Understanding 有 (yǒu): A Simple Guide to Using 有 (yǒu) in Chinese

Chinese verb you

The verb 有 (yǒu) is apparently one of the most frequently used words in Chinese. In many ways, it works like the English word “have”, but still there is some difference, which could be somewhat confusing for Chinese beginners. Have no fear if that happens to be your case. In this post, we will talk about the two basis usages of 有 (yǒu) , how to use it properly in a negative sentence, and in a casual conversation scenario. In just five minutes, you’ll be able to use 有 (yǒu) like a pro.

Let’s jump in.

How to Use 有 (yǒu) in Chinese

有 (yǒu) can be used in various ways, but fundamentally, it has two basic usages in Chinese:

1. Use 有 (yǒu) to Express Possession

This is the most common scenario. People use 有 (yǒu) to indicate they own or possess something. It’s just like “to have” in English.   

Pattern

subject + 有 (yǒu) + object

Let’s see some examples!

  • 一个妹妹。
    Wǒ yǒu yí gè mèimei.
    I have a younger sister.
  • 一家公司。
    Tā yǒu yì jiā gōngsī.
    He has a company.
  • 我们三只猫。
    Wǒmen yǒu sān zhī māo.
    We have three cats.
  • 四条腿。
    Māo yǒu sì tiáo tuǐ.
    Cat has four legs.
  • 男朋友。
    yǒu nánpéngyou.
    She has a boyfriend.
  • 我的朋友很多钱。
    Wǒ de péngyou yǒu hěn duō qián.
    My friend has lots of money.
  • 他的太太一百个包。
    Tā de tàitai yǒu yìbǎi gè bāo.
    His wife has a hundred bags.
  • 时间吗?
    yǒu shíjiān ma?
    Do you have time?
  • 他们问题吗?
    Tāmen yǒu wèntí ma?
    Do they have a problem?
  • 你们英文菜单吗?
    Nǐmen yǒu yīngwén càidān ma?
    Do you have an English menu?
Do you guys have English menu?

2. Use 有 (yǒu) to Express Existence  

When 有 (yǒu) is used to express existence, it means “there is” or “there are” in English (pretty much like “hay” in Spanish, if you know what I mean)

Pattern

place + 有 (yǒu) + object

Literally, it says the place has something, i.e, something (the object) is existent at that place. The place could simply be the name of a location or a location word (a.k.a. noun of locality) such as 里面 (lǐmiàn), 外面 (shàngmiàn), 上面(shàngmiàn), etc.

Examples:

  • 我家五口人。
    Wǒ jiā yǒu wǔ kǒu rén.
    There are five people in my home.
  • 上海很多外国公司。
    Shànghǎi yǒu hěn duō wàiguó gōngsī.
    There are many foreign companies in Shanghai.
  • 公园里很多老人。
    Gōngyuán lǐ yǒu hěn duō lǎo rén.
    There are many old people in the park.
  • 附近家咖啡馆。
    Fùjìn yǒu jiā kāfēiguǎn.
    There is a cafe nearby.
  • 桌上本书。
    Zhuō shàng yǒu běn shū.
    There is a book on the table.
  • 我的包里些钱。
    Wǒ de bāo lǐ yǒu xiē qián.
    There is some money in my bag.
  • 我的手机里张她的照片。
    Wǒ de shǒujī lǐ yǒu zhāng tā de zhàopiàn.
    There is a picture of her on my phone.
  • 外面两个位子。
    Wàimiàn yǒu liǎng gè wèizi.
    There are two seats outside.
  • 房间里人吗?
    Fángjiān lǐ yǒu rén ma?
    Is there anybody in the room?
  • 这里卫生间吗?
    Zhèli yǒu wèishēngjiān ma?
    Is there a restroom here?
is there a restroom here?

You can use 有 (yǒu) to express possession or existence in the past, present, and future. There is no need to add particles like 了 (le), 过 (guò).

Examples:

  • 小时候我一只猫。
    Xiǎo shíhou wǒ yǒu yì zhī māo.
    When I was young, I had a cat.
  • 以前这里个花园。
    Yǐqián zhèli yǒu gè huāyuán.
    There was a garden here before.
  • 明天我一个会。
    Míngtiān wǒ yǒu yí gè huì.
    I’ll have a meeting tomorrow.
  • 这个周末家里客人。
    Zhège zhōumò jiā lǐ yǒu kèrén.
    There will be visitors to the house this weekend.

