Chinese Question Words

How to Say “Why” in Chinese?

为什么 Wei Shen Me, 为何 Weihe, 何必 Hebi in Mandarin



How to Say Why in Chinese?

Three Ways to Express Why in Chinese

Why in Chinese has three ways to express it – 为什么 Wèi shén me, 为何 Wèihé and 何必 Hébì. The more common one frequently heard is 为什么 Wèishéme. can be pronounced as shé here instead of the typical 什么 shénme spelt with an “n”.

为何 Wèihé is a traditional and literary way of asking Why in Mandarin. Moreover, it is also more formal (for writing), so it is not used often in conversation.

Having said that, personally, I do use this term 为何 Wèihé rather frequently. I feel it is less invasive and sound more polite as compared to 为什么 Wèi shén me when asking someone why in Mandarin.

何必 Hébì also means Why in Chinese. However, we do not say it the same way as 为什么 Wèi shén me and 为何 Wèihé since it has a different connotation. We use this to contrast a statement that the other person makes as an expression to imply a lack of necessity in having a particular emotion, thought or action.


Why in Chinese – 为什么 Wèishéme

The below illustrations have two sentences with the same question and Chinese words. I rephrase the Chinese word order so that you can read for yourself that it is flexible to construct Chinese Interrogative Questions. 

*为什么 Wèi Shén Me Placement: Either at the start of a sentence or after a Subject Pronoun (I, he, she, we, they)

Why?

为什么?为什么呢?
Wèi shén me? Wèi shén me ne?


Why like this? Why like that? / Why is it this way? Why is it that way?
Why has it turned out to be this way? / Why has it turned out to be that way?

为什么这样?为什么那样?
为什么变成这样?为什么变成那样?

Wèi shén me zhè yàng? Wèi shén me nà yàng?
Wèi shén me biàn chéng zhè yàng? Wèi shén me biàn chéng nà yàng?


Why is the sky blue?

为什么天空是蓝色的?
天空为什么是蓝色的?

Wèi shén me tiān kōng shì lán sè de?
Tiān kōng wèi shén me shì lán sè de?


Why learn Chinese?
Why do you want to learn the Japanese language?

为什么要学中文?
为什么你要学日语?
/ 你为什么要学日语?

Wèi shén me yào xué zhōng wén?
Wèi shén men nǐ yào xué rì yǔ? / Nǐ wèi shén me yào xué rì yǔ?


Why do you go there?

为什么你去那里?
你为什么去那里?

Wèi shén me nǐ qù nà lǐ?
Nǐ wèi shén me qù nà lǐ?


Why do you tell them about this matter?

为什么你和他们说这件事?
你为什么和他们说这件事?

Wèi shén me nǐ hé tā men shuō zhè jiàn shì?
Nǐ wèi shén me hé tā men shuō zhè jiàn shì?


Tell me, why were you late?

告诉我,你为什么迟到?
你告诉我,为什么迟到?

Gào sù wǒ, nǐ wèi shén men chí dào?
Nǐ gào sù wǒ, wèi shén me chí dào?


Why can they do it and not you?

为什么他们能做,你不能做?
他们能做,你为什么不能做?

Wèi shén me tā men néng zuò, nǐ bù néng zuò?
Tā men néng zuò, nǐ wèi shén me bù néng zuò?


Why do you have so many questions/problems?

为什么你有那么多问题?
你为什么有那么多问题?

Wèi shén me nǐ yǒu nà me duō wèn tí?
Nǐ wèi shén me yǒu nà me duō wèn tí?


Why are you asking me why?

为什么你问我为什么?
你为什么问我为什么?

Wèi shén me nǐ wèn wǒ wèi shén me?
Nǐ wèi shén me wèn wǒ wèi shén me?



 

Negative Interrogative Sentences: Why Not? 为什么不 Wèishéme Bù

Common Why Negation Questions

Here is a table of some of the more common way of saying “Why not?” in Chinese.   means “not” here and suggests a negative expression relating to verbs and adjectives.

If you remove the   in the Chinese phrases below, it will become a positive statement that goes something like “Why is it ok? / Why can?

