Expressing "unless" with "chufei"

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除非 (chúfēi) can be used as a conjunction, and means "unless." 否则 (fǒuzé) or 要不然 (yàobùrán) often appear in the following phrase, to form a construction meaning "unless x, otherwise y":

Patter with 除非

The simplified construction more directly maps to the basic English usage of "unless," as in, "I won't do it unless you pay me."

Structure

除非 means "unless" in the following "y , 除非 x" pattern. The sentences below place emphasis on the part after 除非.

Result / Fact ,除非 + Condition

Examples

  • 我 不 去 ,除非 你 也 去 。Wǒ bù qù, chúfēi nǐ yě qù.I won't go unless you go.
  • 你 不能 进 ,除非 你 有 预约 。Nǐ bù néng jìn, chúfēi nǐ yǒu yùyuē.You can't come in unless you have an appointment.
  • 我 不 说 ,除非 你 答应 我 你 不会 生气 。Wǒ bù shuō,chúfēi nǐ dāyìng wǒ nǐ bù huì shēngqì.I won't tell you unless you promise me you won't get upset.
  • 你 不 会 这么 快 升职 ,除非 你 表现 很 好 。Nǐ bù huì zhème kuài shēng zhí, chúfēi nǐ biǎoxiàn hěn hǎo.You won't get promoted so soon unless you perform very well.
  • 我们 公司 一般 不 允许 员工 请假 ,除非 理由 很 充分 。Wǒmen gōngsī yībān bù yǔnxǔ yuángōng qǐngjià, chúfēi lǐyóu hěn chōngfèn.The company won't allow it's staff time off unless their reason is good enough.

Pattern with 要不然

This simplified construction using 要不然 (or 不然) more directly maps to the basic English usage of "otherwise," as in: "Pay me. Otherwise, I won't do it."

Structure

要不然 (or 不然) means "otherwise" in the following "x , 要不然 y" pattern.

Condition, (要) 不然 + Result

Examples

  • 你 也 去,要不然 我 不 去 。Nǐ yě qù, yào bùrán wǒ bù qù.I won't go unless you go.
  • 马上 帮 我 叫车 ,要不然 我 赶不上 飞机 。Mǎshàng bāng wǒ jiào chē, yào bùrán wǒ gǎnbushàng fēijī.I won't catch up my flight unless you call a cab for me right now.
  • 老师 ,您 要 给我们 一点 提示 ,要不然 谁 都 想不出 答案 。Lǎoshī, nín yào gěi wǒmen yīdiǎn tíshì,yào bùrán shéi dōu xiǎng bù chū dá'àn.Teacher, we need you to give us a little hint. Otherwise, none of us will figure out the answer.

Advanced Pattern

In the full construction, 除非 comes first, and the meaning is "Unless x, otherwise y."

Structure

除非 + Condition ,否则 / 不然 + Result / Fact

Examples

  • 除非 你 是 会员 ,否则 不能 进去 。Chúfēi nǐ shì huìyuán, fǒuzé bù néng jìnqù.Unless you have the membership, you can't come in.
  • 除非 有 奇迹 ,不然 他 的 病 治 不好 。Chúfēi yǒu qíjī, bùrán tā de bìng zhì bù hǎo.Unless miracle happens, his disease can't be cured.
  • 除非 你 听 我 的 ,否则 我 不 会 帮 你 。Chúfēi nǐ tīng wǒ de, fǒuzé wǒ bù huì bāng nǐ.Unless you listen to me, I won't help you.
  • 除非 你 有 证据 ,不然 谁 会 相信 ?Chúfēi nǐ yǒu zhèngjù, bùrán shéi huì xiāngxìn?Unless you have proof, who is going to believe it?
  • 除非 你 是 名牌 大学 毕业 的 ,否则 老板 不会 考虑 你 的 。Chúfēi nǐ shì míngpái dàxué bìyè de, fǒuzé lǎobǎn bù huì kǎolǜ nǐ de.The boss won't consider you unless you graduate from a brand-name university university.

除非 is also used in the patterns below. The meaning expressed is the same as the sentences above, but below the "Y" part expresses what won't happen unless the 除非 condition is met. It might be more helpful to think of 除非 here as meaning "only if." The structure is:

除非 x,才 y

So that's "Only if x, y."

A few examples:

  • 除非 你们 买 很 多 , 能 便宜 点 。Chúfēi nǐmen mǎi hěn duō, cái néng piányí diǎn.Only if you buy a lot, I can make it less expensive.
  • 除非 旧 的 坏了 ,我 会 买 新的 。Chúfēi jiù de huài le, wǒ cái huì mǎi xīn de.Only if the old one is broken, I will buy a new one.
  • 除非 老板 给 我 加薪 ,我 会 留下来 。Chúfēi lǎobǎn gěi wǒ jiā xīn, wǒ cái huì liú xiàlái.Only if the boss gives me a pay raise, I will stay.

See also

Sources and Further Reading