Use 没有 (méiyǒu) in a Negative Sentence

You might be familiar with the negation word 不 (bù). Right, you can negate basically any verbs with 不 (bu) in Chinese, like 不是 (bú shì), 不要(bú yào), 不去 (bú qù), but when it comes to 有 (yǒu), you have to negate it with 没 (méi). This is the only exception in the universe of Chinese verbs.

Pattern

没 (méi) + 有 (yǒu) + object

Just put 没 (méi) before 有 (yǒu), and you are all set!

Examples:

  • 没有钱。
    méiyǒu qián.
    I don’t have money.
  • 没有房子。
    méiyǒu fángzi.
    He does not have a house.
  • 我们没有时间。
    Wǒmen méiyǒu shíjiān.
    We don’t have time.
  • 我的奶奶没有手机。
    Wǒ de nǎinai méiyǒu shǒujī.
    My granny does not have a mobile phone.
  • 今天晚上你没有空吗?
    Jīntiān wǎnshàng nǐ méiyǒu kòng ma?
    You don’t have free time tonight?
  • 家里没有人。
    Jiā lǐ méiyǒu rén.
    There is no one at home.
  • 这里没有商店。
    Zhèli méiyǒu shāngdiàn.
    There is no shop here.
  • 我的钱包里没有钱。
    Wǒ de qiánbāo lǐ méiyǒu qián.
    There is no money in my wallet.
  • 我的手机里没有她的照片。
    Wǒ de shǒujī lǐ méiyǒu tā de zhàopiàn.
    There is no picture of her on my phone.
  • 办公室里没有人吗?
    Bàngōngshì lǐ méiyǒu rén ma?
    There is no one in the office?
is there anybody in the office?

In case you haven’t noticed, 没 (méi) and 有 (yǒu) has such a tight connection, that the two words are often written without any space in the Pinyin form as if it were just one word: 没有 (méiyǒu)

Alert! NEVER negate 有 (yǒu) with 不 (bù)! Typical rookie mistake!

  • × 我有钱。 wǒ yǒu qián.
    Not making any sense!
  • × 这里有人。 Zhèli yǒu rén.
    Again, not making any sense!

Stick to this rule in a choice question as well! While you can say 是不是 (shì bu shì), 要不要 (yào bu yào), 去不去 (qù bu qù), it’s absolutely wrong to say 有不有 (yǒu bu yǒu), as it should always be 有没有 (yǒu méiyǒu).

Examples:

  • 有没有车?
    yǒu méiyǒu chē?
    Do you have a car or not?
  • 你们有没有英文菜单?
    Nǐmen yǒu méiyǒu yīngwén càidān?
    Do you guys have an English menu or not?
  • 上海有没有地铁?
    Shànghǎi yǒu méiyǒu dìtiě?
    Is there metro in Shanghai or not?
  • 这里有没有洗手间?
    Zhèli yǒu méiyǒu xǐshǒujiān?
    Is there a restroom here or not?

Short Form of 没有 (méiyǒu): 没 (méi)

没有 (méiyǒu) can be shortened to simply 没 (méi) without changing its meaning. This is particularly common in spoken Chinese (and still grammatically correct!). Native speakers like keeping sentences short and concise.

  • 我没时间。Wǒ méiyǒu shíjiān.
    → 我时间。Wǒ méi shíjiān.
    I don’t have time.
  • 他没钱。Tā méiyǒu qián.
    → 他钱。Tā méi qián.
    He dose not have money.
  • 这里没人。 Zhèli méiyǒu rén.
    → 这里人。Zhèli méi rén.
    There is no one here.
  • 附近没银行吗? Fùjìn méiyǒu yínháng ma?
    → 附近银行吗? Fùjìn méi yínháng ma?
    There is no bank nearby?

Quick Recap: 有 (yǒu)

  • There are two basic usages of 有 (yǒu): expressing possession & expressing existence.
  • Always negate 有 (yǒu) with 没 (méi): 没有 (méiyǒu)
  • Or drop the “有 (yǒu)” and simply use its short form 没 (méi) in a negative sentence.
  • Never say 不有 (bù yǒu). No such thing in Chinese!

All right, that’s everything you need to know about using 有 (yǒu) in Chinese at this stage, and you are good to go now! I hope you 没有问题 (méiyǒu wèntí) – have no problem!

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 article!