Expressing "unless" with "chufei"

除非 (chúfēi) can be used as a conjunction, and means "unless." 否则 (fǒuzé) or 要不然 (yàobùrán) often appear in the following phrase, to form a construction meaning "unless x, otherwise y":

Patter with 除非

The simplified construction more directly maps to the basic English usage of "unless," as in, "I won't do it unless you pay me."


除非 means "unless" in the following "y , 除非 x" pattern. The sentences below place emphasis on the part after 除非.

Result / Fact ,除非 + Condition


  • 我 不 去 ,除非 你 也 去 。I won't go unless you go.
  • 你 不能 进 ,除非 你 有 预约 。You can't come in unless you have an appointment.
  • 我 不 说 ,除非 你 答应 我 你 不会 生气 。I won't tell you unless you promise me you won't get upset.
  • 你 不 会 这么 快 升职 ,除非 你 表现 很 好 。You won't get promoted so soon unless you perform very well.
  • 我们 公司 一般 不 允许 员工 请假 ,除非 理由 很 充分 。The company won't allow it's staff time off unless their reason is good enough.

Pattern with 要不然

This simplified construction using 要不然 (or 不然) more directly maps to the basic English usage of "otherwise," as in: "Pay me. Otherwise, I won't do it."


要不然 (or 不然) means "otherwise" in the following "x , 要不然 y" pattern.

Condition, (要) 不然 + Result


  • 你 也 去,要不然 我 不 去 。I won't go unless you go.
  • 马上 帮 我 叫车 ,要不然 我 赶不上 飞机 。I won't catch up my flight unless you call a cab for me right now.
  • 老师 ,您 要 给我们 一点 提示 ,要不然 谁 都 想不出 答案 。Teacher, we need you to give us a little hint. Otherwise, none of us will figure out the answer.

Advanced Pattern

In the full construction, 除非 comes first, and the meaning is "Unless x, otherwise y."


除非 + Condition ,否则 / 不然 + Result / Fact


  • 除非 你 是 会员 ,否则 不能 进去 。Unless you have the membership, yo can't come in.
  • 除非 有 奇迹 ,不然 他 的 病 治 不好 。Unless miracle happens, his disease can't be cured.
  • 除非 你 听 我 的 ,否则 我 不 会 帮 你 。Unless you listen to me, I won't help you.
  • 除非 你 有 证据 ,不然 谁 会 相信 ?Unless you have proof, who is going to believe it?
  • 除非 你 是 名牌 大学 毕业 的 ,否则 老板 不会 考虑 你 的 。The boss won't consider you unless you graduate from a brand-name university university.

除非 is also used in the patterns below. The meaning expressed is the same as the sentences above, but below the "Y" part expresses what won't happen unless the 除非 condition is met. It might be more helpful to think of 除非 here as meaning "only if." The structure is:

除非 x,才 y

So that's "Only if x, y."

A few examples:

  • 除非 你们 买 很 多 , 能 便宜 点 。Only if you buy a lot, I can make it less expensive.
  • 除非 旧 的 坏了 ,我 会 买 新的 。Only if the old one is broken, I will buy a new one.
  • 除非 老板 给 我 加薪 ,我 会 留下来 。Only if the boss gives me a pay raise, I will stay.

See also

Sources and Further Reading