But when people ask a Why in Chinese question, they want to know the reason for a negative remark, which makes sense why it is essential to learn how to ask “Why not + Verb/Adjective” questions.

NoWhy not? / Why no?为什么不呢
Able toWhy not able to?为什么不能?
OK, DoableWhy not doable?为什么不行?
Can可以Why cannot?为什么不可以?
Possible可能Why not possible?为什么不可能?
 为什么不/不能/不可以
+ Verb / Adjective
CorrectWhy is it not correct?为什么不对?
WrongWhy is it wrong?为什么错?

Below are some sentences between two people. One would give a reason. The other party would reply with a negative question – Why not …? 为什么不 …?Wèishéme bù …?

One tip for choosing your interrogative reply is to respond according to the verb used where possible.

Tomorrow I cannot go to work.
Why not? Are you sick?

明天我不能去上班了。
为什么不能?你是不是生病了?

Míng tiān wǒ bù néng qù shàng bān le.
Wèi shén me bù néng? Nǐ shì bù shì shēng bìng le?


This idea is not workable/feasible.
Why not? Please explain.

这个办法行不通。
为什么行不通?/ 为什么不行? 解释来听听。

Zhè ge bàn fǎ xíng bù tōng.
Wèi shén me xíng bù tōng? / Wèi shén me bù xíng? Jiě shì lái tīng tīng.


Why does it have to rain? I cannot go to your house.
Why not? Bring an umbrella then it will be possible.

为什么要下雨?我不可以去你家了。
为什么不可以呢?拿把伞就可以了!

Wèi shén me yào xià yǔ? Wǒ bù kě yǐ qù nǐ jiā le.
Wèi shén me bù kě yǐ ne? Ná bǎ sǎn jiù kě yǐ le!


It is not possible for us to be together (in a relationship).
Why is it not possible? Your family objects to us being together (our relationship)?

我们不可能在一起。
为什么不可能?你的家人反对我们的交往?

Wǒ men bù kě néng zài yī qǐ.
Wèi shén me bù kě néng? Nǐ de jiā rén fǎn duì wǒ men de jiāo wǎng?


The Chinese sentence that you are constructing does not seem to be quite right.
Why is it not correct? Where is wrong? Please enlighten.

你造的中文句子似乎不怎么对。
为什么不对呢?哪里错?请指点。

Nǐ zào de zhōng wén jù zi sì hū bù zě me duì.
Wèi shén me bù duì ne? Nǎ lǐ cuò? Qǐng zhǐ diǎn.


This amount seemed to have the wrong calculation.
Why is it wrong? But I can recalculate.

这个总数好像算错了。
为什么错呢?不过,我可以重算。

Zhè ge zǒng shù hǎo xiàng suàn cuò le.
Wèi shén me cuò ne? Bù guò, wǒ kě yǐ zhòng suàn.




Why Not 为什么不 / 不能 / 不可以 + VERB (+ Ne)

We will use other Chinese Verbs here to form negative questions.

为什么不 / 不能 / 不可以 + Verb (+ )


Ne is an affirmative word placed at the end of the sentence to reinforce the question asked. At the same time, it might sound more gentle and subtle when someone asks a Why in Chinese question with  Ne. It is also correct if you do not have  Ne at the end of the sentences in this post.

Generally,  Ne sounds less authoritarian when asking Why questions. On the other hand, it might not always be the case as depending on the type of tone used when asking a question.

*Underlined words = Verbs

I cannot go travelling with you.
Why can’t you go?

我不可以和你旅行了。
为什么你不可以呢?

Wǒ bù kě yǐ hé nǐ lǚ xíng le.
Wèi shén me nǐ bù kěyǐ ne?


I do not like to study and do homework.
Why don’t you like it?

我不喜欢读书和做功课。
为什么不喜欢呢?

Wǒ bù xǐ huān dú shū hé zuò gōng kè.
Wèi shén me bù xǐ huān ne?


I have decided not to buy this leather bag.
Why did you not buy?

我决定不这个皮包了。
为什么不了?

Wǒ jué dìng bú mǎi zhè ge pí bāo le.
Wèi shén me bú mǎi le?


