Potential complement "-bu dong" for not understanding
Chinese learners often have to express that they don't understand something, especially in the beginning when they start learning. One of the ways to express that is to use the 不懂 (bù dǒng) verb complement.
Yes, 不懂 (bù dǒng) by itself simply means "not understand," and you can use it this way. But you'll find that more often, it follows a verb. When used this way, it is a complement.
The potential complement 不懂 (bù dǒng) is used to talk about things that can't be understood. Note that this is about potential: the subject doesn't have the ability to understand.
Subj. + Verb + 不懂
The 不懂 (bù dǒng) may also be swapped out with 不明白 (bù míngbai).
- 我 看 不 懂 这 本 书。Literally, "read-not-understand"I don't understand the book.
- 孩子们 看 不 懂 你 写 的 汉字。Literally, "read-not-understand"Kids don't understand the characters that you wrote.
- 你 看 不 懂 我 的 邮件 吗？Literally, "read-not-understand"Do you not understand my emails?
- 老板 的 中文 说 得 很好，可是 他 看 不 懂 中文 报纸。 Literally, "read-not-understand"The boss speaks very good Chinese, but he doesn't understand Chinese newspapers.
- 我 听 不 懂 上海话 。 Literally, "hear-not-understand"I don't understand Shanghai dialect.
- 你们 听 不 懂 我 的 话 吗？Literally, "hear-not-understand"Do you not understand what I say?
- 我 听 不 懂 你 说 的 英语。 Literally, "hear-not-understand"I don't understand your English.
- 我们 都 听 不 懂 你 的 意思。 Literally, "hear-not-understand"None of us understand what you mean.
- 很 多 人 读 不懂 这 本 书 。 Literally, "read-not-understand"Many people don't understand this book.
- 这 个 句子 很 难， 学生们 都 读 不 懂。 Literally, "read-not-understand"This sentence is very difficult. None of the students understand.
Sources and further reading
- A Practical Chinese Grammar For Foreigners (外国人实用汉语语法) (pp. 242-3, 271 - 329) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Chinese Grammar Without Tears (简明汉语语法学习手册) (pp. Chapter 6: Complements) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 200 - 201) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 87-8) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 97-9) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Practicing HSK Grammar (语法精讲精炼) (pp. 186-7) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy