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Chinese Grammar: Comparing 不断 & 不停 to describe “continuous” and “unceasing”

Imagine someone can’t stop talking around you, all day long, or an unknown bell is ringing without interruption outside your window while you’re sleeping? Isn’t that annoying? We have all had to face situations like these, that disturb you, by continuously and constantly happening. In Chinese, there are two words you can use to describe “continuous” and “unceasing”: 不断 and 不停.

The difference in their meaning

Both of these two words 不断 and 不停 are used as an adverb. However, they are used differently. You may wonder if their meaning is so similar, how on earth does one distinguish them? Good news is you can tell which to use when from their characters. means “to stop”, 不停 means without stopping; means “interrupted”, 不断 means without interruption.

If you still can’t tell the difference, let’s try to compare this situation for example: in 3 hours, the bell keeps ringing without stopping, we use 不停; thus if the bell rings once in 30 minutes and constantly ringing like this for 3 hours, we use 不断. Now you can understand their difference in their sense.

The same structure between 不断 & 不停

When using these two words as adverb, we can put them in front of a verb they modify and add a particle after them as an adverb mark.


Subject + 不断 / 不停 + + Verb]


孩子 不停
The kid keeps crying incessantly.

铃声 不停
The bell can’t stop ringing.

天气 不断 变化
The weather varies constantly.

我们 不断 努力
We are continuously making efforts.

Using 不停 after a verb

Instead of placing before a verb, 不停 can also be placed after a verb as a complement. Grammatically we have to add a in front of it in order to become natural. This is more often used in spoken Chinese.


Subject + Verb + + 不停


电话 不停
The phone is ringing incessantly.

It's been raining continuously.

听到 这个 消息 不停
After hearing the news, she can’t stop laughing.

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