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Expressing "how about" with "yaobu"

Colloquially, 要不 (yàobù) can be used for making suggestions, like how we use "how about" in English.

Structure

要不 can be used as an indirect way of giving a suggestion, as the speaker is using 要不 to seek consent of the listener. (Once again, 要么 can be used similarly.) When using 要不 in this way, it can come either at the beginning of the sentence, or in the middle, after explaining the situation.

Reason / Situation ,要不 + Suggestion

or

要不 + Suggestion ,Reason / Situation

Examples

  • 大家 都 有点 累 了,要不 休息 一会儿 Dàjiā dōu yǒudiǎn lèi le, yàobù xiūxi yīhuìr ba.Everyone is a little tired. Let's rest for a while.
  • 要不 我们 一起 去 ,一个人 去 没 意思 。Yàobù wǒmen yīqǐ qù ba, yīgèrén qù méi yìsi.How about we go together? It's no fun to go by myself.
  • 这个 星期 我 比较 忙 ,要不 下 个 星期 见 ?Zhège xīngqī wǒ bǐjiào máng, yàobù xià gè xīngqī jiàn?I'm pretty busy this week. How about we meet up next week?
  • 要不 我们 换 个 地方 ,这里 太 吵 了 。Yàobù wǒmen huàn gè dìfang ba, zhèlǐ tài chǎo le.How about we go to somewhere else? It's too loud here.
  • 要不 你 先 走 ,我 还没 做完 。Yàobù nǐ xiān zǒu ba, wǒ hái méi zuò wán.How about you go first? I haven't finished yet.
  • 下雨 了,要不 明天 去 Xiàyǔ le, yàobù míngtiān qù ba.It's raining. How about we go tomorrow?
  • 这么 远 ,要不 我 开车 送 你 去 ?Zhème yuǎn, yàobù wǒ kāichē sòng nǐ qù?It's so far. How about I drive you there?

Multiple Meanings

When 要不 (yào bù) is used to mean "otherwise”, it's a shortened form of 要不然, which literally means "if that's not the case."

Note 要不 (yào bù) can also be used to offer "either/or" choices to others, similar to 要么.

Here are a few examples of 要不 (yào bù) used as "otherwise":

  • 你 先 吃 吧 ,要不然 饭 就 凉 了 。Nǐ xiān chī ba, yào bùrán fàn jiù liáng le.You should eat, otherwise the food gets cold.
  • 打车 吧 ,要不 会 迟到 的 。Dǎchē ba, yào bù huì chídào de.You should take a taxi, otherwise you'll be late.
  • 快 回家 吧 ,要不 你 爸妈 会 担心 的 。Kuài huíjiā ba, yào bù nǐ bà mā huì dānxīn de.Hurry up. Go home, or your parents will start to worry.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books