Once you visit China, 没有 (méi yǒu) is going to be one of the phrases that you will hear the most. Most Chinese learners confuse e 没有 with 不 (bù) which means ‘no’ or ‘not’. This guide will help you learn the use of Mei you in Chinese.
In this post, we are going to highlight the primary differences between 没有 and 不, including five different meanings of the Chinese 没有.
不 (Bù) vs. 没有 (Méi Yǒu): The key difference
Both the words 不 and 没有 can be used to mean “no.” But, there is a huge difference between these little words. When these words get associated with a verb, 不 means you don’t do something whereas 没有 means you haven’t done or didn’t do something.
Let’s have a look at some examples:
- 我不吃早饭。 (wǒ bù chī zǎo fàn) — I don’t eat breakfast.
- 我没(有)吃早饭。 (wǒ méi [yǒu] chī zǎo fàn) — I haven’t eaten breakfast (or, I didn’t eat breakfast).
As a beginner Chinese learner, you get that 不 is the word for “no” and “not.” you can put 不 in front of a verb to explain that you don’t do something. However, this is different for the verb 有 (yǒu) — to have.
You can make the verb negative by adding 没 (méi) at the end. It is obvious that we cannot say 不有 (bù yǒu) instead, we say 没有 (méi yǒu) — to not have. For example
- 我不看书。 (wǒ bù kàn shū) — I don’t read books.
- 我没有书。 (wǒ méi yǒu shū) — I don’t have books.
The verb 是 (shì) means “to be,” and is always negated by 不. So when you want to say that something isn’t something, use the word 不是 (bù shì). In this situation, you never use the word 没有 to disprove a sentence.
- 我不是学生。 (wǒ bù shì xué shēng) — I’m not a student.
- 他不是医生。 (tā bù shì yī shēng) — He’s not a doctor.
Now let us move towards the usage of Mei you in Chinese. If you are confused with these Chinese words and their contextual usage, you can enroll in italki. With this well-established language learning platform, you can from italki’s Chinese teachers who will make your Chinese learning easier with proper, well-planned lesson plans.
Now that we have understood when to use 不 vs. 没有, let’s take a look at what 没有 actually means.
The mystery of Mei you in Chinese
In literal terms, the phrase means “to not have,” but it can also negate sentences similar to the way 不 does.
Broadly, there are five uses of Mei you in Chinese:
- To mean “to not have”
- To express that something has not happened yet
- To make comparisons
- To show the nonexistence
- To repel praise
Now, let’s explore these meanings one by one.
没有 as “To Not Have”
没 is used to negate the verb 有. When they are put together, 没有 is the negative form of 有, so it means “to not have.” In Chinese sentences, 没有 follows the simple structure of subject + 没有 + object.
- 我没有苹果。 (wǒ méi yǒu píng guǒ) — I don’t have apples.
- 她没有兄弟姐妹。 (tā méi yǒu xiōng dì jiě mèi) — She doesn’t have siblings.
没有 as something hasn’t or didn’t happen
When you want to express something that hasn’t or didn’t happen you can use the verb 没有. The presence of 有 can be omitted. In fact, native speakers do not use 有.
To generate the sentence you can use the structure: subject + 没(有) + verb.
- 我没(有)看这场电影。 (wǒ méi [yǒu] kàn zhè chǎng diàn yǐng) — I haven’t seen this movie/I didn’t see this movie.
- 我没(有)吃早饭。 (wǒ méi [yǒu] chī zǎo fàn) — I haven’t eaten breakfast/I didn’t eat breakfast.
- 我还没(有)想好。 (wǒ hái méi [yǒu] xiǎng hǎo) — I still haven’t made up my mind.
If you want to say something that has never happened before then you will use 没 or 没有 along with 过 (guò), in a sentence that is structured like this: subject + 没(有) Verb + 过.
- 我没(有)看过这场电影。 (wǒ méi [yǒu] kàn guò zhè chǎng diàn yǐng) — I’ve never seen this movie before.
- 我没(有)吃过早饭。 (wǒ méi [yǒu] chī guò zǎo fàn) — I have never eaten breakfast before.
- 我没(有)去过中国。 (wǒ méi [yǒu] qù guò zhōng guó) — I have never been to China before.
没有 makes comparisons
When you compare two things, you can use the word 没有. When the Chinese make the comparison, they structure the sentence like this: Subject + 没有 + Object + Verb/Adjective/Phrase.
- 我没有他中文说得那么好。 (wǒ méi yǒu tā zhōng wén shuō de nà me hǎo) — I don’t speak Chinese as well as him.
- 你没有我高。 (nǐ méi yǒu wǒ gāo) — You aren’t as tall as me.
- 沈阳没有北京的交通流量大。 (shěn yáng méi yǒu běi jīng de jiāo tōng liú liàng dà) — Shenyang doesn’t have as much traffic as Beijing.
- 火车没有飞机快。 (huǒ chē méi yǒu fēi jī kuài) — Trains aren’t as fast as airplanes.
没有 means something doesn’t exist
When something doesn’t exist, you can use 没有. Let’s dig into it with the help of few examples:
- 没有意义。 (méi yǒu yì yì) — It’s pointless. (lit. to not have a point)
- 我跟你没有关系。 (wǒ gēn nǐ méi yǒu guān xi) — I have nothing to do with you. (lit. I with you have no relationship)
- (这)没有用。 ([zhè] méi yǒu yòng) — This/it is useless. (lit. this has no use)
- 没事 (méi shì) — It is nothing/it is fine.
没有 is used to repel a compliment or praise
It may be considered rude in other cultures but refusing a compliment is polite in Chinese culture. 没有 is used to deflect compliments.
A: 你唱歌唱得那么好啊！(nǐ chàng gē chàng de nà me hǎo a) — You sing so well!
B: 没有没有。(méi yǒu méi yǒu) — No, no.
These were some of the definitions of Mei you in Chinese. We have included the relevant examples to make the concept understandable as well as digestible for you. Go easy while learning these five definitions of Mei you. You will get the command of them gradually.
If you are a learner, you need to make connections between different languages. For example, there are several Chinese words in English that can make your journey easier. You can develop your vocabulary list by memorizing such words first.
Another important tip is to observe and learn the cultural patterns of Chinese people. For example, learning how to say thank you in Chinese can bring endless opportunities to hold Chinese conversations. Learning a foreign language is not an overnight process. Start from the initial phase and move to the advanced learning stages at a gradual pace. Learn Chinese characters as they will help you understand Chinese sentences and their formation.