Chinese Grammar Bank


In this article you will learn more about one of the most used question word: 怎么.

Learning how to use 怎么 will be especially useful as you keep improving your Chinese language skills and start to build more complex sentences.


The question word 怎么 (zěnme) is used to ask “how” in Chinese. It is inserted in front of the verb that’s being asked about:


(Subject) + 怎么 + Verb + (Object)?

zěnme shàngbān?


How do you go to work?
wǒ kāichē shàngbān


I drive to work

If the subject refers to “you”, it can be omitted:

zěnme huí jiā?


How do (you) go back home?
zǒulù huí jiā


(I) walk home

The object doesn’t have to come after the verb. Sometimes it moves to the front of the question. 


Topic (Object) + 怎么 + Verb?

zhè dào cài zěnme zuò?


How to make this dish?
mángguǒ zěnme chī?


How to eat mango?

The question word 怎么 (zěnme) can also used to ask “why” in Chinese, which is similar to the question word 为什么 (wèishénme)。


Subject + 怎么 + Verb + Object ?

他怎么还没来?tā zěnme hái méi lái?Why hasn’t he come yet?= 他为什么还没来?
你们怎么打人?nǐmen zěnme dǎ rén?Why do you hit people?= 你们为什么打人?

BONUS // 不怎么 and 没怎么

When 不怎么 is used with a verb, it means that one does not put a lot of time or energy into doing it. In other words, the action is done “not often”. 


Subject + 不怎么 + Verb

tā bù zěnme ài shuōhuà.

他不怎么爱说话 。

He is not very talkative.
wǒ érzi bù zěnme chīfàn.


My son doesn’t eat much.
wǒ bù zěnme yùndòng.

我不怎么运动 。

I don’t exercise much.

When 没怎么 is used with a verb, it means that one did not do the action with much time or energy. That verb uses or implies 有 and thus it uses the same the 有 negation rules.


Subject + 没怎么 + Verb

wǒ méi zěnme fùxí.


I didn’t review much.
wǒ méi zěnme xiǎngguò zhège wèntí.

我没怎么想过这个问题 。

I haven’t thought about this problem very much.


怎么 with adjectives is most common to negate the adjective after 怎么。


Subject +怎么 (+不) + Adjective

shuǐ zěnme bù rè?


Why is the water not hot?
zhèlǐ de chuāncài zěnme bù là?


Why is the Sichuan cuisine here not spicy?

怎么 (zěnme) frequently appears with 这么 (zhème) or 那么 (nàme) to express the meaning of “how can (something) be so (adjective)?!”


Subject + 怎么 + 这么/那么 + Adjective

zěnme nàme lǎn?


Why is he so lazy?
zuótiān zěnme nàme lěng?


Why was it so cold yesterday?

When used together with an adjective, 不怎么 becomes similar to 不太, which means that the degree of the adjective is not very high.


Subject + 不怎么 + Adjective

zuìjìn bù zěnme máng


Not very busy recently
zhèlǐ de dōngtiān bù zěnme lěng.


The winter here is not so cold.
View More Phrases
他们好像不怎么高兴。tāmen hǎoxiàng bù zě me gāoxìng.They don’t seem very happy.
这个学生不怎么努力。zhège xuéshēng bù zě me nǔlì.This student doesn’t really work hard.
那家餐厅不怎么干净。nà jiā cāntīng bù zě me gānjìng.That restaurant is not very clean.


Rhetorical questions are asked in order to make a point. The speaker doesn’t really expect an answer because the answer should be obvious.

The speaker clearly thinks this shouldn’t have happened, or thought it couldn’t have happened.

你怎么会不知道这件事? = 你应该知道这件事。
nǐ zěnme huì bù zhīdào zhè jiàn shì?=nǐ yīnggāi zhīdào zhè jiàn shì.
How can you not know this?=You should know this.
View More Phrases
他怎么会这么不小心呢? = 他不应该不小心
tā zěnme huì zhème bù xiǎoxīn ne?=tā bù yìng gāi bù xiǎoxīn.
How could he be so careless?=He shouldn’t be careless.
他怎么会说谎说得这么流利呢? = 他不应该说谎。
tā zěnme huì shuōhuǎng shuō dé zhème liúlì ne?=tā bù yìng gāi shuōhuǎng.
How could he lie so fluently?=He shouldn’t lie.


怎么 + Verbs

HOW 1(Subject) + 怎么 + Verb + (Object)?你怎么上班? nǐ zěnme shàngbān.How do you go to work?
HOW 2Topic (Obj.) + 怎么+ Verb?这道菜怎么做?zhè dào cài zěnme zuò?How to make this dish?
WHYSubject +怎么 + Verb + Object ?他怎么还没来?tā zěnme hái méi lái?Why hasn’t he come yet?
不怎么 does not do oftenSubject + 不怎么 + Verb他不怎么爱说话。tā bù zě me ài shuōhuà.He is not very talkative.
没怎么 did not do many/muchSubject + 没怎么 + Verb我没怎么复习。wǒ méi zěnme fùxí.I didn’t review much.

怎么 + Adjectives

Subject +怎么 (+不) + Adjective水怎么不热?shuǐ zěnme bù rè?Why is the water not hot?
Subject + 怎么 + 这么/那么 + Adjective他怎么那么懒?tā zěnme nàme lǎn?Why is he so lazy?
Subject + 不怎么 + Adjective最近不怎么忙。zuìjìn bù zě me máng.Not very busy recently.

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What is 怎么?

怎么 is a Chinese question word that we can translate by “how”, but in several instances it can also mean “why”.

It is encountered very often in daily situations, so as other question words it is a very useful one to master.

How to pronounce 怎么?

怎么 is pronounced zěnme.

How to use 怎么?

Here are some of the most common sentence structures with 怎么.

怎么 can be used with verbs to mean HOW: (Subject) + 怎么 + Verb + (Object)?

Used with verbs, 怎么 can also mean WHY: Subject +怎么 + Verb + Object ?

怎么 can also be used with adjectives, most often used to negate the adjective placed after 怎么: Subject +怎么 (+不) + Adjective

What are some examples with 怎么?

你怎么上班? nǐ zěnme shàngbān. | How do you go to work?

他怎么还没来?tā zěnme hái méi lái? | Why hasn’t he come yet?我没怎么复习。wǒ méi zěnme fùxí. | I didn’t review much.

水怎么不热?shuǐ zěnme bù rè? | Why is the water not hot?

How to learn Chinese characters?

First thing to know about the Chinese language is that there is no alphabet!

Characters are used, and are themselves made of various components called radicals.

Characters are best learned with a Chinese teacher as they can explain how to write them, in what stroke order, as well as their origin and meaning.

Many apps such as Skritter or Dong Chinese can help you practice your writing and reading skills as well.

How to sign up to a Chinese class with LTL?

If you are interested in taking some online individual classes with us, you can choose a program and sign up here.

If you’d like a more flexible program where you can choose your study topic and study time yourself, have a look at our Flexi Classes here. Sign up only takes a couple minutes, and we even offer a 7 Day Free Trial