Chinese Grammar: Saying all with 都
How do you say 'both', 'all', 'both not/neither', 'all not', 'not both', 'not all' in Chinese? There’s one word to cover all that, use 不 if you're negative. That’s it.
Let's start with seeing how we'd say that word in Chinese.
都 All, every
Meet 都, your new favorite everything. It is used to express "all" in Chinese. It's a handy word to know, and now that you know it, you'll be seeing it pop up everywhere!
The key thing to note is that 都 is always placed after the subject in Chinese.
S + 都 + [verb phrase]
Be flexible: 都 is plural
It's important to be flexible and to keep in mind that 都 has different translations depending on how you use it: it can mean "all", "every", but it can also mean "both", and, when in a negative sentence, it can also mean "neither".
都 as both
So 都 is also your go-to-word to say "both".
[Subject which is two people or things ] + 都 + [Verb Phrase]
Not all vs. All not
都 is a straightforward structure. Place it after the subject, and you're good to go.
What you do need to get straight is its negative form. There are two different structures, to say “all not” and “not all”. Both use the same characters but in two different orders! It follows the same order as in English, so it’s pretty simple.
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