Expressing "not often" with "bu zenme"
You might be tempted to conclude that 不怎么 (bù zěnme) seems to mean "not how," but it actually means "not often" when used together with a verb.
When 不怎么 is used with a verb, it means that one does not put a lot of time or energy into doing it. In other words, the action is done "not often." When the verb is used with an object, it also means that the number (or quantity) is really small.
Subj. + 不怎么 + Verb
- 他 不怎么 爱 说话 。He doesn't like to talk much.
- 我 老公 不怎么 运动 。My husband doesn't exercise much.
- 我们 在家 不怎么 看 电视 。We don't watch a lot of television at home.
- 我 儿子 不怎么 吃 零食 。My son doesn't snack much.
- 老板 不怎么 来 办公室 。My boss doesn't come to the office very often.
- 我 不怎么 在 网上 买 东西 。I don't online shop very often.
- 他们 不怎么 跟 朋友 出去 玩 。They don't often go out with friends.
Usage of 没怎么
Note that the examples below use 没 instead of 不. This is because the verb uses or implies 有 and thus it uses the same the 有 negation rules.
- 我 没 怎么 复习 。I didn't review much.
- 我 没 怎么 想 过 这个 问题 。I didn't really think about this before.
- 昨天 我 肚子 不 舒服 ，没 怎么 吃 东西 。My stomach didn't feel well yesterday, so I didn't eat much.
Lastly, make sure to use 不怎么 with a verb if you want it to mean "not often." Using it with an adjective gives it a different meaning.
Sources and further reading
- Short-term Spoken Chinese: Elementary (汉语口语速成基础篇) (pp. 139) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- 现代汉语八百词 (pp. 652) 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 →buy