Emphasising Negative With bìng并


Like many Chinese words, the word bìng doesn’t really translate into English. I think that’s a good thing though. Where is the fun in learning a language that is so close to your mother tongue that you can just pretty much translate things word for word? Here we will look at one use of the word bìng.

This word always comes directly before a negative and adds emphasis. It also indicates that the information goes against expectation. I have an American friend who is ethnically Asian. Lots of people in China think she is Chinese. But she is not.

In Chinese you can say tā bù shì zhōng guó rén 她不是中国人 (she is not Chinese) and that would be fine. You can also say tā bìng bù shì zhōng guó rén 她并不是中国人and the meaning is the same but the emphasis is on the negative (she is actually not Chinese). It’s implied that people mistakenly think she is, so I’m emphasising the negative to make it clear she isn’t. In other words, I’m emphasising she IS NOT Chinese because you think the IS Chinese. You can sometimes translate it as “actually…”

Let’s look at another example. I spot a male friend carrying a ladies handbag (for some reason this is actually not too uncommon in China). I say to him nǐ de bāo hǎo piào laing 你的包好漂亮 (your bag is beautiful!) and he says zhè bù shì wǒ de bāo, shì wǒ nǚ péng you de 这不是我的包,是我女朋友的 (this isn’t my bag, it’s my girlfriend’s). Again, this is just a statement of fact. If my friend wants to add emphasis and say “this is NOT my bag” he can say zhè bìng bù shì wǒ de bāo 这并不是我的包 (actually, this isn’t my bag/ this is NOT my bag)

You can also use bìng before the negative méi 没, which I have to do a lot in China because most people can’t believe I’m still using a little Nokia phone. I often have to say wǒ bìng méi yǒu zhī néng shǒu jī 我并没有智能手机 (I actually don’t have a smartphone).



wǒ bìng méi yǒu zhī néng shǒu jī


As well as “don’t have” you can also use bìng méi yǒu to mean “didn’t do”. In negative statements about the past méi and méi yǒu can be used interchangeably to mean something didn’t happen. Both can be combined with bìng to emphasise that someone’s assumption was wrong and that you didn’t actually do what they think you did.

For example, I arrive in the office at 8:30 and say to my colleague wǒ hén è 我很饿 (I’m hungry) to which my colleague replies zěn me kě néng? bú shì gāng gāng chī zǎo fàn le ma? 怎么可能?不是刚刚吃早饭了?(How is that possible? Haven’t you just eaten breakfast?) and then I say wǒ bìng méi yǒu chī zǎo fàn 我并没有吃早饭 (I DIDN’T eat breakfast). Here I use bìng because what my colleague thought happened actually didn’t happen and I’m emphasising that their assumption was wrong.