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Anybody have some resources or advice on using ¨nothing¨and ¨everything¨ in Mandarin?

<pre> I'm fairly certain that I'm not the only one with this problem. So how exactly do you use everything and nothing? Or even something for that matter, I never recall seeing these words, but then again I'm not done with the course (close though). I'm also curious about how to use "what" when it's not interrogative (like lo que in Spanish) or like what in the sentence. "I don't know what he said" I know it's a lot but I've never seen it really taught on Duo and it's used a TON at least in English and Spanish. </pre>
July 13, 2018



From Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: In Mandarin, question words +都 or 也 are commonly used to convey the meaning of 'Every' or 'Any'.

Here is a list of question words with 都 or 也 with translations and examples.

Everyone: 谁 + 都 or 也

谁都会做这个工作。 Anyone (Everyone) can do this job.

Everything, Anything: 什么 + 都 or 也

他什么事情都懂。 He understands everything.

弟弟什么书都喜欢看。 Little brother enjoys reading everything.

Everything, Anything: 哪 + Classifier + 都 or 也

这儿的天气很好。哪天都很舒服。 the weather here is very good. every day is very comfortable.

我特别喜欢看王老师的书。他写的书,哪本都很有日思。 I especially like to read Professor Wang's books. Of the books he has written, every book is very interesting.

Everywhere: 哪儿 + 都 or 也

他妹妹哪儿都想去。 his little sister wants to go everywhere.

你想去哪儿吃饭? -- 哪儿都行。 Where do you want to go eat? -- Any place is okay.

Everywhere: 什么地方 + 都 or 也

中国人口很多。什么地方都是人。 China's population is very big. There are people everywhere.

我听说意大利什么地方都很漂亮。 I've heard it said that in Italy, every place is very pretty.

Always/at any hour: 几点钟 + 都 or 也

我们几点钟去看电影? -- 几点钟都可以。 What time should we go to see a movie? -- Anytime is okay.

Always/Any time/whenever: 什么时候 + 都 or 也

爸爸什么时候都很忙。 Papa is always busy.

你什么时候有空? -- 我什么时候都有空。 When do you have free time? -- I always have free time.

No matter how: 多么 + adjectival verb

那件衣服多么贵我还想买。 No matter how expensive that item of clothing is I still want to buy it.

我跟你说了多少次你还不停。 No matter how many times I've told you, you still don't listen.

(“Nothing” seems trickier, as it does not appear as distinctly)

Question words with 都 or 也 and negation are used to express the concept of “not any”. Here is a list of question words + 都 or 也 + negation, with translations and examples. 也 is much more commonly used than 都 when expressing “not any”.

No one/not any:

谁也不会做这个重做。 No one can do this job.

Nothing/not anything:

他什么事情也不懂。 He doesn’t understand anything. (He understands nothing).

弟弟什么书都不喜欢看。 Little brother doesn’t like to read any book. (He likes to read nothing?)

Nothing/not anything:

他哪个菜也不喜欢吃。 He doesn’t like to eat any dish. (He likes to eat nothing.)

Nowhere/not anyplace:

他妹妹哪儿也不想去。 His little sister doesn’t want to go anywhere. (She wants to go nowhere.)

我哪儿都没去过。 I haven’t been anywhere. (I have been nowhere).


Wow, very well fleshed-out explanation. Thanks for that! I'll be practicing it for a while until it feels natural!


That would make an excellent duolingo lesson.


I'm just a beginner on duolingo, but I might be able to help with a part of your question. I lived in China for a year and a half. You're asking how to use "what" without it being a question.

Your example, "I don't know what he said" would translate roughly, "bu jer dow zen ma ta shuo" My pinyin isn't correct, because I only know it verbally. But the zen ma (shen ma) is the replacement for "what". I hope someone with a little more background can help.


Chinese language tends to be a little more direct when it comes to negatives. I would say: 我不想要吃。This would roughly mean, "I don't want to eat anything." Literally "I wish not to eat." You can negate anything by negating the verb, like 他什麼都不懂。He doesn't understand anything. Literally, He doesn't know what of everything. This what we use in spoken Mandarin at least. I guess it's complicated when you try to translate things word for word. At least this is how we say it in Taiwanese Mandarin Standard.


Yes, I wasn't really expecting a word by word translation. For this reason I asked for some example sentences so I could see for myself what the best way to do it is.

  • 1234

Farrago has detailed out on those expressions, which are how local people speak. I'd also like to use Farrago's same examples to provide another version for "Everyone", "Everything", "Everywhere" in a less colloquial way.

Everyone: 每(一)个人

  • Everyone can do this job. 每(一)个人都会做这个工作 (formal)。 vs. 谁都会做这个工作 (speaking)。

Anyone: 任何(一个)人

  • Anyone can do this job. 任何(一个)人都会做这个工作 (f)。

Everything: 每(一)件事

  • He understands everything. 他懂每件事情 (formal)。 vs 他什么事情都懂 (speaking)。

Anything: 任何事

  • He can do anything. 他能做任何事 (formal)。

Everywhere: 到处,任何地方

  • His little sister wants to go everywhere. 他妹妹想去任何地方 (formal)。 vs 他妹妹哪儿都想去 (speaking)。

"What" used in a noun clause and translated to "所... 的“.

You put the verb between "所... 的“. So, "I don't know what he said" becomes 我不知道他所说(said)的。In speaking, people usually omit "所" and turn that same sentence to "我不知道他说的。

Another example:

I like what she likes 我喜欢她所喜欢的 (formal)。 我喜欢她喜欢的东西 (speaking)。

Hope that helps.


Very helpful explanation of how to use "what" in that regard, very appreciated!


After reading dongca’s comment, I want to offer more examples about the usage of "what".

What he said was interesting. 他(所)说的(话)很有趣。 What we saw was a bird. 我们(所)看见的(东西)是一只鸟。 This is what we need. 这就是我们(所)需要的(东西)。 (In these cases with 所...的, you can replenish the words that "what" really means, or you can omit them, depending on situation.)

I don't know what he said. 我不知道他(所)说的(东西)是什么=我不知道他说了什么。 She asked what I was reading. 她问我(所)读的(东西)是什么。=她问我在读什么。 (In these cases, there is another way: translate "what“ into 什么.)

What causes this stange phenomenon remains unkown. 什么引起了这个奇怪的现象 仍不为人知。=引起这个奇怪现象的原因 仍不为人知[Because it's "unkown", we use 原因 instead of 东西]。 (In this case, you can't use 所...的. )


I am chinese and I speak mandarin. In my opinion "nothing" is negative, "everything" is positive.

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