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Expressing "not very" with "bu zenme"

When you use 不怎么 (bù zěnme) before an adjective, it means "not very." This structure is similar to how English speakers may say something is "not very good."

Structure

When used together with an adjective, 不怎么 becomes similar to 不太, which means that the degree of the adjective is not very high.

Subj. + 不怎么 + Adj. / [Psychological Verb]

Using this grammar structure is a way to indirectly or mildly state something. Instead of saying 他不聪明 (tā bù cōngming) you can say 他不怎么聪明 (tā bù zěnme cōngming), turning a very direct statement to a milder, more wayward statement.

Examples

  • 最近 不 怎么 忙 。Zuìjìn bù zěnme máng.It hasn't been very busy lately.
  • 这里 的 冬天 不 怎么 冷 。Zhèlǐ de dōngtiān bù zěnme lěng.It's not very cold here in winter.
  • 他们 好像 不 怎么 高兴 。Tāmen hǎoxiàng bù zěnme gāoxìng.They don't seem to be very happy.
  • 这 个 学生 不 怎么 努力 。Zhège xuéshēng bù zěnme nǔlì.This student isn't very hard-working.
  • 那 家 餐厅 不 怎么 干净 。Nà jiā cāntīng bù zěnme gānjìng.That restaurant isn't very clean.
  • 这个 老师 不 怎么 专业 。Zhège lǎoshī bù zěnme zhuānyè.This teacher isn't very professional.
  • 你 是 不 是 昨天 睡 得 不 怎么 好 ?Nǐ shì bú shì zuótiān shuì de bù zěnme hǎo?Did you not sleep very well last night?
  • 不 怎么 喜欢 咖啡 。bù zěnme xǐhuan kāfēi.I'm not very into coffee.
  • 他 跟 他 父母 长 得 不 怎么 像 。Tā gēn tā fùmǔ zhǎng de bù zěnme xiàng.He and his parents don't look very much alike.
  • 他 去 美国 一 年 多 了 ,不过 不 怎么 想家 。Tā qù měiguó yì nián duō le, búguò bù zěnme xiǎngjiā.He's been in America for more than one year, but he's not very homesick.

Remember that to make 不怎么 mean "not very" use it with an adjective. Using it with a verb will give it the meaning of "not often."

See also

Sources and further reading

Books