Expressing "how about" with "yaobu"
Colloquially, 要不 (yàobù) can be used for making suggestions, like how we use "how about" in English.
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. 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
要不 + Suggestion ，Reason / Situation
- 大家 都 有点 累 了，要不 休息 一会儿 吧 。Everyone is a little tired. Let's rest for a while.
- 要不 我们 一起 去 吧 ，一个人 去 没 意思 。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 ？I'm pretty busy this week. How about we meet up next week?
- 要不 我们 换 个 地方 吧 ，这里 太 吵 了 。How about we go to somewhere else? It's too loud here.
- 要不 你 先 走 吧 ，我 还没 做完 。How about you leave first? I haven't finished yet.
- 下雨 了，要不 明天 去 吧 。It's raining. How about we go tomorrow?
- 这么 远 ，要不 我 开车 送 你 去 ？It's so far. How about I drive you there?
When 要不 (yàobù) is used to mean "otherwise,” it's a shortened form of 要不然 (yàobùrán), which literally means "if that's not the case."
Note 要不 (yàobù) can also be used to offer "either/or" choices to others, similar to 要么 (yàome).
Here are a few examples of 要不 used as "otherwise":
- 你 先 吃 吧 ，要 不然 饭 就 凉 了 。You should eat; otherwise, the food will get cold.
- 打车 吧 ，要不 会 迟到 的 。Take a taxi. Otherwise, you'll be late.
- 快 回家 吧 ，要不 你 爸妈 会 担心 的 。Hurry home, or your parents will worry about you.
Sources and further reading
- Home With Kids1 (家有儿女1) (pp. 50) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- BRIDGE (桥梁 实用汉语中级教程下) (pp. 187) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 1 (pp. 123-4) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 (pp. 166-7) 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 →buy
- HSK Standard Course 5上 (pp. 66) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy