Never in Chinese 不 – Comparing ‘Never Have’ & ‘Never Again’

What kind of 不 (Never in Chinese)?Let’s take a look at these three sentences to understand these high-frequency phrases:

我不吃肉 wǒ bù chī ròu – ( I don’t eat meat)
我再也不吃肉 wǒ zàiyěbù chī ròu – ( I will never eat meat again)
我从来不吃肉 wǒ cóngláibù chī ròu – ( I never eat meat )

Pro Tip: When you’re typing in Pinyin, be careful to double-check that you typed the correct 在 再. The auto-complete often gets this one wrong as they are both high-frequency.

我不吃肉 – (I don’t eat meat)

First, let’s clarify that you don’t have to use 再也 zàiyě or 从来 cónglái. We’ll get to that below, but if you ‘do not’ do something in general, there’s no need to add either “从来“ or “再也.” If you say 我不吃肉, you just don’t eat meat ever. There’s no need to clarify that you’ll never do it again or never did it before, you just don’t. 

我再也不吃肉 – (I will never eat meat again)

Suppose, however, that you eat some meat that causes such a bad stomach illness you decide “never again” to eat it. This is when “再 again” and “也 also” come in handy. Sure, in English you wouldn’t say “again also not eat meat,” but this combo can help you get a feeling for how they use 再. 再 means again in the future, so it’s almost as if you’re saying “the future is also included in my not eating meat.”

我从来不吃肉 – (I never eat meat)

从来 means “from the beginning.” Consider that 一个月来 yíge yuè lái and 一年来 yì nián lái mean “for the past month” and “during the past year” respectively. In this context, 来 means “throughout” the time-word that comes before it. What if you just put “from 从” in place of “一个月” or “一年”? It’s like saying “from ever throughout,” AKA “always.” Naturally, 从来不 then means “never in Chinese.”

You’ll say 我从来不吃肉 as opposed to 我不吃肉 to either literally say “I’ve never eaten meat and I still don’t” or to be hyperbolic.

These Small Distinctions Are For NOTICING

As always, remember that grammar or word explanations are NOT meant to help you acquire language. The acquiring comes from comprehensible input. That said, as you continue to read and listen to more understandable content, the grammar explanation helps your brain spot a pattern moderately more quickly than it would otherwise. To understand more about our system for acquiring new characters, take a look at our article on Optimal Character Learning Order. Also, it can be fun to read grammar explanations; just remember that it’s a non-essential bonus to supplement your Mandarin acquisition.

Chinese Adverbs
11 February , 2020
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