Don’t tell others that I have bought a house.
Why can’t I say?

不要和别人我买了新房子。
为什么不能呢?

Bù yào hé měi bié rén shuō wǒ mǎi le xīn fáng zi.
Wèi shén me bù néng shuō ne?


This thing has happened. Why not inform me earlier?
Why do I have to inform you earlier? I, myself do not know too.

这件事情发生了,为什么不早点通知我?
为什么要早点通知你呢?我自己也不知道。

Zhè jiàn shì qíng fā shēng le, wèi shén me bù zǎo diǎn tōng zhī wǒ?
Wèi shén me yào zǎo diǎn tōng zhī nǐ ne? Wǒ zì jǐ yě bù zhī dào.

 

Why Not 为什么不 + ADJECTIVE (+ Ne)

Now, we form negative questions with adjectives with a two-person conversation as above.

为什么不 + Adjective (+ )


*Underlined words = Adjectives

I feel that this person is not good.
Why not good? Let’s hear about it.

我觉得这个人不好
为什么不好呢?说来听听。

Wǒ jué dé zhè ge rén bù hǎo.
Wèi shén me bù hǎo ne? Shuō lái tīng tīng.


This bowl of noodle is not delicious.
Why not delicious?

这碗面不好吃
为什么不好吃呢?

Zhè wǎn miàn bù hào chī.
Wèi shén me bù hào chī ne?


The color of this sports car is not attractive.
Why not attractive? What colour is beautiful?

这辆跑车的颜色不美
为什么不美呢?什么颜色才美?

Zhè liàng pǎo chē de yán sè bù měi.
Wèi shén me bù měi ne? Shén me yán sè cái měi?

 

Why 为什么 + NEGATIVE ADJECTIVE (+ Ne)

How about some questions without   to affirm the questions asked. Usually, they are negative adjectives which prompt one to ask for a reason.

为什么 + Negative Adjective (+ )


*Underlined words = Adjectives

I think eating dog meat is disgusting.
Why disgusting?

我觉得吃狗肉很恶心
为什么恶心

Wǒ jué dé chī gǒu ròu hěn ě xīn.
Wèi shén me ě xīn?


Their thinking is very rigid and inflexible.
Why rigid and inflexible?

他们的想法很呆板
为什么呆板

Tā men de xiǎng fǎ hěn dāi bǎn.
Wèi shén me dāi bǎn?


Spending this money to stay in a luxury hotel is extravagant.
Why extravagant? I think it is worth it.

花这笔钱住豪华酒店很奢侈
为什么奢侈? 我觉得很值得。

Huā zhè bǐ qián zhù háo huá jiǔ diàn hěn shē chǐ.
Wèi shén me shē chǐ? Wǒ jué dé hěn zhí dé.



Negative Interrogative Sentences: Why Did Not? / Why No? 为什么没 Wèishéme Méi

Why Did Not / Have Not 为什么没 + VERB (+ Ne)

The second form of interrogative negation is  Méi. It means “did not” or “have not” when goes with a verb. Often, it refers to an event that is over and action not done yet.

为什么没 + Verb (+ Ne)


*Underlined words = Verbs

Why didn’t you come to my house?

你为什么没我家呢?
Nǐ wèi shén me méi lái wǒ jiā ne?


I have not eaten lunch.
Why have you not eaten yet?

我还没午餐。
为什么还没呢?

Wǒ hái méi chī wǔ cān.
Wèi shén me hái méi chī ne?


Last week, I didn’t go to the meeting.
Why didn’t you go to the meeting?

上个礼拜,我没开会。
你为什么没开会?

Shàng gè lǐ bài, wǒ méi kāi huì.
Nǐ wèi shén me méi kāi huì?

Why (Not) 为什么没 + ADJECTIVE (+ Ne)

Some adjectives are used with 不  whereas some go with 没 Méi. Most adjectives will go with 不 and  goes with nouns.

为什么没 + Adjective (+ Ne)


*Underlined words = Adjectives

This place is not fun. Let’s go
Why is it not fun?

