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According to both the dictionary (Pleco) and the grammar rules (Chinese Grammar Wiki) it seems that 有 (or 没有) should typically be used in a combination 有 + object and expresses either possession or existence. Yet, 有 appears to be also used before a verb. Here are 2 examples:

  1. In the song "好想你" by Joyce Chu there is a line "但却总爱问我有没有想你" which is translated as "Yet you love to ask if I missed you" (see e.g. lyricstranslate). In this case the English translation does not have any words indicating possession. Naively (at my beginner Mandarin level) I would translate the English phrase back to Mandarin as "但却你爱问我想不想你" (i.e. without 有).

  2. In a begginer-level Mandarin story about a cat (一只猫) there is a line "前天天气不好,我没有吃东西;" I can guess the meaning (The day before yesterday the weather was bad and I (cat) didn't have anything to eat), yet I do not understand how it is constructed grammatically because 吃 (and not 东西) follows 有.

What is the grammatical structure and the function of 有 in these sentences?


For completeness, here is my (possibly incorrect) attempt to understand what is going on here. One conjecture for the example #2 is that the structure is actually verb (没有) + object (东西) and 吃 is used as an adjective for 东西. If I try to apply the same idea to #1 I would have to conclude that 你 is an object and the literal translation of "我有没有想你" would then be "Do I possess you to miss?".

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  • I want to point out that both example sentences can be grammatically correct in english with possession: "Yet you love to ask if I have missed you." and "The day before yesterday had bad weather...." There tends to be more than one correct way to translate phrases between the two languages, so the translation often is not a good source for grammar learning.
    – zagrycha
    Nov 14, 2022 at 17:10

4 Answers 4

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"有没有 + verb" totally equals to "v. + 不 + v.", which means "did you v. or not" or "have you v. or not". These "or not" do not reinforce the tone. These phrases are just the same as "did you v." or "have you v.".

And it has more forms:

"是否想我" = "想我与否" = "想我吗" = "想不想我" = "有没有想我" = "想没想我" = "想我没" = "想我不"

(The first 2 are literary, the next 3 are more colloquial, the last 3 are very colloquial.)

"但却总爱问我有没有想你" = ""但却总爱问我想不想你"

They are just totally the same.


没有 + v. = 没 + v.

"我没有吃东西" = "我没吃东西".


All these "有" have nothing to do with possessing something.


side note: "有没有 + v." is from the influence of southern Chinese dialects, such as Min and Cantonese. It has only been widely used in the last 20 to 30 years, and is used more in Southern China/Southeast Asia. And Joyce Chu is from Malaysia, which explains it.

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In first sentence, we can think that "有没有" as whether or not. "有没有" or "是不是" usually used as question for asking something.

So "但却总爱问我有没有想你" can be translated into "But always ask me whether or not think of you."

  1. "有" means yes, have, ...
  2. "沒有" means no, doesn't / don't have ...
  3. "有沒有" usually used for asking something is true or not

In you guess "我有没有想你", it's weird in Mandarin to say the sentence.

Because, this sentence can be translated to "I think of you, whether or not." Such that the person who said it before doesn't know he/she really think of a person. It' weird, right ?

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Very often and normal, 有没有, 是不是, + verb would form a question. 没有, 不是, + verb would form a negative statement. For positive statements Chinese language does not use 有, 是 + verb structure. But in recent years more and more in the TV shows, especially between youth generation, in Taiwan and HK, they use the structure. I doubt they are from English “have done “. For example “你有看见我的手机吗?” “have you seen my phone?”. The standard Chinese would be “你有没有看见我的手机放在哪儿了?”

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有(have) or 没有(have not) is an auxiliary verb that acts as a helping verb along with the main verb in a sentence to make it more meaningful. It is used to alter the tense, mood, or voice of the sentence.

Note the difference between the two sentences below:

  • "但却总爱问我有没有想你" - "yet/but always like questioning whether I've thought of you or not".

  • "但你却总爱问我想不想你" - "yet/but always questioning whether I think about you or not"

"前天我没有吃东西" is in the same pattern of "aux verb" (没有) + "main verb" (吃) to help make a meaningful sentence.

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