不要 (búyào) and 别 (bié): All about Negative Commands in Chinese

All about Negative Commands in Chinese

So, you have some negative commands on the tip of your tongue but can’t blurt them out in Chinese?

Relax, it’s one of the easiest grammar points in Chinese, and we’ll teach you right away! At the end of this article, you’ll know how to form any negative commands when people around you need to stop whatever they’re doing, guaranteed!  

Let’s get started!

Use of Negative Commands

Negative commands in Chinese are for those moments in life when you need to directly tell someone not to do something. In English, it’s usually translated as “Don’t (do something”).

For example, when you need to order someone to knock off some behavior:

  • Don’t smoke here!
  • Don’t touch it!

They can also come up in regular conversations when you need to give advice or recommend that someone not doing something:

  • Don’t worry.
  • Don’t run before you can walk.

Or to plead with someone:

  • Don’t go away. 
  • Don’t leave me.

In short, you’re going to need negative commands both for important, urgent situations, and as part of regular conversational Chinese.

Construction of Negative Commands in Chinese

Whether authoritative or more polite, forming negative commands in Chinese is simple and straightforward. There are two words that directly correspond to the English expression “Don’t (do something)”:

  • 不要 (búyào)
  • 别 (bié)

1. Negative Commands with 不要 (búyào)

You may have already learned how to use 不要 (búyào) in a declarative sentence

For instance,  

不要咖啡。我要喝茶。
Wǒ búyào kāfēi. Wǒ yào chá.
I don’t want coffee. I want tea.

In this case, 不要 (búyào) means “not want”. It’s a simple “不 (bù) + verb” negation structure.

Here’s what’s new: you can also use 不要 (búyào) like the “Don’t” in English to initiate a negative command. Simply use it before the verb or verb phrase.

不要喝咖啡!喝茶!
Búyào hē kāfēi! Hē chá!
Don’t drink coffee! Drink tea!

Just like in English, the subject “you” is omitted in the sentence.

Pattern

不要 (búyào) + verb/verb phrase

Let’s look at some more examples.

  • 不要走.
    Búyào zǒu.
    Don’t go away.
  • 不要想太多。
    Búyào xiǎng tài duō.
    Don’t think too much.
  • 不要烦我!
    Búyào fán wǒ!
    Don’t bother me!
  • 不要碰这个。
    Búyào pèng zhè ge.
    Don’t touch this.
  • 吃饭的时候不要说话。
    Chīfàn de shíhou búyào shuōhuà.
    When eating, don’t talk.
  • 生气的时候不要做决定。
    Shēngqì de shíhou búyào zuò juédìng.
    When (you’re) angry, don’t make decisions.

You can add a subject (totally optional) like 你 (nǐ), 你们 (nǐmen) or 您 (nín) before 不要 (búyào) for emphasis.

  • 不要动!
    Nǐ búyào dòng!
    Don’t you move!
  • 不要跟我客气!
    Nín búyào gēn wǒ kèqi!
    Don’t you (honorific) be too kind and polite to me! (don’t you keep social distance from me as if I am a stranger)

You can also add “请”, meaning “please”, at the very beginning of the sentence to be more polite.

  • 不要拍照。
    Qǐng búyào pāizhào.
    Please don’t take photos.
  • 请你们不要在这里抽烟。
    Qǐng nǐmen búyào zài zhèli chōuyān 。
    Please, you guys, don’t smoke here.
please you guys don't smoke here

2. Negative Commands with 别 (bié)

Negative commands in Chinese can also be formed with the word 别 (bié). You can think of 别 (bié) as the short form of 不要 (búyào), since they work exactly the same way.

Pattern

别 (bié) + verb/verb phrase

Examples:

  • 停!
    Bié tíng!
    Don’t stop!
  • 碰我!
    Bié pèng wǒ!
    Don’t touch me!
  • 插队!
    Bié chāduì!
    Don’t cut in line!
  • 过去! 危险!
    Bié guòqù ! Wēixiǎn!
    Don’t go over there! Dangerous!
  • 担心,我在。
    Bié dānxīn, wǒ zài!
    Don’t worry, I am (here).
  • 开车的时候看手机!
    Kāichē de shíhou bié kàn shǒujī!
    When driving, don’t look at the phone!
  • 激动!我还没有说完。
    Nǐ bié jīdòng! Wǒ hái méiyǒu shuō wán!
    Don’t you get carried away! I haven’t finished talking yet.
  • 跟我客气!
    Nín bié gēn wǒ kèqi!
    Don’t you (honorific) be too kind and polite to me!
  • 告诉她,好吗?
    Qǐng bié gàosù tā, hǎo ma?
    Please don’t tell her, okay?
  • 病毒很危险,请你们出门。
    Bìngdú hěn wēixiǎn, qǐng nǐmen bié chūmén.
    The virus is very dangerous, please, you guys, don’t go outside.
don't go outside

