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Come Again? Mastering repetition in Chinese with 又, 再, and 还

Have you ever struggled to understand the difference between the Chinese adverbs 又(yòu), 再(zài), and 还(hái), all of which can be translated into English as “again”? It’s easy to get confused when faced with synonyms in a new language, but don’t worry, we’re here to help!

In this article, we’ll break down the unique uses of each adverb and give you clear examples to help you master their nuances. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to use these adverbs with confidence and ease. So, let’s dive in!

(To learn more about the differences between these adverbs and other HSK grammar points, you can watch a video explanation here.)

1. 又 (yòu)

We use 又(yòu) to show that an action has happened again. If it appears in a negative sentence, it indicates the repetition of the non-occurrence of an action.

For example:

我们队又赢了。(Wǒmenduì yòu yíngle.)
Our team won again.

他昨天没吃早饭。今天又没吃早饭。(Tā zuótiān méi chī zǎofàn. Jīntiān yòu méi chī zǎofàn.)
He did not have breakfast yesterday, and he didn’t again eat today.

又(yòu) can also indicate the repetition of an action that has not yet happened but is expected to occur based on past experience or natural law.

明天又是星期一。(Míngtiān yòu shì xīngqí yī.)
Tomorrow will be Monday again.

2. 再 (zài)

再(zài) indicates that an action will occur again in the future.

For example:

请再说一遍。(Qǐng zàishuō yí biàn.)
Please say it again.

我刚才给田芳打了一个电话, 她不在家。我过会儿再打。
(Wǒ gāngcái gěi Tiánfāng dǎle yígè diànhuà, tā bú zàijiā. Wǒ guò huìr zài dǎ.)
I called Tianfang just now, but she’s not home. I’ll call her again later.

Negative Structure 1: 不/没/别 + 再

However, when used in a negative sentence, 再(zài) indicates the non-occurrence of a repeated action that would have taken place in the future. It is important to note that negative words should come before 再(zài)  in the sentence.

我已经复习过课文了,今天不再复习了。(Wǒ yǐjīng fùxíguò kèwénle, jīntiān bú zài fùxíle.)
I already reviewed my lesson, I won’t review it again today.

Negative Structure 2: 再 + 不/没/别

When negation words are placed after 再(zài), words like 再不 (zài bù), 再别 (zài bié), and 再没 (zài méi) indicate an action that will not be repeated again or a state that will no longer continue.

自从2003年以来,我再没见过他。(Zìcóng 2003 nián yǐlái, wǒ zài méi jiànguò tā.)
I haven’t seen him since 2003.

Using 再 with auxiliary verbs

再 (zài) will typically follow after auxiliary verbs in a sentence.

我昨天已经去公司加班了,今天不能再去了,太累了。(Wǒ zuótiān yǐjīng qù gōngsī jiābānle, jīntiān bùnéng zài qùle, tài lèile.)
I already went to the company to work overtime yesterday. I can’t go today, I’m too tired.

3. 还 (hái)

You can use 还(hái) in both questions and statements to show that an action or state will be repeated in the future but hasn’t happened yet.

For example:

明天你还来吗?我还来。(Míngtiān nǐ hái lái ma? Wǒ hái lái.)
Will you come again tomorrow? I will.

Negative Structure: 还 + 不/没

还 (hái) can be placed before the negation word in a sentence.

她还没有回家。(Tā hái méiyǒu huí jiā.)
She’s not home yet.

Using 还 with auxiliary verbs

In addition to expressing repetition that is not yet realized, 还 (hái) can also be used with the auxiliary verbs 想 (xiǎng), 要 (yào), and 应该 (yīng gāi) in interrogative or declarative sentences. This emphasizes a person’s subjective desire or intention for the action to be repeated. 还 (hái) is placed before the auxiliary verb, and 再(zài) can optionally be placed after it to emphasize an objective need for the action to be repeated.

这个电影很好,我还想(再)看一遍。(Zhège diànyǐng hěn hǎo, wǒ hái xiǎng (zài) kàn yí biàn.)
This movie is great, I’d like to watch it again.


While the adverbs 又(yòu),再(zài),and 还(hái) can all be translated as “again” in English, they are used differently in Chinese sentences to indicate repetition.

又 is used for the repetition of an action that has already taken place, while 再 is used for the repetition of an action that will take place in the future. 还 is similarly used to express repetition that is not yet realized but will be in the future. By understanding the differences between these three adverbs, you can more accurately convey your intended meaning and avoid confusion in your Chinese conversations


Fill in the blanks with 又, 再, or 还.

1、她昨天来晚了,今天 _ 来晚了。
2、他下星期 _ 要出差了。
3、我昨天给他打过电话了,今天不 _ 打了。
4、我 _ 没有买今天的报纸,我现在就去买。
5、请你 _ 重复一遍好吗?


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Rita Zhang

Rita is a professional Mandarin teacher, has been teaching more than 8 years. She enjoys digging more about Chinese grammar and culture work and helping more learners. Now she is working at the one-on-one online Chinese school TouchChinese.

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