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Bu and mei(you)

Although 不 (bù) and 没(有) (méi(yǒu)) both have the same functions of negating verbs and adjectives, they are used differently. Let's take a look at some of these differences.

有 is negated with 没

没 (rather than 不) is always used to negate 有, the verb meaning "to have." The phrase "不有" exists only in non-standard Chinese dialects, in obscure set phrases (that you don't need), and in incorrect Chinese. Keep in mind also that when 没 is used to negate 有, 有 can be dropped altogether.

  • 没有
  • 我 没有 钱。
  • 我 没 钱。
  • 有 钱。
  • 她 没有 朋友。
  • 她 没 朋友。
  • 有 朋友。

Past and present statements

Perhaps the most important difference between 不 and 没(有) is that 不 negates actions and statements about the present whereas 没 negates actions and statements about the past. Note that 没(有) is used to say that something has not taken place, whereas 不 is used to say that something is not the case, or will not happen.

For example:

  • 去。 I won't go; I'm not going)
  • 去。 I didn't go)
  • 告诉 他! I didn't tell him)
  • 告诉 你! I won't tell you; I'm not telling you)

A few exceptions

The verb 是 is never negated with 没; it can only be negated with 不.

  • 昨天 是 星期一。
  • 昨天 是 星期一。
  • 那个 时候,我们 是 朋友。
  • 那个 时候,我们 是 朋友。

Sources and further reading