Typically you need to say something like "不是" to reply in the negative to a question, but sometimes in reading or watching a show I've seen a character just say "不". What contexts make that allowable?

  • if you don't provide the context,a explanation is out of nowhere
    – CN.hitori
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 6:38
  • Well I was just asking for some example contexts such as the answers gave. The most recent context I saw was in "山" by 刘慈欣: "是被教会禁止的吗?” “不,没什么教会,...” Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 22:37

4 Answers 4


(My personal opinion is that) Usually you don't simply say "不” in any sort of response. This is more about the tone of the response, as a simple 不 is very imperative. We could use this for instance,

不,这不重要 (no, this is not important) Here, 不 is the word 不是, imperatively demonstrating your strong opinion that it's not important.

If someone were to ask you, say, if you want to go on a date? To refuse you usually say, 不去,(appending with the verb) or 算了吧/改天再约. This is because it conveys a more amiable tone in the sentence. Saying a single "不” is extremely rude.

The context in which you can apply this is basically any reponse you wish to strongly suggest your refusal/disagreement. You can say it to disagree anything basically, but would be quite rude.

  • Can you take a look at the context I posted in a comment on the OP? In this case it's unlikely the speaker is being very emotional. Could it be a brief response to indicate that they think the asker is stupid or something? Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 22:40
  • 1
    Ahh yes @David Yoshida, this is the same as the example 不,这不重要 that I gave. Here, 不 is simply a very strong "no". "是被教会禁止的吗” is a yes-no question that asks for a definite answer(是或者不是), in which the speaker simply responds a definite strong no, here, 不 is 不是. Similarly, other questions like 这是我们学校的吗?You may answer with a simple 不,这估计是... (It would also feel weird if you do not follow it up with something) AGAIN, a single 不 is very dismissive, you have to add a follow up to make it more friendly.
    – Wolfking
    Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 0:31

不 can be used as a refusal. Short form of "不要/ 不答應/ 不許 "


A: "你可以走開嗎 (can you go away)?"

B: "不(no)!" = 我不要 (I don't want to/ I refuse)

A: "要親一個嗎 (want to kiss)?"

B: "不(no)!" = 不要 (I don't want to)

A: "那我可以走嗎 (can I go)?

B: "不(no)!" = 不可以 (you cannot)


It is the same as saying "no" in English. It can mean a plain refusal, but more often the answer with a single word "no" is emotionally involved, it is used either when the responder is firmly/seriously against someone's offer or request or teasing the other person jokingly.

  1. A mother yelled at her son: "Stop watching TV, go to your room study!" The spoiled/rebellious son might simply yell back at her "No", as the demand was not what he wanted, the single-word answer "no" indicates a strong objection.

  2. A man asked his girlfriend, "Give me a kiss, honey", she might say "No." but is that really a "no"? Depends :)


不 is used in collocal sense where as a word like چاینا is more suitable for that use case. people usually mistake 算了吧/改天再约 with allowable past tense.

  • 1
    Sorry, what does "چاینا" mean?
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 12:32

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