not only but also in Chinese

Not Only…, But Also… in Chinese

Connectors are what linguists call “conjunctions.” The Chinese word for them is “连词 liáncí – ‘connect + word.’ They serve to take separate thoughts and show how they are connected. Examples in English are words like “and,” “or,” “because,” etc. Chinese connectors are one of the most straightforward elements of the language to understand, so be sure not to overthink them too much :). Today’s post is going to cover the grammar structure 不但…而且… & Bùdàn…érqiě (Not only…, but also… in Chinese)

Not Only…, But Also… in Chinese
不但…而且… – Bùdàn…érqiě

Many times when you are trying to make a point, you’ll want to emphasize that there is more than one reason that helps illustrate your perspective. In these cases, you’ll want to use a “Not only…, but also…” structure.


Subject + 不但 bùdàn (not only in Chinese) -or- 不仅 bùjǐn (not only in Chinese) + Element 1, 而且 而且 érqiě (but also in Chinese) + Element 2

Let’s take a look at some example sentences to see the breakdown:

Sentence 1:

有一天,他不但病了,而且病得很重。 – Level 33
Yǒuyītiān, tā bùdàn bìng le, érqiě bìng de hěn zhòng.
One day, he not only fell ill, but it was also severe. 

Here we see that the subject is “他 tā,” and NOT ONLY (不但 Bùdàn) has he ‘fallen ill’ (Element 1), BUT ALSO (而且 érqiě) it’s ‘quite serious’ (Element 2).

Note that because there is only one subject, “他 tā” gets placed before “不但 Bùdàn (not only in Chinese)” (more on this later).

Not Only…, But Also… in Chinese Sentence 2:

没想到,花不但没有长出来,而且都死了。 – Level 36
Méi xiǎng dào, huā bùdàn méiyǒu zhǎng chūlái, érqiě dōu sǐ le.
To his surprise, the flowers not only didn’t bloom, but also all died.

In this sentence, the expectation is that the flowers (花 huā) will bloom. Because of that expectation, the “不但…, 而且… Bùdàn…, érqiě…” structure plays the role of emphasizing the result that is counter to the expectation. 

How might one express that their expectation wasn’t met? NOT ONLY (不但 bùdàn) ‘didn’t bloom’ (Element 1), BUT ALSO (而且 érqiě) ‘all died’ (Element 2).

Sentence 3:

他不但爱读书,而且喜欢唱歌。 – Level 36
Tā bùdàn ài dúshū, érqiě xǐhuān chànggē.
He not only loves reading but also enjoys singing.

In this sentence, you could imagine a mother trying to convince her daughter that “他 tā” is an excellent potential romantic partner. What elements could illustrate her point? Well, NOT ONLY (不但 bùdàn) does he ‘love to read’ (Element 1), BUT ALSO (而且 érqiě) ‘enjoys singing’ (Element 2). Gee, what’s not to like?

Multiple Subjects

There was only one subject in all of the first three subjects. However, it’s possible to use the “不但/不仅…, 而且… Bùdàn/bùjǐn…, érqiě…” structure with two subjects. When using two different subjects, you need to place one after 不但 bùdàn (not only in Chinese) and the other after 而且 érqiě (but also in Chinese). 


不但 bùdàn (not only in Chinese) + Subject 1 + Phrase, 而且 而且 érqiě (but also in Chinese) + Subject 2 + Phrase

Sentence 4:

Bùdàn wǒ xǐhuān zài jiā zuòfàn, érqiě wǒ de péngyǒumen dōu xǐhuān zài jiā zuòfàn.
Not only do I like cooking at home, my friends all like it too.

In this structure, you’ll notice that instead of making two points about one subject, you’re making the same point about two subjects. NOT ONLY (不但 bùdàn) does ‘我wǒ’  (Subject 1) ‘like cooking at home,’ BUT ALSO (而且 érqiě) ‘我的朋友们 wǒ de péngyǒumen” (Subject 2) ‘like cooking at home.’

不但 bùdàn vs. 不仅 bùjǐn

不但 bùdàn & 不仅 bùjǐn mean the same thing (not only in Chinese), but 不仅 bùjǐn will often be paired with “也 tā” or “还 hái” instead of 而且 érqiě (but also in Chinese) (although pairing with 而且 érqiě is still okay). Here’s an example.

Not Only…, But Also… in Chinese
不仅……而且/也/还 Bùjǐn…érqiě/yě/hái

Sentence 5:

这不仅是他的问题,也是我的问题。 – Level 15
Zhè bùjǐn shì tā de wèntí, yě shì wǒ de wèntí.
This isn’t only his problem; it’s also my problem.

Who does the problem belong to? It might seem that it’s only 他 tā, but no, NOT ONLY (不仅 bùjǐn) is this ‘his problem,’ BUT ALSO (也 yě) is ‘my problem.’ 

Note: If you want, you can also say ‘不仅仅 bùjǐn jǐn‘ instead of ‘不仅 bùjǐn.’

Sentence 6:

他们不仅工作日在工作,连休息日也会工作。 – Level 28
Tāmen bùjǐn gōngzuòrì zài gōngzuò, lián xiūxīrì yě huì gōngzuò.
They not only work weekdays but even weekends as well.

This last example combines two grammar points to really emphasize the speaker’s feelings. NOT ONLY (不仅 bùjǐn) do they work on weekdays, BUT EVEN (连 lián) on weekends they ALSO (也 yě) will work. We’ll discuss this more in a future article, but if you want to express surprise about an element of a statement, you can say “连 lián + Subject, 也/都 yě/dōu + Verb Phrase.” 

Keep a lookout for this structure, and focus on reading as many of these sentences as possible. Only use the grammar rule to guide you towards further comprehensible input. 加油 Jiāyóu!

Also, don’t forget there is no such thing as “learning” grammar, it is more about an acquisition. You can read more about how to acquire Chinese grammar in a natural way in this post.

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