Chinese grammar: "Not very" with 不太 "bu tai"

You may be familiar with using "太"(tài) to express "too" in the sense of "too expensive." There’s a similar pattern in the negative, which just means "not very" or "not so" (literally "not too"). Note that this pattern does not normally use "了" (le).


Subject + 不太 + Adjective

Note: This pattern can also be used with non-adjectives. See below for more info.


Tā bú tài ɡāoxìnɡ.
他 不 太 高兴。
He is not too happy.

Structure with Modal Verbs:
This pattern can be used with modal verbs (e.g. 会, 能) as well as psychological verbs (e.g. 喜欢, 崇拜), as in the next two examples.

Subject +  不太 + Verb

Tā bú tài xiǎnɡqù.
他 不 太 想去。
He doesn’t really want to go.

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