Chinese grammar structures list

Chinese grammar structures list DEFAULT

Top 5 Basic Chinese Sentence Structures

So, you have heard this time and again - With commitment and daily practice, it is certainly possible to speak Chinese fluently, but you still feel at sea. One of the reasons is that you may not know the structure of Chinese language.

Chinese is a language that focuses on the meaning. If you compare it with English, you will find that it is very common to see a long English sentence which is organized by certain grammar rules. While in Chinese you can only find short sentences or long sentences divided to short phrases.

Chinese Sentence Structure

Having said that, it doesn’t mean Chinese has no grammar. As a matter of fact, Chinese is a highly pattern-based language. And knowing these structures will enable you to converse more efficiently in Chinese.

The golden rule is: Subject + When + Where + How + Action + Complement

  • Subject - the core of a sentence
  • When - the time when an action took place
  • Where - the place where an action took place
  • How - the way an action is performed
  • Action – a verb or a verb phrase
  • Complement – to what extent an action is done.
  • These components of the structure don’t necessarily come together in a single sentence. Most often, we only see part of the whole structure. In the following, we will introduce the top 5 basic and most commonly-used sentence patterns in Chinese.

    1. Subject + Verb + Object

    This is the easiest type of sentence in Chinese grammar. The word order is normally the same as in English. E.g.

    tā shì yīnɡɡuórén.


    He is British.

    jiékè xǐhuān zúqiú.


    Jack likes football.

    āijí yǒu jīnzìtǎ.


    There are Pyramids is Egypt.

    We can put “不” or “没有” before the verb to express a negative meaning and “吗” at the end of the sentence to form questions. E.g.

    tā búshì yīnɡɡuórén.


    He is not British.

    zhōnɡɡuó méiyǒu jīnzìtǎ.


    There are not Pyramids in China.

    jiékè xǐhuān zúqiú mɑ?


    Does Jack like football?

    2. Subject + Verb + Direct Object + Indirect Object

    In order to express “She teaches me Chinese”, we need to add two objects after the verb. The direct object represents what is being transferred as a result of the action, and the indirect object denotes who is being affected by that action. As in the example, “me” plays the role of a “direct object” and “Chinese” plays the role of an “indirect object”.

    Besides “教” (to teach), other verbs that can occur with indirect objects include “给” (to give), “告诉” (to tell), “借” (to lend), etc.

    qǐnɡ ɡěi wǒ yìbēi kāfēi.


    Please give me a cup of coffee.

    tā ɡàosu wǒ yíɡè mìmì.


    She told me a secret.

    nǐ nénɡ jiè wǒ nǐde chē mɑ?


    Can you lend me your car?

    3. Subject + Time When + Verb + Object

    To express when an action or an event occurs, we can put the time words immediately after the subject. One difference from English is that Chinese doesn’t a preposition before the time words. E.g. “She got up at 7 in the morning.” is translated as “她在早上在七点起床。”

    More examples:

    tāmen mínɡtiān yào qù měiɡuó.


    They will go to the United States tomorrow.

    wǒde pénɡyǒu zuótiān lái xī’ān.


    My friends came to Xi’an yesterday.

    4. Subject + Verb + Complement

    A complement is a word or phrase following the verb. In Chinese, a complement has a variety of functions, such as showing the duration, place, degree, result, direction or possibility of an action. E.g.

    tā měitiān ɡōnɡzuò bāɡè xiǎoshí.


    He works eight hours everyday.

    wǒde ɡēɡe zhù zài shànɡhǎi.


    My brother lives in Shanghai.

    nǐ tīnɡ dé qīnɡ chu mɑ?


    Can you hear (something) clearly?

    pí jiǔ, tā hē wán liǎo.


    He has drunk all the beer.

    5. Topic + Comment

    In the last example “啤酒,他喝完了”, “喝” is the verb, “啤酒” is the object. You might be wondering: According to “Subject + Verb + Object”, should object not come after “喝”? That’s a good question! In Chinese, objects can be moved to the beginning of a sentence where it becomes the topic. And following that topic is a comment or statement. This is done in order to keep balance of the sentence or to put an emphasis. E.g.

    jīntiān de ɡōnɡzuò, nǐ zuò wán lemɑ?


    Have you finished today’s work?

    zǎofàn, nǐ chī lemɑ?


    Did you eat breakfast?

    mínɡtiān de jùhuì, wǒ bùxiǎnɡ qù le.


    I don’t feel liking going to the party tomorrow.

    Knowing and understanding the basic sentence patterns will help you get on the right track, especially for beginner learners. If you are considering learning more sentence structures and patterns, you can try out iChineseLearning’s free Chinese grammar lessons that are recorded by native speakers. Chinese grammar wiki is also on our recommendation list.

    If you have any questions about this article or about Chinese grammar, please feel free to let us know in the comment below!

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    The conventional wisdom is that Mandarin Chinese grammar is easy.

    After all, the hard parts are Chinese tones, characters, and chengyu, right?

