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Lesson Transcript


Hi, everybody! Olivia here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Cantonese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are the Negating Verbs in Cantonese?
In Cantonese, there are two main ways to negate a verb. Using one negating word over the other can change nuances greatly. Let's see how.
First, what is the difference between the Present Tense and the Past Tense when you're negating?
Put in a simple way, we use the 唔 (m4) to negate action verbs in the present or future or when speaking about habitual actions. We use 冇(mou5) when the action either did not happen (so past tense) or isn't complete yet. For Example: 我唔食。(ngo5 m4 sik6) "I don't eat." 我冇食。(ngo5 mou5 sik6.) "I didn't eat."
What is the sentence pattern when negating in the Past Tense?
For example, 點解唔接我電話(dim2 gaai2 m4 zip3 ngo5 din6 waa2) , which, based on the context, we translated as "Why didn't you answer my call?", is actually more close to "Why aren't you answering my call?" The pattern 唔 (m4) + verb is negating something in a present tense, or is describing a negative action as a habit or a phenomenon, or that a certain action is against someone's will so they won't do it, while 冇 (mou5) + verb is negating something in the past tense that something wasn't done.
唔 + verb = "do not do."
冇 + verb = "did not do /have not done."
Here are some sample sentences:
唔 (m4 ) meaning "do not" - 我唔去公園 (ngo5 m4 heoi3 gung1 jyun2) “I don’t go to the park.”
冇 (mou5 ) meaning "did not/have not" - 我冇去公園 (ngo5 mou5 heoi3 gung1 jyun2) “I didn’t go to the park.”


How was it? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
"See you next time!", 下次見! (haa6 ci3 gin3!)