不bù is one of the most important Chinese character, maybe the most important one. It is also one of the oldest Chinese character. And its original form was very similar to 木mù-wood and 帝dì, all inspired by trees. The ancient Chinese people lived in the trees, 帝dì, as shown in its initial form had a relatively stable and complex structure, 帝dì had then got its final meaning “the king, the master”; While 不bù represented the insecure feeling of the wooden structure, and had since become “NO”.
There are many possibilities with 不 bù:
Be polite : 不谢 bù xiè/ 不客气 bù kèqi : You are welcome; 对不起 duì bù qǐ / 不好意思bù hǎo yìsi: Pardon. Excuse-me.
Make judgement : 不好 bù hǎo : not good; 不对 bù duì: not correct; 不是 bù shì: NO.
Express will : 不要 bù yào : No need / Don’t want.
Show (no)-capacity : 不能 bù néng / 不会 bù huì: not able to
Show authority : 不可以 bù kěyǐ / 不行 bù xíng : not allowed; 不要 bù yào: shouldn’t.
Express feelings : 不高兴 bù gāoxìng: not happy; 不安 bù ān : not feeling safe
Some simple idioms to express an embarrassing situation, object or person :
不三不四 bù sān bù sì - not three not four : used to criticise a mean and immoral person;
不上不下 bù shàng bù xià - not up not down: describes an embarrassing and difficult situation
不今不古 bù jīn bù gǔ - not modern not ancient : usually satirises people pretending to be knowledgeable and creative.
Although Chinese people traditionally don’t practice the direct communication, as long as it remains cordial, it is important to say 不 bù.
Lao Long and Xiao Ling will explain more in the video hereunder.