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Expressing "not often" with "bu zenme"

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You might be tempted to conclude that 不怎么 (bù zěnme) seems to mean "not how," but it actually means "not often" when used together with a verb.

Structure

When 不怎么 is used with a verb, it means that one does not put a lot of time or energy into doing it. In other words, the action is done "not often." When the verb is used with an object, it also means that the number (or quantity) is really small.

Subj. + 不怎么 + Verb

Examples

  • 不怎么 爱 说话 。bù zěnme ài shuōhuà.He doesn't like talking too much.
  • 我 老公 不怎么 运动 。Wǒ lǎogōng bù zěnme yùndòng.My husband doesn't exercise very often.
  • 我们 在家 不怎么 看 电视 。Wǒmen zài jiā bù zěnme kàn diànshì.We don't watch a lot of television at home.
  • 我 儿子 不怎么吃 零食 。Wǒ érzi bùzěnme chī língshí.My son doesn't eat snacks very often.
  • 老板 不怎么 来 办公室 。Lǎobǎn bù zěnme lái bàngōngshì.My boss doesn't come to the office very often.
  • 不怎么 在 网上 买 东西 。bù zěnme zài wǎngshàng mǎi dóngxi.I don't online shop very often.
  • 他们 不怎么 跟 朋友 出去 玩 。Tāmen bù zěnme gēn péngyou chūqù wán.They don't often go out and have fun with friends.

Usage of 没怎么

Note that the examples below use 没 instead of 不. This is because the verb uses or implies 有 and thus it uses the same the 有 negation rules.

  • 没 怎么 复习 。méi zěnme fùxí.I didn't review much.
  • 没 怎么 想 过 这个 问题 。méi zěnme xiǎng guo zhège wèntí.I didn't really think about this before.
  • 昨天 我 肚子 不 舒服 ,没 怎么 吃 东西 。Zuótiān wǒ dùzi bù shūfu, méi zěnme chī dōngxi.My stomach didn't feel well yesterday, so I didn't eat much.

Lastly, make sure to use 不怎么 with a verb if you want it to mean "not often." Using it with an adjective gives it a different meaning.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books