I am confused about the Chinese equivalent of "Do you go with him". The sentence is a so-called yes/no question by many textbooks and grammar books. Using the VA-not-VA(Verb Adjective) to compose this question, I think it should be 你跟他一起去不去?But native Chinese people say: 你跟不跟他一起去?

The "跟" is a preposition, not a verb or adjective. Why is the VA-not-VA also applicable to preposition?

Also, why is 你跟他一起去不去 wrong?

  • Actually both are correct, but they have different meanings. The first one means "If you are with him, do you (still) want to go?" and the second one means "Do you want to go with him". Apr 8, 2015 at 19:24
  • @Derek朕會功夫 I don't think "你跟他一起去不去" is the equivalent to "If you are with him, do you want to go". The equivalent to your sentence is: 如果你跟他一起,你去不去. The conditional aspect of your sentence cannot be omitted.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 8, 2015 at 22:03
  • Well we often omit some parts in normal conversations since it's obvious to the listener. However if you are looking for an exact direct word-to-word translation, then yes they are not equivalent. Apr 8, 2015 at 22:21
  • @Derek朕會功夫 What I meant is: there is a conditional aspect in the sentence "If you are with him, do you want to go". But the sentence "你跟他一起去不去" doesn't have that conditional aspect in the meaning. After all , the sentence "你跟他一起去不去" is ungrammatical. My original question is: why it is ungrammatical.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 9, 2015 at 0:30
  • It does implies a subtle conditional. You can see that after putting in some punctuation marks: 你,跟他一起,去不去?And regarding the grammar of the sentence, it's legit and I can see myself using it. It doesn't mean the simple question as you thought before, and I wouldn't put it that way when I'm writing an essay let's say, but it's not wrong. Apr 9, 2015 at 1:16

3 Answers 3


Most Chinese prepositions are also verbs. For example:
在: to be (at) (verb), at (preposition)
跟: to follow (verb), with (preposition)
给: to give (verb), to, for (preposition)

For that reason, they do carry their verb features even when acting as prepositions. And for what I've seen since I started studying Chinese, the first verb is always the one that's negated and that's inserted in the V/A-not-V/A structure. Some examples:

(if there are any mistakes in my examples, I'd appreciate if a native speaker could point them out)

As you can see, the "prepositions" are always negated.

You may negate other parts of the sentence, but the "neutral" negation is always negating the first verb in Chinese.

Hope this helps. Cheers


跟 is a verb, it means ”follow”. In this context, it is a coverb, and the conclusion follows.

Edit: see http://hub.hku.hk/bitstream/10722/133290/3/FullText.pdf page 11, Incapability to occur in A-not-A question:

A-not-A is a type of question in Chinese that elicits either an affirmative or negative answer as shown by the question structure (Li and Thompson, 1981). The formation of the A-not-A construction is regarded as a property of verbs in Li and Thompson’s grammar (1981:172,182). Some scholars employ this criterion to contrast verb and preposition and examine whether coverbs are verbs or prepositions (Chao, 1968, Eifring, 1995, Chen, 2002). Chao (1968) is not very explicit in his description of the property of A-not-A, but he mentions that the coverb construction in (9) is better analyzed as a V-not-V series, which shows that he regards A-not-A as a property of verbs. Prepositions do not usually function as the centre of predicate and therefore, prepositions do not occur in the A-not-A construction (Chao, 1968).

  • I surprised that Chinese scholars seem to accept unchallenged that Western Grammar concepts, modelled, devised and invoked on the basis of Indo European languages, must be applicable to Chinese. Certainly 梅祖麟 did not. By what parameters do you conclude here that 跟 is follow and not, for example 'you with not with him together to' ? Simply because that is bad English?
    – Pedroski
    Apr 8, 2015 at 10:30
  • Change to durative aspect, and it is rather obvious: 你跟着我一起去. Would you say that a western grammar concept like prepositions can exist in the durative aspect? Are you, then, further implying that you could put 去 in the durative here, as in ”你跟我一起去着”?
    – user4452
    Apr 8, 2015 at 18:26
  • Can I ask: is 你跟他一起去不去 actually wrong, or does it just mean "will you and him go or not?" whereas 你跟不跟他一起去 means "will you go with him or not?" -- making both questions technically correct, however, meaning two different things?
    – Ming
    Apr 9, 2015 at 0:00
  • @倪阔乐 I read the major part of the paper you linked. According to the paper, whether the A-not-A can be regarded as a property to distinguish verb and preposition is quite arguable. But your explanation sounds like: since A-not-A is applicable to "跟" here, "跟" must be a verb, not a preposition. Somehow I don't think it answers my original question.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 9, 2015 at 0:42
  • @Ming I was told the "你跟他一起去不去" is ungrammatical by the corpus investigation. But I would like to know if there are counter points or counter examples.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 9, 2015 at 0:48

Let me explain it in another way:

"跟他一起去不去" means you are not sure about going(去) or not, but with him(跟他一起), maybe you will(去), or not(不去).

"跟不跟他一起去" mean yes you are definitely going(去), but with him or not -- that depends, maybe you will go with others.

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