In the following sentence:


The transcribed script writes "neither yes nor no".

However, I wonder why it becomes such meaning. At first I though that it should mean something like "I could not answer.", as I feel 不好 is a degree complement to 说. But "I could not answer." is definitely not the same as "neither yes nor no".

So my questions are:

  • Is it correct that 说不好 mean "neither yes nor no"?

  • Why does it become such meaning, despite the fact that if you decompose each word grammartically, it would more likely lead to "can't answer" or "don't like to answer", instead of "neither yes nor no".


3 Answers 3


Is it correct that 说不好 mean "neither yes nor no"?

This is a difficult question; IMO, it's not 100% correct (accurate).

说不好 means literally "can't say well", i.e. "can't tell clearly / definitely". So it tends to mean "the answer is not determinate" or "don't know the answer (themselves)".


说不好==不好说, in the context, means 'hard to say', 'not quite sure', or 'hard to determine'. 'Hard to say' denotes 'neither yes nor no' or 'yes or no'. They just can't decide whether it's yes or no。

21.2%的受访青年说不好: 21.2% of young people, who were interviewed, are 'neither yes nor no'.

  • "hard to tell" ........
    – user6065
    Nov 8, 2017 at 20:53

A better translation for this sentence is:
In this survey...(omitted)and 21.2% of the interviewees couldn't give a definite answer.
Here, 不好 is an modifier for 说, which literally means "can't say well". These interviewees may not know what is a "斜杠青年", or can't decide whether they are "斜杠青年" or not, or simply refuse to answer.
Here is another usage for "说不好":
Would you like to go to that buffet restaurant with me tonight?
I don't know. I might have no time.

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