For example 我不去 could mean “I don't go” or “I'm not going”. Is the rule that verbs without any time information like this, it either means present simple or present continuous tense?

Could it mean also “I have gone” or “I have been going”?

4 Answers 4


Chinese has no tenses, just to be clear. That said, lets adress how to convey time like this.

I think of chinese version of conveying this info as context. A lot of it is based on the actual situation.

Lets take the phrase 創辦學校(create a school):

at face value with no context we could say this defaults to the present, happening now/soon/recently. Then we would have to change it to make it past or future right?


However, what if we are talking about what happened a month ago? Well now its clear that this is a month ago event with no additional context.

What if we are talking about what I did before my current job? well now its clear its a years old event.

What if we are talking about our dreams? well now its clear it the future.


all of this takes place without any additional context beyond the conversation itself. So, a regular phrase is most often present, because we most often talk about the present. If you keep in mind the default is whatever matches context the most, that is what may help you avoid some confusion later.

So yes, 我不去 could be past, present, or future by context. It will default to whatever makes the most sense. Then, as needed additional grammar and terms can be added to clarify if the meaning is not intended to be that default. Just like above when we were supposedly talking about our dreams. If I add a 過, it becomes clear I am talking about the past, even though in context we are talking about the future.

Chinese in general tends to be much more ambiguous and rely on context, at least compared to english. Once you get used to it, it does become more intuitive.


In general,

I go = 我去

I am going = 我就/要去

I've gone = 我去過

I have been going = 我老(一向/一直)去

I'll go = 我會去

I shall go = 我一定會/必須去


我不去. I think, in most cases, it means "I will not go." For example, 今晚我不去看电影, "I will not go to the cinema tonight."

It could mean “I don't go”, depending on the context.

I think “I'm not going” means a future tense like "I will not go".

Chinese verbs may not have a "tense" as verbs in English. In Chinese sentences, there can be a word or a set of words that indicate or emphasize the time for the verbs. Whenever you need to tell the time of the action, you put an appropriate word in the sentence.

There are many words that are used to indicate "time", such as 要,会,将,将要,将会,就,就要,就会,这就,一定,过,完,了,曾,曾经,已经,正在,正,在,正要,正好,从来,早就,一直,直到,立即,马上,继续。

There are more complicated time phrases, such as 一什么什么就什么什么。一边干这个,一边干那个。从什么什么时刻以来。从什么什么时候开始。

In case you need to directly say the time, you can use the following phrases, such as 昨天,今天,明天,去年,三年前,五年后,三年以前,五年之后,上个月,下星期。

When you translate English sentences to Chinese, there are certain rules to follow on the tenses of the verbs. But when you translate Chinese sentences to English, there is no certain rule for verbs, adverbial words, and phrases.


我不去 is generally used as an answer in reference to a future event.

OTOH, 我沒有去 probably refers to an event in the past.

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