8 Common Ways to Say “NO” in Mandarin Chinese

In Practical Chinese Phrases by Angel Huang1 Comment

In Mandarin, there isn’t a specific word that matches the meaning of “no” in English.

Instead, the words you use depend on the context and grammar of the question.

But before we get into that... listen to these 8 phrases that Mandarin speakers often use in situations where you could say "no" in English:

You can download the audio and a pdf with example sentences and usage explanations for each phrase.

A Visual Summary of the Key Phrases From the Video...

So How Are These 8 Phrases Used?

Let's take a look:

1. 不是的。bù shì de.

Literally: “Not yes” (Mostly used when someone checks a fact)

Example:

你是老板吗?不是的。

nǐ shì lǎo bǎn ma?bù shì de.

Are you the boss? No, I'm not.

2. 不对。bù duì.

Literally: “Not right” (It is commonly used when you disagree with someone's statement or opinion)

Example:

我觉得女人都爱购物,你觉得呢?不对,我就不爱购物。

wǒ jué dé nǚ rén dōu ài gòu wù,nǐ jué dé ne?bù duì,wǒ jiù bù ài gòu wù.

I think all women love shopping, what do you think? That’s not right. I don’t love shopping.

3. 不行。bù xíng.

Literally: “Not OK” (It is often used when someone requests something or asks for permission to do something)

Example:

我可以用你的信用卡吗?不行。

wǒ kě yǐ yòng nǐ de xìn yòng kǎ ma?bù xíng.

Can I use your credit card? No.

4. 没有。méi yǒu.

Literally: "Not Have”(It is used to describe a negative fact or something that hasn't happened)

Example1: 你有现金吗?没有。

nǐ yǒu xiàn jīn ma?méi yǒu.

Do you have cash? No, I don't.

Example2: 

你去过上海吗?没有。

nǐ qù guò shànghǎi ma?méi yǒu.

Have you been to Shanghai? No, I haven't.

5. 不可以。bù kě yǐ.

Literally: "Not can” (Similar usage as phrase #3 - “bù xíng”)

Example:

这里可以吸烟吗?不可以。

zhè lǐ kě yǐ xī yān ma?bù kě yǐ.

Can I smoke here? No, you can’t.

6. 不要。bù yào.

Literally: "Not want”

Example: 你要喝咖啡吗?不要。

nǐ yào hē kā fēi ma?bù yào.

Do you want to drink coffee? No, I don’t.

7. 没门儿!méi mén er!

No way!

Example: 我可以借更多的钱吗?没门儿!

wǒ kě yǐ jiè gèng duō de qián ma?méi mén er!

Could I borrow some more money? No way! 

8. 不可能。bù kě néng.

Impossible.

Example: 你可以一个星期内减肥30公斤吗?不可能。

nǐ kě yǐ yī gè xīng qī nèi jiǎn féi 30 gōng jīn ma?bù kě néng.

Can you lose 30 kg within a week? Impossible.



A quick note about saying "no" in Mandarin...

The most basic way to say "no" is to repeat the main verb (or adjective) of the question and put bù or méi in front of it. Several of the examples above illustrate this pattern.

For example:

  • yǒu xiàn jīn ma? méi yǒu. (Do you have cash? No, I don’t.)
  • zhè lǐ kě yǐ xī yān ma? bù kě yǐ. (Can I smoke here? No, you can’t.)

Have questions or thoughts on any of this? Leave them below 🙂