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Non-commital use of question words

Hi ChinesePod team, my question is this:

I’m struggling to fully grasp the concept of question words being used in declarative sentences to be purposefully vague.

is there a lesson on this or could you help with my understanding.


Hi Craig,

The sentence structure is actually hard than it seems!

This is how it’s used most of the time:
S. + Negative indicators (沒有/沒/不) + (V.) + Question word (多少/幾個/什麼/哪裡/誰) + (O.)

It’s a very versatile structure so you might see it in different formats, but the important thing is that it’s ALWAYS negative, and it’s always paired up with a question word.
It indicates a non-committal attitude, like someone is reluctant to answer your question but usually we would interpret it as “very little/ very few/barely”.

Let’s go back to the sentences in the text.

  1. 我沒有多少錢–> I have little money.
  2. 她沒有幾個朋友–>She has very few friends.
  3. 你的感冒沒有什麼關係–>Your cold is barely serious
  4. 我沒去哪裡–>I barely went anywhere.
  5. 他不打算買什麼–>He didn’t plan to buy a lot. (He planned to buy very little)
  6. 我昨天沒跟誰去看電影–>I went to the movie barely with anyone yesterday.

I hope this helps! Let me know if this is clear enough.