Expressing "never" with "conglai"
Although it can also work in the positive, 从来 (cónglái) is usually used when you want to express that you never do something (as a habit, or as a rule), or that you have never done something (it's not a part of your life experience). In either usage, 从来 (cónglái) may be shortened to just 从 (cóng) in casual speech.
"To Never Do" with 从来 (cónglái) + 不 (bù)
When you follow 从来 (cónglái) with 不 (bù), you are expressing that you never do something (as a habit, or as a rule). It's often used as a way to refuse something, as in "I never drink."
The structure is:
Subj. + 从来 + 不 + [Verb Phrase]
Keep in mind that 从来 (cónglái) may be shortened to just 从 (cóng) in casual speech.
- 她 从来 不 喝酒。 She never drinks.
- 我 女朋友 从 不 给 我 打 电话。来 has been omitted here.My girlfriend never calls me.
- 这 个 人 很 奇怪，他 从来 不 笑。This person is very strange. He never laughs.
- 你 父母 从来 不 打 你 吗？"hit" can mean "spank"Your parents never hit you?
- 他 从 不 关心 别人。来 has been omitted here.He never cares about other people.
"To Have Never Done" with 从来 (cónglái) + 没有 (méiyǒu)
Use 从来 (cónglái) with 没 (méi) or 没有 (méiyǒu) (and 过 (guo) after the verb) to indicate that you have never done something (it's not a part of your life experience). You're talking about the past now, because you're talking about what you haven't done before, so 没有 (méiyǒu) is appropriate. 过 (guo) also makes sense, because you're making a statement about your life experience.
The structure is:
Subj. + 从来 + 没(有) + Verb + 过
Again, 从来 (cónglái) may be shortened to just 从 (cóng) in casual speech. Note that you can have an object or other information after the verb, but the 过 (guo) needs to come immediately after the verb.
- 你 从来 没有 想 过 这 个 问题 吗？Have you never thought about this question?
- 她 从来 没 见 过 她 妈妈。She has never met her mother.
- 我 从没 学 过 这 个 词。来 has been omitted here.I have never before studied this word.
- 你们 从来 没有 听说 过 这 个 地方 吗？Have you never heard about this place before?
- 很 多 中国人 从来 没 出 过 国。A lot of Chinese people have never been abroad.
- Expressing experiences with "guo"
- Comparing "bu" and "mei"
- "meiyou" as a Verb
- Standard negation with "bu"
- "Always" with "conglai"
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 4上 (pp. 5) 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课上册） →buy
- BRIDGE (桥梁 实用汉语中级教程上) (p.40) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 2 (p. 59) →buy
- Yale Chinese Usage Dictionary: Usage of 从来