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Answer to Can’t Figure Out Double Negatives in Chinese? Try This HSK Quiz!

Dec. 4, 2019

Answer:
1. C

Answer analysis:

Nǚ: Měicì dōu shì kàn diànyǐng, wèishénme búqù gōngyuán ne?
女:每次都是看电影,为什么不去公园呢?
Girl: Every time we go watch a movie, why not go to the park?

When the girl asks “为什么不去公园呢 (wèi shénme bú qù gōngyuán ne)” you can tell she is suggesting that they go to the park instead of the movies. In Chinese, this sentence is a double negative. The first negative is the “为什么(wèi shénme) why,” and the second negative is the “不 () not.” In Chinese, any time there are two negatives they cancel out to become a positive. So, she is actually suggesting they go to the park instead.

Chinese has two forms of negative sentences: one is negative terms such as “no;” the other is the tone of one’s voice when asking a rhetorical question. These sentences are represented with two types of negative forms: one is whenever two negative words are placed around a positive, for example 不得不 (bùdébù); the other is as in the example above, when a negative term is placed with a rhetorical question in the same sentence. Both of these types express an affirmative meaning.

Examples:

Wǒ bùdébù huíjiā.
我不得不回家。
I must go home.

This is the same as——我必须回家。(Wǒ bìxū huíjiā.) I must go home.

Nándào tā bù zhīdào ma?
难道他不知道吗?
Don’t tell me he doesn’t know?

This is the same as——他应该知道。(Tā yīnggāi zhīdào.) He should know.

Nǐ búhuì bù míngbái ba.
你不会不明白吧。
You can’t not understand.

This is the same as——你一定明白。(Nǐ yídìng míngbái.) You definitely understand.

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Comments

Not quite. 为什么 is an interrogative, not a negative. It is an open-ended question. It does not invite a yes or a no; reasonable answers might be “Because I like being able to stroke your leg in the dark at the movies” or any variation you like on the famous 我的气垫船充满了鳗鱼。

An example of a double negative might be “I cannot not go to his wedding; he’s the mayor and I’m on council…” which assumes that the Councillor hates the Mayor but is bound by civic duty to put up appearances.

Incidentally, you might enjoy one of those smartass kid in class jokes:

Teecher: “Two negatives make a positive, but two positives never make a positive.”
The infamous Voice From The Back of the Room: “Yeah, right.”

Cheers,

-dlj.

Very interesting

Hi Joan. Thank you for the comment. (*^__^*) What would you like to learn more about? Suggest a topic! We’d love to hear from you!

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