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Cantonese Negation: Learn How to Form Negative Sentences

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There seems to be a stigma attached to saying “no” nowadays. In certain cultures and social circles, it’s even considered rude or inappropriate to do so!

But contrary to popular belief, saying no is a powerful way to safeguard your emotional health. It shows that you take responsibility for yourself and that you respect your own desires, wishes, and emotions. Expressing negative statements or rejection appropriately is also vital to effective communication.

A Woman Holding Her Hands in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

Wondering how to express “no” and negate statements in Cantonese? In this article, we’ll guide you through the most important aspects of Cantonese negation so that you can start asserting yourself with confidence! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Negate a Statement
  2. Give a Negative Response
  3. Other Negating Words and Phrases
  4. Double Negatives
  5. Bonus: How to Tell “Past”, “Present” and “Future” in Cantonese
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

1. Negate a Statement

Cantonese negation is quite simple. Depending on the context—whether you’re referring to the past, present, or future—there are four main ways you can negate a sentence.

1 – Negating the past

To make a past-tense sentence negative in Cantonese, we add a character both before and after the verb. There are two sets of characters we can add to show negation:

The 1st Way

  • Chinese: 未 + verb + 過
  • Romanization: mei6 + verb + gwo3

Example 1: 

我未去過英國。
ngo5 mei6 heoi3 gwo3 jing1 gwok3
I have never been to the U.K.

Example 2: 

我未食過烏冬。
ngo5 mei6 sik6 gwo3 wu1 dung1
I have never had udon.

Udon

The 2nd Way:

  • Chinese: 冇 + verb + 過
  • Romanization: mou5 + verb + gwo3

Example 1: 

我冇試過嗰間餐廳。
ngo5 mou5 si3 gwo3 go2 gaan1 caan1 teng1
I have never tried that restaurant.

Example 2: 

我冇食過嘢。
ngo5 mou5 sik6 gwo3 je5
I didn’t eat.

There is a subtle difference between these two methods of Cantonese negation: The first method puts an emphasis on “never ever,” while the second one focuses on the “no” part. You may use either one to express negation in the past tense.

2 – Negating the present

To negate a sentence about the present, we just need to add a character for “no” or “negation,” in front of the verb. This character is 唔 (m4).

  • Chinese: 唔 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 + verb

Example 1: 

我唔識講普通話。
ngo5 m4 sik1 gong2 pou2 tung1 waa2
I don’t know how to speak Mandarin.

Example 2: 

我唔食蘋果。
ngo5 m4 sik6 ping4 gwo2
I don’t eat apple.

3 – Negating the future

To negate a sentence about the future, we add 唔會 (m4 wui5) in front of the verb. 

  • Chinese: 唔會 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 wui5 + verb

Example 1:

 我之後唔會繼續讀書喇。
ngo5 zi1 hau6 m4 wui5 gai3 zuk6 duk6 syu1 laa3
I will not pursue my studies.

Example 2: 

我唔會返屋企。
ngo5 m4 wui5 faan1 uk1 kei2
I am not going back home.

2. Give a Negative Response

We also use the character 唔 (m4) to give negative responses to questions. We simply put 唔 before the verb.

  • Chinese: 唔 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 + verb

For example, the Cantonese equivalent for “No, it isn’t,” is 唔係 (m4 hai6). Here, 唔 is “no” and 係 is “be.”

Question: 

你係唔係Mary啊?
nei5 hai6 m4 hai6 Mary aa3
Are you Mary?

Answer: 

唔係。
m4 hai6
No, I am not.

A Group Conversation

Let’s take a look at one more example. The Cantonese equivalent of “No, I don’t want it,” is 唔想 (m4 soeng2). Here, 唔 is “no” and 想 is “want.”

Question: 

你想唔想食麵啊?
nei5 soeng2 m4 soeng2 sik6 min6 aa3
Do you want to get noodles?

Answer: 

唔想。
m4 soeng2
No, I don’t want to.

3. Other Negating Words and Phrases

Of course, there are some other words and phrases used for negation in Cantonese. Feel free to try using these as well to liven up your conversations, to make a point clearer, or to give a stronger negative response.

1. 好少

  • Romanization: hou2 siu2
  • Meaning: barely / hardly / seldom

Example:

我返學好少遲到。
ngo5 faan1 hok6 hou2 siu2 ci4 dou3
I seldom go to school late.