There is no real difference between 不要 (búyào) and 别 (bié), except 别 (bié) is shorter. They are both commonly used in Chinese, spoken and written, and are totally interchangeable with each other

Expressing Dont (do something) Anymore 

So far, we’ve been concentrating on the use of 不要 (búyào) and 别 (bié) in scenarios where you simply want to ask others “not to do” something, but what if someone is already doing it, and you want him to stop doing that?

It’s pretty simple. To tell someone to quit what they are doing, all you need is put a 了 (le) after the whole “不要 (búyào)+ verb/verb phrase” or “别 (bié)+ verb/verb phrase” structure. It’s like saying “Don’t (do something) anymore”.  

不要/学中文。
Búyào/Bié xué zhōngwén.
Don’t learn Chinese.

不要/学中文
Búyào/Bié xué zhōngwén le.
Don’t learn Chinese anymore. (stop learning Chinese)

Pattern

不要 (búyào)+ verb/verb phrase + 了 (le)
别 (bié) + verb/verb phrase + 了 (le)

More examples:

  • 亲爱的,不要生气
    Qīn’àide, búyào shēngqì le.
    Sweetie, don’t be mad anymore.
  • 不要,我知道了。
    Búyào shuō le, wǒ zhīdào le.
    Don’t say (it) anymore, I got it.
  • 不要,她不想告诉你。
    Búyào wèn le, tā bù xiǎng gàosù nǐ.
    Don’t ask anymore, she does not want to tell you.
  • 不要,这里没有人。
    Búyào jiào le, zhèli méiyǒu rén.
    Don’t shout anymore, there is no one here.
  • 你们不要,警察来了!
    Nǐmen búyào dǎ le, jǐngchá lái le!
    Don’t you fight anymore! The cops are coming.
  • ,她根本不会来。
    Bié děng le, tā gēnběn bú huì lái.
    Don’t wait anymore, she is not going to come at all.
  • 开玩笑!这不好玩。
    Bié kāi wánxiào le! Zhè bù hǎowán.
    Don’t make jokes anymore! It’s not funny.
  • !吵死了
    Bié kū le! Chǎo sǐ le
    Don’t cry anymore! So noisy!
  • 催我!我非常忙。
    Bié cuī wǒ le! Wǒ fēicháng máng.
    Don’t urge me anymore! I am extremely busy.
  • 玩手机!去做作业!
    bié wán shǒujī le! Qù zuò zuòyè!
    Don’t you play with the phone anymore! Go do the homework!
don't play with your phone

Sometimes, the person might not be actually doing the thing that you want him to stop at that moment, but has a tendency to do it soon. You can still use the “+ 了” structure to give a negative command in these cases.

明天不要迟到
Míngtiān búyào chídào le.
Don’t be late anymore (again) tomorrow. (Stop being late)

as opposed to

明天不要迟到!
Míngtiān búyào chídào!
Don’t be late tomorrow!

过来,我已经走了。
Bié guòlái le, wǒ yǐ jīng zǒu le 。
Don’t come over here anymore, I already left. (change your plan)

as opposed to

过来!
Bié guòlái!
Don’t come over here!

Quick Recap: 不要 (búyào) and 别 (bié)

  • There are two words to express “Don’t (do something)”: 不要 (búyào) & 别 (bié)
  • They work in the same away and are interchangeable
  • Basic patten: 不要 (búyào)/别 (bié) + verb/verbal phrase. Subjects are optional.
  • To express “Don’t (do something) anymore”, add a 了 (le) afterward.

Ready to tell the Chinese-speaking world what not to do? I hope so!

Remember, grammar is the glue that holds the pieces of language together, so don’t forget to check other grammar articles on ImproveMandarin.Com’s Grammar Channel! 谢谢 (xièxie) for reading this!