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I was trying to brush up my understanding of aspect particle 了 and came accross this website (I couldn’t find the link but the background was yellow) that said:

The negation of habitual action in the past is 不, not 没. For example:

去年我们总是吃中国饭 = 去年我们每天都不吃中国饭

I wonder why 总是 became 每天都 in the negative version. Can I replace 总是 with something like 一次都/也? Or perhaps 每次都?

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We can negate a verb using either 不 or 没, but they mean different things. The text is explaining the case of 不, such as in:

吃肉。 (I don't eat meat.)
做作业。 (He doesn't do homework.)
老师想知道。 (The teacher doesn't want to know.)
喜欢跳舞。 (I don't like dancing.)

They're explaining that this is a "habitual" situation; this is not just at the stated time period, but persists over a period of time including the stated time period. (As opposed to: 我吃肉。 (I haven't eat meat.) and 他做作业。 (He hasn't done [his] homework.))

The relevant text gives:

去年我们总是吃中国饭。
We always ate Chinese meals last year.

去年我们每天都不吃中国饭。
We didn’t eat a Chinese meal during a single day.
Elementary Chinese Grammar 基础汉语语法, 2011. (pdf, p.45)

I'm not sure why they wrote it like this; maybe they just wanted to mix it up, or maybe it's an editing error and the first sentence should be 去年我们每天都吃中国饭. There are two complications here:

  • the logical negation of "we always ate Chinese meals last year" is "we did not always eat Chinese meals last year" (not "we never ate Chinese meals last year", which seems to be what they want to express---habitually not eating Chinese food);
  • since it's referring to "last year", the verb would typically be negated with 没 (not 不), which would not be a habitual action.

I feel like it's more normal to use 没:

去年我们吃中国饭。
We didn't eat Chinese meals last year.

or to add a 不 before the 总是:

去年我们总是吃中国饭。
We didn't always eat Chinese meals last year.

But the text is trying to explain adding 不 before a verb, which is not achieved in this way.

If we simply add a 不 before the verb 吃, we get:

去年我们总是吃中国饭。
We never ate Chinese meals last year.

It sounds weird, and it's not clear to me this is grammatically correct (while there are plenty of grammatical "总是不 + verb" sentences, "always didn't eat" is a bit of a contradiction).

In short, the first example sentence isn't naturally negated by adding 不 before the verb, so they chose another sentence where 不 is before the verb.

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  • 😭😭😭 THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ANSWER. YOU’VE BEEN A REALLY BIG HELP!!!
    – Agnes
    Oct 1, 2022 at 13:20
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Some examples may help:

吃肉。 (I don't eat meat.)

吃肉。 - I didn't eat the meat.

做作业。 - He doesn't do homework.

做作业。- He didn't do homework.

老师想知道。 - The teacher doesn't want to know.

老师想知道。 The teacher didn't want to know (but he knows now).

喜欢跳舞。 (I don't like dancing.)

我**(從)沒喜欢過**跳舞。 (I haven't liked dancing ever.)

去年我们总是吃中国饭 = 去年我们每天/餐都吃中国饭 - Correct.

去年我们不总是吃中国饭 = 去年我们不是每天/餐都吃中国饭

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  • Thank you, these examples help me better understand the matter!!!
    – Agnes
    Oct 2, 2022 at 6:03
  • You are welcome.
    – r13
    Oct 2, 2022 at 16:00

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