Is it a difference in the tenses? Like one's a present and the other is future? Explain with examples please And can we say 什么也不 and 什么也没?


Let's begin with 什么都 meaning "everything"; see Expressing "everything" with "shenme dou" at the Chinese Grammar Wiki. We can add a verb or an adjective afterwards:

什么都 + adjective

什么都美丽 (everything is beautiful)
什么都 (everything is spicy)
什么都简单 (everything is simple)

which we negate with 不:

什么都不美丽 (everything is not beautiful)
什么都不辣 (everything is not spicy)
什么都不简单 (everything is not simple)

This is the easy case. See also the "Negating Adjectives" section of Standard negation with "bu".

什么都 + verb

什么都 (to have everything)
什么都 (to eat everything)
什么都 (to buy everything)

which we negate with 不 or 没 or 没有, which is where it gets tricky.

At this point, it's no longer about 什么都, but only about 没 vs. 不. The most prominent Chinese.SE post about this is Why is 有 (yǒu) the only verb that requires 没 while other verbs can use 不?. See also the Chinese Grammar Wiki's article Comparing "bu" and "mei".

The following is a common construction; how it's usually taught. Given tsh's comment below, it looks like there are other constructions beyond this (which I'm unable to comment on).

什么都不 + verb vs. 什么都没 + verb

Indeed "没 + verb" often indicates a past non-event. From Negation of past actions with "meiyou":

Usually verbs can be negated with 不 (bù), but that construction is used for habitual or present actions. If the verb is about an action in the past, though, 没有 (méiyǒu) should be used.

So for example:

什么都没吃 = 什么都没有吃 (to not eat anything [in the past])
什么都不吃 (to not eat anything [present or future])

什么都没买 = 什么都没有买 (to not buy anything [in the past])
什么都不买 (to not buy anything [present or future])

Note that 没有 is an exception here, e.g. 明天什么都没有 (to not have anything tomorrow [future]) is okay. I believe 什么都没是 is also incorrect (there's a mismatch between 没 and 是).

(Please note, I'm just a learner. Hopefully if there's any misunderstandings on my part, someone can point them out to me in the comments.)

  • Thank you very much omg – Arusyak Harutyunyan Nov 17 '19 at 17:58
  • Here are some examples: 你从昨天到现在什么都没吃,这样下去身体会受不了的。 / 你如果什么都不吃的话,身体会受不了的。 These two work as you described (past / present or future). But maybe another sentence: 那孩子昨天哭着喊着要去公园玩,我们不带他去他就什么都不吃。 It seems here is past but use 不 instead of 没. – tsh Nov 18 '19 at 2:13

In general, 不 means "no" or "not" while 没 stands for 没有 and is closer to "don't" or "don't have". So 他什么都不吃 means something like "he does not eat anything", while 他什么都没吃 means "he didn't eat anything". So in this case, 不 conveys the meaning that something is universally not true (e.g. he is someone who just does not eat anything, or at least during a specified period of time he just does not want to eat anything) regardless of time or place, whereas 没 conveys the meaning that something did not happen/is not happening/will not happen specific to that time or place (e.g. he just happened to not eat anything on that day).


The difference is not the tense but the context. 什么都不好 nothing is good. 什么都不对 nothing is right. 什么都没有 nothing is there. 什么都没变 nothing has changed.

  • Then what about 什么都不喝 and 什么都没喝?what do they mean? – Arusyak Harutyunyan Nov 16 '19 at 14:35
  • It really depends on the context. It may mean that someone don't want to drink anything, or someone don't drink anything. – 魏小淇 Nov 16 '19 at 17:27
  • Thank you very much – Arusyak Harutyunyan Nov 16 '19 at 19:27

It's misleading to distinguish 不/没 by the "tense" it indicates. The information about time is always inferred form the whole context in Chinese.

Bold font is where the time information is mainly inferred from.

1.没 表 已然/不存在(没 indicates things that have already become a fact, which can also be a presumed fact/the state of non existence.)

他什么坏事都没干。(He hasn't done anything bad)

到时陈词庭上,你还要说什么坏事都没干?(By the time you argue in the court, will you still insist that you haven't done anything bad?)

大火过后,什么都没了。(After the conflagration, everything is gone.)

2.不 表 单纯否定/意愿(不 indicates simple negative/willingness.)

她逛街向来什么都不买。(She always buy nothing when shopping.)

昨天逛街什么都不买,只看衣服。(Yesterday during the shopping, she didn't bought anything, but only chose clothes.)

什么都不干他事。(He had nothing to do with all the business.)


他什么都不做,对小组成绩毫无贡献。≈他什么都没做,对小组成绩毫无贡献。(He didn't do any work, so he contributed nothing to the team accomplishments.)(The former stresses more on subjective willingness.)


什么也不 indicate don't + anything/everything , 什么都没 indicates haven't / didn't + anything/everything.

我什么都没有 , I don't have anything. 我什么都不要, I don't want anything.

我什么都没做, I didnt do anything, 我什么都不做, I don't want to do anything/ I won't do anything

One indicates the situation while another one indicates the intention,

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