2. 從來唔

  • Romanization: cung4 loi4 m4
  • Meaning: never

Example:

我從來唔飲酒。
ngo5 cung4 loi4 m4 jam2 zau2
I don’t drink. / I never drink.

3. 無再

  • Romanization: mou3 zoi3
  • Meaning: no more / not anymore

Example:

我哋無再聯絡喇。
ngo5 dei6 mou3 zoi3 lyun4 lok3 laa3
We don’t talk anymore.

An Exclamation Mark

4. 唔會再

  • Romanization: m4 wui5 zoi3
  • Meaning: no longer

Example:

佢唔會再喺你身邊。
keoi5 m4 wui5 zoi3 hai2 nei5 san1 bin1
He will no longer be there for you.

5. 冇人

  • Romanization: mou5 jan4
  • Meaning: no one / nobody

Example:

嗰度偏僻冇人住。
go2 dou6 pin1 pik1 mou5 jan4 zyu6
No one lives there; it’s too far away.

6. 都唔係

  • Romanization: dou1 m4 hai6
  • Meaning: neither

Example:

呢個都唔係我嘅錯。
ni1 go3 dou1 m4 hai6 ngo5 ge3 co3
Neither is it my fault.

4. Double Negatives

Cantonese also has double negatives. We add the characters 唔係唔 (m4 hai6 m4) in front of the verb.

  • Chinese: 唔係唔 + verb
  • Romanization: m4 hai6 m4 + verb

Example 1: 

唔係唔想覆,而係對覆訊息有恐懼。
m4 hai6 m4 soeng2 fuk1, ji4 hai6 deoi3 fuk1 seon3 sik1 jau5 hung2 geoi6
It’s not that I don’t want to reply (to you), it’s more like I’m scared about messages and alerts in general.

Example 2: 

唔係唔想覆你電話,係未有時間呀。
m4 hai6 m4 soeng2 fuk1 nei5 din6 waa2, hai6 mei6 jau5 si4 gaan3 aa3
It’s not that I don’t want to call back, I just don’t have the time yet.

5. Bonus: How to Tell “Past”, “Present” and “Future” in Cantonese

We negate a sentence differently based on the time we’re referring to—but how can you tell whether a sentence is “past,” “present,” or “future” in Cantonese?

Unlike in English, there is no such concept as “tenses” or verb conjugation in Cantonese. Instead, we use additional words to indicate the time of an event or action when necessary.

A Clock

Keep in mind, however, that these additional words aren’t always necessary. We can usually tell whether an event happened in the past, present, or future from the context. 

Let’s take a look at a few of these words: 

Indicating “the past”:

  • Additional words to be placed after the verb to indicate the past:
    • 咗 (zo2) – have done
    • 過 (gwo3) – tried
    • 完 (jyun4) – did
    • 曬 (saai3) – completed
  • Additional words to be placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 啱啱 (aam1 aam1) – just now
    • 頭先 (tau4 sin1) – a moment ago
    • 前排 (cin4 paai2) – a while back
    • 幾個禮拜之前 (gei2 go3 lai5 baai3 zi1 cin4) – a few weeks ago
    • 上個月 (soeng6 go3 jyut6) – last month
    • 舊年 (gau6 nin2) – last year

Indicating “the present” / “the present continuous”:

  • Additional word to be placed before the verb to indicate the present:
    • 喺度 (hai2 dou6) – be / doing
  • Additional words to be placed after the verb to indicate the present:
    • 緊 (gan2) – in progress
    • 住 (zyu6) – doing
  • Additional word to be placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 而家 (ji4 gaa1) – now

Indicating “the future”:

  • Additional word to be placed before the verb to indicate the future:
    • 會 (wui5) – will
  • Additional words to be placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 到時 (dou3 si4) – then
    • 陣間 (zan6 gaan1) – later
    • 跟住 (gan1 zyu6) – and then
    • 之後 (zi1 hau6) after
    • 聽日 (ting1 jat6) – tomorrow
    • 後日 (hau6 jat6) – the day after tomorrow
    • 下個禮拜 (haa6 go3 lai5 baai3) – next week
    • 下個月 (haa6 go3 jyut6) – next month
    • 出年 (ceot1 nin2) – next year

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

Learning how to say no is just one part of learning a language—there’s so much more to study and practice! 

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

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Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native.

Before you go, we’d love to hear from you! What did you think of this lesson, and did we help you gain the confidence to say no in Cantonese? 

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