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Expressing "all" with "shenme dou"

什么⋯⋯ 都 / 也 (shénme... dōu / yě) is a pattern often used to express "all" or "everything." Because it's not just one word, though, it can be a little tricky to get the hang of at first.

Basic Pattern

Structure

In this structure, 都 (dōu) is more frequently used than 也 (yě)。

Topic + 什么 + 都 / 也 + Verb / Adj.

In some sentences, there will be a subject after the topic in the pattern above. See the following sentences for examples.

Examples

  • 我 觉得 这里 的 菜 什么 好吃。Wǒ juéde zhèlǐ de cài shénme dōu hǎochī. I think everything is delicious here.
  • 中国 的 历史 爸爸 什么 知道。Zhōngguó de lìshǐ bàba shénme dōu zhīdào. My dad knows everything about Chinese history.
  • 工作 的 事情 老公 什么 跟 我 说。Gōngzuò de shìqing lǎogōng shénme dōu gēn wǒ shuō. My husband tells me everything about work stuff.
  • 妈妈 做 的 菜 我 什么 喜欢。Māma zuò de cài wǒ shénme dōu xǐhuan. I like everything that mom cooks.
  • 我女朋友 觉得 外国 的 东西 什么 好。Wǒ nǚpéngyou juéde wàiguó de dōngxi shénme dōu hǎo. My girlfriend thinks that all foreign things are good.

Structure with a Noun

Structure

什么 + Noun + 都

Examples

  • 我们 什么 喝。Wǒmen shénme jiǔ dōu hē. We can drink any alcohol.
  • 什么 衣服 是 黑色 的。shénme yīfu dōu shì hēisè de. All of her clothes are black.
  • 妈妈 做 的 什么 好吃。Māma zuò de shénme cài dōu hǎochī. All of the dishes mom makes are tasty.
  • 我男朋友 什么 运动 喜欢。Wǒ nánpéngyou shénme yùndòng dōu xǐhuan. My boyfriend likes all kinds of sports.
  • 你 不 应该 什么 跟 他 说。Nǐ bù yīnggāi shénme huà dōu gēn tā shuō. You shouldn't tell him everything.

Negative Structure

Structures

The negative structure simply adds a 不 (bù) or a 没 (méi) after the 都 (dōu) / 也 (yě). Instead of "all" or "everything," this expresses "none" or "not any."

什么 + Noun + 都 / 也 + 不 + Verb Phrase

什么 + Noun + 都 / 也 + 没 (有) + Verb Phrase

Examples

  • 生病 以后,爸爸 什么 能 喝 了。Shēngbìng yǐhòu, bàba shénme jiǔ dōu néng hē le. After dad got sick, he can't drink any kind of alcohol.
  • 老板 现在 很 生气,什么 见。Lǎobǎn xiànzài hěn shēngqì, shénme rén jiàn. The boss is very angry. He's doesn't want to see anybody.
  • 今天 我 不 舒服,什么 东西 吃。Jīntiān wǒ bù shūfu, shénme dōngxi dōu méi chī. Today I'm not well, so I didn't eat anything.
  • 昨天 开会 的时候,她 什么 说。Zuótiān kāihuì de shíhou, tā shénme huà méi shuō. She didn't say anything at yesterday's meeting.
  • 你 在 家里 怎么 什么 做?Nǐ zài jiālǐ zěnme shénme shì dōu zuò? How come you haven't done anything at home?

Beyond 什么 (shénme)

This pattern also works with other question words, such as 哪儿 (nǎr) and 谁 (shéi). In these cases, 哪儿 (nǎr) or 哪里 (nǎlǐ) would mean "everywhere," and 谁 (shéi) would mean "everyone."

Structures

哪儿 / 哪里 + 都 / 也 + Verb Phrase

谁 + 都 / 也 + Verb Phrase

Examples

  • 我 太 累 了,哪儿 想 去。Wǒ tài lèi le, nǎr dōu xiǎng qù. I'm too tired. I don't want to go anywhere.
  • 他 来 上海 以前,哪里 去 过。Tā lái Shànghǎi yǐqián, nǎlǐ dōu méi qù guo. Before he came to Shanghai, he hadn't gone anywhere.
  • 在美国, 知道 Obama。Zài Měiguó, shéi dōu zhīdào Obama. In America, everyone knows Obama.
  • 喜欢 看 美女。 Shéi dōu xǐhuan kàn měinǚ. Everyone likes to look at beautiful girls.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books