Being told "沒有、沒有"

So I was at some cafeteria type place inside of a tourist shop, and I needed a drink of water. There was a freely-accessible water dispenser near the wall. On a separate shelf, somewhat farther away, there was a stack of disposable plastic cups, with this sign.

Fine, I thought, I’ll buy a plastic cup for 10 dollars.

I motioned to a nearby staff person to come by, then held up the stack of cups with a 10 dollar coin, signaling my intent to purchase a cup. The staff person just kept saying “沒有、沒有” to me. As far as I could tell there was no other word before or after the 沒有. Anyway, she refused to sell me a cup.

What does 沒有 mean in this case? Clearly, the cups existed, and they were for sale, so 沒有 didn’t make sense to me.

That sign says “Do not take the cups. If you have a need, they are $10 each.”

It doesn’t say “Cups for Sale! $10 each.”

That doesn’t indicate to me that they were for sale to the general public. They might be emergency cups for children or the elderly, etc.

Perhaps this should go in Living in Taiwan rather than Learning Chinese. :2cents:

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So “沒有” means in this case, “we don’t have” cups (that can be sold to you), even though they physically do have the cups on display?

It just means “no”, and in this context, “no sale”. Or 我們沒有在賣 (we are not selling).

Ah, good to know.

Imagine this hypothetical conversation:

I ask: 請問, 我想買一個杯子, 好嗎

In this case, would “沒有” still be an appropriate response from the staff? My textbook taught me somewhat formal responses like “對不起, 我們不賣.”

I feel like adding 「好嗎」at the end is a little passive aggressive, like you are telling them you are buying it rather than asking whether you can. I’d say 「請問,我可以買一個杯子嗎?」

Doesn’t that mean the same?

If you need one, they are 10 dollars indicates to me that they are for sale.


Depends on the context. If there are no cups in sight, then 沒有 means 沒有杯子 (no cups).

If there are cups, then 沒有 means 沒有在賣 (they’re not for sale).

Yeah, well, obviously you didn’t look like you spoke Chinese based on your motioning and gesturing, so they were dumbing it down.

Maybe he thought you were trying to buy all of them for 10 dollars.

Yeah, that was my (apparently wrong) interpretation as well. “Don’t take them for free, but you can buy them for 10 dollars.”

No, I think it means they’re not for sale but if you really must have one then you may take one for $10.

Nobody writes “Do not take any” on a for sale sign.

I had been riding a bicycle up a long road to reach that spot, and was sweaty and dehydrated (my fault for not bringing a water bottle, I know). Maybe I should have collapsed on the floor first, and then they would have let me buy one! I considered making a paper cup out of some scrap paper I had in my bag, and using that to collect water from their water dispenser, but I wasn’t quite that desperate.

I suppose that maybe the real reason is that they wanted me to buy overpriced drinks from their bar instead.

You should have just put the money on the table and took one

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I had the grammar and sentence pattern memorized, but I didn’t know the word for “cup” :sob: (and I couldn’t read the zhuyin on the sign).

It’s 沒, not 没

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Maybe the water machine wasn’t working.

I have had lots of experiences were what seems obvious was incorrect.

Then I asked my friends or think about a little bit later go back and research or something and find out it wasn’t the obvious answer.


That was my first thought, but then I noticed the suspicious phrasing on the sign.

Seems like they can’t make up their mind what they want, trying to deal with them will probably be more hassle than its worth.

That could make sense. Actually, I did manage to speak one sentence in Chinese as the staff person was saying 沒有,沒有 to me. I managed to ask, “不行嗎?” to which the answer was again 沒有,沒有 (not 不行), maybe emphasizing that there was no water to be had, rather than prohibiting me from buying the cup itself.