What does 非也 mean?

I heard the following:

Is this XXX? 非也! It's YYY!

Does it mean "Oh my god!" or something others?

  • 1
    非也 is an expression in classical Chinese. It's like to say 'no' in Old English. It can be used in a modern Chinese dialogue to sound humorous, sarcastic or pedantic.
    – NS.X.
    Jun 30, 2014 at 20:33
  • 1
    非也 is used a lot by one character 包不同 in Jin Yong's famous novel 天龙八部 Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils
    – lgylym
    Jul 2, 2014 at 12:06
  • 非也 is a negative statement, affirmative statement could be 然也.
    – sfy
    May 27, 2018 at 3:55

11 Answers 11


也 is classified into 虚词 (lit. imaginary word) in classical Chinese. 虚词, unlike its counterpart of 实词 (lit. real word), doesn't have a meaning, but it's indispensable to some grammatical functions. It can:

  1. Express the mood
  2. Complete a sentence structure.
  3. Work as an interjection or preposition.
  4. Work as a filler to make a sentence satisfy the requirement on the number of characters. This mainly happens to poems.

也 is generally used at the end of a sentence to complete a declarative sentence, so in your case, 非也 means "(it's) not (so)".

Generally you won't use this pattern today, but you can use it in a funny way. As in English, you can say "thy bidding, master" :)


It basically just means no. 非 is no, 也 is just a modal.

  • What is a modal? Jun 30, 2014 at 18:51
  • 1
    its something thats doesnt have a meaning itself, like ah, eh in english, well, im not an english speaker, but i think it is like that.
    – bathpp
    Jun 30, 2014 at 18:55
  • A modal refers to an expression of "mood" which is usually something subjective, so I don't think 也 should be called a modal. www-01.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/… The grammar of the phrase is from classical/old Chinese and is similar to how English speakers say "carpe diem" without having any clue of Latin grammar.
    – HAL
    Jun 30, 2014 at 19:27
  • 1
    也 is not a modal particle; rather, it is a copula (similar to the word 'to be' in English or 是 in Modern Chinese) that appears at the end of a sentence in Classical Chinese. 非 means "not so", so 非也 as a whole means "it is not so".
    – Claw
    Jun 30, 2014 at 20:01

非也sounds like This is not so or in some context it meansNot at all in classical chinese.
It is an elegant way of saying not.


也 in "非也" does not mean "also". It is a modal showing certainty.


Just like other answers, I'd say it basically means "no" in Chinese, but just let you know this word is not popular nowadays. It is a word that used in ancient Chinese. Now it's just 不 for "no".


Is this XXX? 非也! It's YYY! = Is this XXX? NO! It's YYY!


It could either means 'no' or 'neither'.


非也,is a old chinese language. it's used long time ago. it mean "No";


A phrase ending with 也 expresses certainty and short conclusion. 是也, 知也, 愛也, 未之有也. This phrase usually comes after another phrase, like question or statement. Say "不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。"

非 means negative. 非也 can be translated to "No" or "Certainly not" when it is answering question.


非也 literally means "not also". There's an implication that you've given more than one wrong answer in the recent past. OR literally "you should already know the answer to this question". Or in hip-hop slang, "you ain't know?"

非 - means 'not' or 'without'. 也 - isn't just simply a modal, it means "also" which literally implies a slight 'annoyance' with your question and while it is not generally used in big cities, it is still very much used in villages and the countryside (as I've watched it used on several current Chinese TV shows that center around village life within the past few years).

Sometimes Chinese slang really reminds me of so-called Ebonics in the west. There is a 'feigned annoyance' with your mates or buddies that is actually a tool for bonding.

  • No, it doesn't mean or imply that. You're confusing the modal particle 也 in Classical Chinese with the modern adverb 也.
    – Semaphore
    Jul 2, 2014 at 13:37

That's not the case.

非也 is a typical phrase to express negative in ancient Chinese (文言文), especially used by those who consider themself highly educated so as to be different from the others (common people).

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