这个地方没趣味。我们还是走吧。
为什么没趣味呢?

Zhè ge dì fāng méi qù wèi. Wǒ men hái shì zǒu ba.
Wèi shén me méi qù wèi ne?


Watching the movie is boring.
Why is it boring?

看电影没意思
为什么没意思呢?

Kàn diàn yǐng méi yì si.
Wèi shén me méi yì si ne?


That person is really useless.
Why is he useless?

那个人真的很没用
为什么他没用呢?

Nà gè rén zhēn de hěn méi yòng.
Wèi shén me tā méi yòng ne?

 

Why No 为什么没 + NOUN (+ Ne)

With a noun added to the Why in Chinese phrase with  Méi, you get “Why no + Noun?” Another big difference between the two is that   can never go with a noun such as 不时间 (No time) whereas only Méi can go with it.

为什么没 + Noun (+ Ne)


*Underlined words = Nouns

I have no time to do homework.
Why no time?

我没时间做功课。
为什么没时间呢?

Wǒ méi shí jiān zuò gōng kè.
Wèi shén me méi shí jiān ne?


I have no money.
Why no money? Haven’t received the salary?

我没了。
为什么没呢?还没发薪水吗?

Wǒ méi qián le.
Wèi shén me méi qián ne? Hái méi fā xīn shuǐ ma?


He has no ability to take care of his wife.
Why no ability?

他没本事养他的老婆。
为什么没本事

Tā méi běn shì yǎng tā de lǎo pó.
Wèi shén me méi běn shì?



Why in Chinese – 为何 Wèihé

Although 为何 Wèihé is used in Chinese literature and rarely heard in conversation nowadays, I have to say I use quite a fair bit of it when talking to my friends when asking Why in Chinese.

It still seems natural for me to use 为何 Wèihé to replace 为什么 Wèi shén me especially when I ask about feeling-related topics or have a literary sense on a subject.

Why give up the dream?

为何放弃理想?
Wèi hé fàng qì lǐ xiǎng?


Why miss her yet not give her a call?

为何想念她,却不打一通电话给她?
Wèi hé xiǎng niàn tā, què bù dǎ yī tòng diàn huà gěi tā?


Why do you look unhappy? Do you have any worry in your mind?

为何你看起来不开心?是不是有什么心事?
Wèi hé nǐ kàn qǐ lái bu kāi xīn? Shì bù shì yǒu shé me xīn shì?



 

Why in Chinese – 何必 Hébì

Why waste money? Why waste your resource and energy when doing something that is is not necessary? 何必 Hébì is commonly used when consoling or advising someone and conveys a bit more emotion in this aspect.

That is how we use Why in Chinese 何必 Hébì for such sentences when you feel it is not worthwhile or necessary to do something.

Why get angry over such person? It is not your first day knowing him.

何必为这种人生气?你又不是第一天认识他。
Hé bì wèi zhè zhǒng rén shēng qì? Nǐ yòu bù shì dì yī tiān rèn shì tā.


Why waste energy to do these unnecessary things?

何必浪费精神做这些无谓的事?
Hé bì làng fèi jīng shén zuò zhè xiē wú wèi de shì?


The weather is not very good recently. Why take the risk to go out to sea?

最近天气不是很好。何必冒险出海?
Zuì jìn tiān qì bù shì hěn hǎo. Hébì mào xiǎn chū hǎi?


The last Interrogative Word for the Chinese Interrogation Questions is the one and only Husband – How to Say “How” in Chinese? Continue learning!

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2 Comments

    1. Hi Peter, the direct translation of “I love you” is “我爱你 | Wǒ ài nǐ”. You use this term if you are already in a close relationship with someone. Otherwise, I would not recommend you to say that. The Chinese are normally reserved and do not use this term as often as the westerner.

      The other ways to express your love in a more subdued way is “I like you very much” depending on the intensity of your liking.

      1) 我喜欢你。| Wǒ xǐhuān nǐ.
      2) 我很喜欢你。| Wǒ hěn xǐhuān nǐ.
      3) 我真的很喜欢你。| Wǒ zhēn de hěn xǐhuān nǐ.

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