Wǒ bù huì.

Saying No to Express The Impossible

Keyword

可以 kě yǐ, can, be able to

可能 kě néng, possible

Saying No to Express The Impossible

Example 1,

Q: Is it possible that you finish today’s homework in 20 minutes?

你 可能 二十分钟内做完今天的作业吗?

Nǐ kěyǐ èrshí fēnzhōng nèi zuò wán jīntiān de zuòyè ma?

A: No, that’s impossible!

    不可能

Bù kěnéng! 

 

Example 2,

Q: Can you swim faster than Michael Phelps?

**可以 游得比 迈克尔·菲尔普斯 快吗?

Nǐ kěyǐ yóu dé bǐ màikè’ěr·fēi ěr pǔ sī kuài ma?

 

A: No way!! (That’s impossible!)

不可能

Bù kěnéng!

** 可以 means “can,” “be able to” and “has the permission to do something.”

“不可以 bù kěyǐ” only means “not allow to do something.”  

The example 2 above, is asking are you able to do something that is hard to accomplish. Then the answer will be “不可能 Bù kěnéng, impossible.” The answer will NOT be “不可以 bù kěyǐ.” 

Saying No to Express Displeasure 

Keyword

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
喜欢xǐhuānto like

Saying No to Express Displeasure

Example 1,

A: I do not like the smell of cinnamon.

    我 不喜欢 肉桂的味道。

    Wǒ bù xǐhuān ròuguì de wèidào.

 

Example 2,

Q: Do you like tea with sugar?

     你喝茶喜欢加糖吗?

     Nǐ hē chá xǐhuān jiā táng ma?

A: No, I don’t like it.  

    我 不喜欢

    Wǒ bù xǐhuān.

Saying No to Express “No Way!”

Keywords

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
没门(儿)méiménrno way
门都没有mén dū méiyǒuno way

Have you run into a situation that you feel someone’s request is way out of line? And you just want to shout “NO WAY!!!” Here is an informal and common way to express this emotion. You can respond with “没门(儿), méi mén (ér)!” or “门都没有!, mén doū méi yoǔ!” Both phrases literally mean “not have a door.” Both of these phrases are slang.

How to say no in Chinese: Saying No to Express “No Way!”

Example,

For instance, you just lent $1000 to one of your friends. And he came to you again today and asked,

Your friend: Can you lend me $2000?

你可以借我两千块吗?

Nǐ kěyǐ jiè wǒ liǎng qiān kuài ma?

 

Me: No way!!!!!

没门(儿)!/门都没有!

Méimén (er)! /Mén dū méiyǒu!

Fun fact: If you type “meimen” in the Chinese pinyin keyboard, you will get these emojis!

How to say no in Chinese no way emojis

Saying No to Express “Oh No!”

Keywords

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
哎呀āiyāoh no!
糟糕zāogāooh no, awful, bad, nasty, terrible
不好了bù hǎoleoh no!

All three keywords above can be translated to “oh no” in Chinese. 

How to say no in Chinese: Saying No to Express “Oh No!”

Example 1,

Student A: Oh no!! I forgot to bring my homework.

哎呀!糟糕!我忘了带我的作业!

Āiyā! Zāogāo! Wǒ wàngle dài wǒ de zuòyè!

 

Example 2,

Mom: Oh no! I don’t have enough time to make dinner!

糟糕!我没时间做晚饭了!

Zāogāo! Wǒ méi shíjiān zuò wǎnfànle!

 

“糟糕” can also be used in other situations. “糟糕” can be used as an adjective. For instance, 

A: 今天有一件很糟糕的事发生…

     Jīntiān yǒuyī jiàn hěn zāogāo de shì fāshēng…

     Something terrible happened today…

B: 怎么了?

     Zěn me le?

     What happened?

Saying No to Express “No, Thank you”

Keywords

汉字 HànziPīnyīnEnglish
不用了 bú yòng leno need anymore
不需要(了) bù xūyào (le)no need anymore
就这样 jiù zhèyàngthat’s it, that’s enough
这样就可以了 zhèyàng jiù kěyǐlethat’s it, that’s enough
谢谢 xièxiethanks, thank you

You will use these in the following situations:

  • When someone asks you if you need anything else, and you don’t.
  • They ask if you would like to have more of something, and you have enough for what you need.
  • They would like to give you more of something, but you do not need it. 

You can use the keywords above to express “no, thank you” in Chinese. Let’s see how to use those keywords in the examples.

How to say no in Chinese: Saying No to Express “No, Thank you”

Example 1,

(You finished your meal in a restaurant)

Waitress: Do you need anything else?

你还需要什么吗?

Nǐ hái xūyào shénme ma?

 

You: No, thank you.

不用了,谢谢。

Bú yòng le, xièxie.

 

Example 2,

(After a customer service call)

Customer service: Is there anything else I can help you with?

还有什么我可以帮您的(地方)吗?

Hái yǒu shé me wǒ kěyǐ bāng nín (dì dìfāng) ma?

 

You: no, that’s it. Thank you.

就这样,谢谢。

Jiù zhèyàng, xièxiè.

 

If you like the example infographics above, you are welcome to download this big infographic below.

12-ways-to-say-no-in-Chinese

 

Learning Chinese with infographics is fun, isn’t it?

You can find many other free infographics here.

We also highly recommend that the infographic set and a video course we made for whoever is learning / or teaching Chinese beginner grammar.

If you are wondering how to teach in this series, we have course trailer and some sample lessons.

Course trailer

 

Sample 1: 要 yào, be going to, be planning to

Sample 2: 怎么 zěn me, how to

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