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Sometimes I say 不是很多人 to mean "not many people"; it's basically a direct translation from English. But it feels clunky to me, and I don't recall a native-Chinese speaker saying this. I found an example of it used on Line Dict:

绿腰带不是很多人喜欢佩戴的。
Not many people like to wear green belts
lǜ yāodài bùshì hĕnduō rén xĭhuān pèidài de

I've heard native-Chinese speakers say 不多, but I wouldn't know how to adapt that.

I also found an example with 没有很多人 at Line Dict:

似乎这里没有很多人会手语
I don't meet a lot of people who sign here.
sìhū zhèlĭ méiyŏu hĕnduō rén huì shŏuyŭ

(Google Translate also suggests this.)

But this is just as clunky. There's 很少人 (hěnshǎo rén) = "very few people", but it doesn't feel like it means "not many people".

Question: How can I say "not many people" smoothly?

  • 1
    to adapt 不多 users suggest feeding it to bkrs, find many suitable examples,esp.(1st 2 with 人): 这种人毕竟不多,回来的人不多,他家人口不多,本书文字不多,我有几个,可是不多 – user6065 Feb 4 '18 at 3:12
  • To me, when using 不是很多 or 没有很多 to express the quantity, it do means few, 没多少 or 没几个 or 很少. If the quantity is not that few, I may say 没太多(not (too many)) or 也不是太多. – LiuYan 刘研 Feb 4 '18 at 6:34
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In fact IMO 不是很多人 and 没有很多人 both sound pretty natural to me, and I think they are the right translation of "not many people".

"绿腰带不是很多人喜欢佩戴的" sounds a bit odd but mainly that's because you would usually say "不是很多人喜欢佩戴绿腰带" or “喜欢佩戴绿腰带的人不多".

"似乎这里没有很多人会手语" sounds perfectly natural to me.

  • 1
    不是很多人 貌似是英翻汉的说法,我感觉没多少人这么说。类似的还有“请停止(Stop)伤害动物”,按接地气的说法,应该是“请别再伤害动物”… – LiuYan 刘研 Feb 4 '18 at 6:15
  • 有时候会有这样的吧:“很多人喜欢吃香菜的吗?”“不是很多人吧” – Ben Yang Feb 6 '18 at 19:21
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The way we express in Chinese is different.

"Not many people like to wear green belts" is a natural way in English. In Chinese, we say 喜欢扎绿色腰带的人不(是很)多。

"I don't meet a lot of people who sign here." We say this in Chinese: 我遇到过的人中会手语的不(是很)多。

Note that the structure is not necessarily agreed between the two languages while interpreting each other IMO. This is a good example to demonstrate this point.

3

Both 不是很多人 and 没有很多人 are perfectly acceptable. However, if you want a more "fluid" version, you can use 没(有)多少人 or 几乎没(有)人. The latter is more like "almost no-one" while the former is "not many".

For example:

没有多少人喜欢佩戴绿腰带 / 几乎没人喜欢佩戴绿腰带

似乎这里没有多少人会手语 / 似乎这里几乎没人会手语

You could also rephrase the sentences and use 很少 or 不多 (this one is better) on the end, like:

似乎这里会手语的(人)不多 (the 人 is optional)

2

In my teaching, I distinguish between grammatical usage and cultural/social usage.

For example, "I don't have enough money today": 我今天没有足够的钱 is grammatically correct (SVO construction), but people tend to say (cultural/social usage): 我今天的钱不够 (Topic Comment construction: topic 钱, comment 不够).

My explanation for the above is: the focus (not emphasis, as there are emphasis markers) is not on 我 (the sentence is not about "me") but on 钱 (the sentence is about "money").

1

One simple way I heard being spoken in Taiwan is 人不多. I'm not sure how correct this is, but I've heard phrases like 這裡(的)人不多 今天學生不多

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