I was talking with some native English speaker. She said something and I replied:

I don't understand.

Then she replied:

You no understand?

What does that line mean? I'm not sure whether there was a question mark at the end or not. I guess it means:

Don't you understand?


I don't think she knew that I am non-native English speaker. There were a lot of people chatting and I threw my first message, "I don't understand" and then she replied, "You no understand". Perhaps there was something on that website via which she could know that I was chatting from a non-English country. I don't think she was trying to mock me. There must have been some other reason.

  • 1
    She maybe was trying to speak the way newbies to English do. Imagine someone for example Asian that knows what "you", "no" and "understand" mean. Without regarding the English grammar, "Don't you understand?" naturally changes to "you no understand" in the person's perspective.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 16:20
  • @MARamezani This seems plausible. Perhaps this is what she was trying to do.
    – user31782
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 16:22
  • 8
    Some people just can't help themselves. If you look or sound even vaguely 'foreign', they regress to something approaching 'child-speak-for-foreigners' without even knowing they are doing it. There is no cure, I'm afraid, short of actually getting to know them & gradually easing them out of it ;) Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 16:57
  • So it was an online chat, not a face-to-face conversation? Then it could also have been a typo or autocomplete problem. Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 3:02
  • 1
    Pidgin English. Accordind to situation. Ah I see, you don't speak English or You don't speak English? Either the speaker was Chinese or it was meant humorously after the model: Long time no see.
    – rogermue
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 4:55

9 Answers 9


"You no understand?" is not something a native English speaker would ever normally say.

The only situation where a native speaker would say this, would be when speaking to a non-native speaker. I can think of three reasons there:

  • Attempting to simplify the grammar to make it easier for the learner
  • Using incorrect grammar by accident (I've found grammar can be unconsciously copied at times, much like accents)
  • Making fun of the learner (Some native speakers have no patience for learners and will angrily mock them)
  • I don't think she knew that I am non-native English speaker. There were a lot of people chatting and I threw my first message, "I don't understand" and then she replied, "You no understand"
    – user31782
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 16:30
  • @user31782 Still, I think she was making fun of you. She didn't care if you were an English speaker or not. Well, I'd say not all people have appreciable temper.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 16:32
  • Hard to tell without being there - maybe in a noisy place you misheard her, I know in my New Zealand English we don't enunciate very well, so the "don't" in "You don't understand" can almost be a "no". Anyway, what you said was 100% correct, and "You no understand" would never be an expected (normal) answer.
    – David Hall
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 16:34
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    As a native English speaker, I can confirm that "You no understand?" is not correct English grammar. "You don't understand?" would be a correct wording, as would "Do you not understand?" The word choice she used is idiomatic; it intentionally uses grammar mistakes that English Language Learners often make. However, she may not have been making fun of you. There are countless examples where a phrase with poor grammar becomes an idiomatic expression in our language. After that point, we often forget where the idiom came from or how confusing it could be.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 22:11
  • 7
    it is possible that the speaker was speaking in broken English on purpose, making a mocking reference to non-native English speakers, without actually knowing she was speaking to one.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 4:24

As others have said, this is not correct English, and since you had used correct English, it seems strange. I see a few possibilities, most of which have already been suggested.

1) She isn't a native English speaker. Or, she is a native English speaker with terrible English or typing skills. That is, this was her legitimate best attempt to ask "You don't understand?"

2) She was mocking you. I actually find this unlikely. Plausible, but it's just... a weird way to mock someone. Parroting someone in a mocking way is common, but this is a bit too different for straight parroting.

3) She was switching to a kind of "Pidgin English" - trying to use a minimal subset of English that will hopefully make the core meaning obvious even to those with most basic English. I like this idea. I have done it myself, on occasion. But there's the fact that you've coped perfectly well with inflecting and contracting "don't" in your very previous message! Why would she not use the word you used, if she was trying to make herself understood to you? Perhaps if she was expecting you to be using an online translator...

4) The first thing I thought when I saw the title, though, was that it was a meme quote: Y U NO UNDERSTAND? http://cdn.meme.am/instances/500x/12270646.jpg

I think this is the most likely - she was referencing the meme, assuming that you'd understand. Like in-jokes, internet memes are something people share with a grin, to be friendly. So, she was being friendly.

5) She's a troll, her pic is fake, she's actually some guy in his mom's basement, and she just speaks in meme speak because that's how trolls speak.

6) A bot using simple but inaccurate grammar rules to respond to things said in the chat.

  • 6
    +1 for "Y U NO UNDERSTAND," which is definitely the first thing I thought of. I'd be pretty surprised if it's not a reference to that meme.
    – yshavit
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 21:51
  • 1
    I guess, your 5th point was the case. It was a porn site giving live footages through webcam.
    – user31782
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 9:12
  • Ah! Probably a bot, then? Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 10:36
  • She wasn't a bot. She was live on the webcam. My previous comment was a half-joke. It's true that it was a porn site. I've posted an answer, myself to explain what I think about the reason for her incorrect usage of English.
    – user31782
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 11:21

It is not proper grammar, but sometimes

You no understand?

can be used not so much that you are making fun of someone, but that you do not understand why the other person does not understand you.

In parts of the US where Spanish is also commonly spoken (and taught in school), you will also hear:

¿No comprende?

Of course, the possiblity that the speaker is just using poor English grammar due to skill level is also there.

  • It could be that she was not a native English speaker. From her picture she seemed to be English. Also her older messages seemed to me written in native English. Perhaps, as you indicates, she was not 100% English.
    – user31782
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 17:05
  • Any idea what her native language is? It could be a translation matter with languages that put "no" before the verb to negate it.
    – user3169
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 17:07
  • No idea. Whatever she tried to say... I now understand by your answers what is the meaning of the sentence you no understand.
    – user31782
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 17:10

Many years ago there was a comedian on British television by the name of Benny Hill. His shows were popular in other countries too.

One of the characters that he regularly played would mangle language for comic effect and at some point in the sketch he would say "You no understand!" or "Why you no understand?" to the other characters to get a laugh.

Like many catchphrases, this one is still sometimes used by people who remember the programmes. It may mean nothing to younger people who don't remember the original programme and isn't necessarily funny if you don't get the reference.


In my opinion you take every small detail too seriously. Chatting is the wrong place to learn correct English because internet language is totally different and people tend to skip some words. You no understand is also famous from this internet meme: enter image description here

Y = Why

U = You


Here's my own explanation of why she wrote incorrect English.

There were a lot of users chatting in English. My message "I don't understand" would have appeared to them as if I didn't understand the kind of English they were using. So she tried to communicate with me in a funny way by using incorrect English, because I didn't understand normal English :-)


Its the way new english speakers express them selves , and its usually an exact word to word translation to what the phrase really is in their mother tongue language , an example is :- in slang/informal arabic the verb drink is used for normal drinking and smoking as well , therefore you might find arabs say "I drink cigarets" rather than saying that he "smokes" .

The answer to your question is , "Don't you understand?"


Perhaps she tried to be "funny". This is what comes to my mind when I hear that phrase, I heard that joke maaaany years ago: http://www.skronn.de/italien/detroit.htm


I think it's translated directly from Chinese. In Chinese it's "你不懂","你" is you,"不" is no, "懂" is understand.

  • She wasn't chines. Although if I translate "You no understand" and "You don't understand" into my language(Hindi) then they both are exactly same sentences.
    – user31782
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 9:14

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