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Negation using Bu or Mei

Hi ChinesePod team, my question is this:

I understand that when negating action verbs:

  • Mei is used to negate past events
  • Bu is used to negate present/future events or habitual actions.

However, I get confused with the terminology surrounding the negation of state verbs and process verbs. I understand the theory that state verbs should be negated by Bu and process verbs by Mei. However, I can’t find some simple understandable language for remembering what these verbs are in reality.

Can you help point me in the direction of appropriate lessons for this and so you have any easy ways to remember which verbs fall in to these categories, mnemonics or is it a case of learning case by case for words and can you help on the most frequent uses?


Can you help in remember

Hi Craig,

Your understanding is correct. Bu is used to negate a state or a habitual event, while mei negates a process or past event. One simple way to remember the difference is to think of “bu” as “do not” or “ is/am/are not” and “mei” as “have not” or “did not”. For example:

  • 我不想要去海边
    I do not want to go to the beach

  • 我没有去海边
    I did not go to the beach

  • 我不吃牛肉。
    I do not eat beef.

  • 我没吃牛肉。
    I didn’t eat beef.

  • 我不矮,也不胖。
    I am not short and not fat.

However, this is quite a simple explanation. It is more accurate to go about this through the standard definitions and rules. You can listen to this lesson here that explains the differences as well:“不”-bu-and-“没”-mei



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