    If you&#;re no longer a newbie, you might be cursing that conventional wisdom right now.

    Because we all know that intermediate or advanced Chinese grammar is actually really hard.

    Here are tips on Chinese grammar patterns and structures that I wish I&#;d heard when I started learning Chinese grammar.

    Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

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    Before digging in, let&#;s discuss some of the reasons why Chinese grammar is difficult.

    First, the word order in a sentence is different from English, and this requires getting used to. (But not always &#; here is a simple introduction to some Chinese sentence structures).

    Second, there are new concepts that have no real counterpart in English (eg. 了) &#; and these can throw you in for a loop because there is no analogue.

    Third, there are Chinese grammar patterns and structures which seem to be deceivingly similar. It&#;s easy to think they&#;re interchangeable. But they&#;re not!

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    However, sometimes context isn&#;t enough. Unfortunately, memorizing Mandarin Chinese grammar rules tends to require a lot of discipline and trial and error (and enduring tons of Chinese grammar exercises).

    Perhaps this blog post can help with that. Perhaps it can be a sort of Chinese grammar guide for those of you just starting out.

    And just so you know, for the sake of (relative) brevity, this post only addresses the most common usages of these grammar words.

    We&#;ve tried to distill the essence of what you need to know.

    Without further ado, here we go&#;

    Common Chinese Grammar Structures for 的 (de) vs. 得 (de) vs. 地(de)

    They even sound the same! How can words be so similar, without meaning the same thing?

    It boils down to this main difference: 的 is used with nouns and 得 is used with verbs. The last one, 地, is mainly used to modify verbs (like the “ly” in English).

    1. Noun + 的 + Noun

    Possessive words (my, your, her, his, our, their, etc.) don’t directly translate into one word in Chinese, you add 的 to the end of the pronoun (I – 我) to make it possessive (My – 我+的).

    For example:

    wǒ de shū
    my book

    2. Attribute + 的 + Noun

    When 的 is used between an attribute and noun, it gives the noun the attribute:

    hěn piàoliang de lǎoshī
    pretty teacher

    3. Verb + 得 + State

    This particle is used after a verb and indicates effect, degree, possibility, etc:

    fēi de kuài
    to fly quickly

    4. Adj + 地 + Verb

    This particle is mainly used as an adverb, like “ly” in English. It&#;s used before a verb.

    For example:

    màn màn de zǒu
    to walk slowly

    5. Adj + 地 + Adj

    地 can also be used to modify/qualify an adjective:

    tè bié de zhēn guì
    Particularly precious

    Common Chinese Grammar Patterns for 吗 (ma) vs. 吧 (ba) vs. 呢 (ne)

    So maybe your mind was blown when you first heard about question words &#; words which convert sentences into questions when they&#;re placed at the end of a sentence.

    Now you have more question words than you know what to do with. How should you distinguish between them?

    In short, 吗 is for yes-no questions. 吧 is for making suggestions or requests. 呢 is for shifting the conversation to another topic or the other person.

    6. Clause +  吗

    It might be helpful to think of this as the equivalent of a question mark. The answer to a 吗 question should be yes or no (or to be more precise, confirm or negate the verb).

    For example:

    nǐ huì shuō zhōng wén ma?
    Can you speak Chinese?

    7.  Clause + 吧

    Unlike 吗 or 呢, 吧 doesn&#;t always indicate a question. It&#;s commonly used when making a suggestion or request. Much like “how about…” or “let’s…” in English.

    However, you can also add it to the end of a statement, and it suggests that you&#;re seeking confirmation (like “…right?” in English):

    wǒ men chū qù chī fàn ba
    How about we go eat? (or lets go eat!)

    8.  Clause + 呢

    呢 is a great way to shift the conversation to another topic, or the other person.

    Answers to a 呢 question don&#;t have to be a simple yes or no (unlike 吗), and can be more open ended. The English equivalent is “and…” or “and what about…”

    For example:

    wǒ guò de hěn hǎo, nǐ ne
    I‘ve been well, you?

    Common Chinese Grammar Patterns for 会 (huì) vs. 能 (néng)

    So 会 and 能 both mean &#;can,&#; but they don&#;t mean the same thing. What&#;s the difference?

    The bottom line: 会 is for learned knowledge or the future. 能 is for physical ability, and for indicating permission. 

    9. 会 + Verb

    会 most commonly means &#;can&#; or &#;able to,&#; specifically for learned knowledge. Use it for acquired skills, not abilities which you were born with.

    For example:

    Tā huì zuò fàn
    He can cook

    会 is also often used for “will”, or “will be”:

    nǐ huì qù ma?
    Will you go?

    能 + Verb

    Use 能 to indicate that you&#;re physically able to do something or complete a task.

    Nǐ néng bāng wǒ yī gè máng 吗?
    Can you help me for a minute?

    Unlike 会 (but similar to 可以) 能 can also mean “be allowed to” or “may do.”

    zài shì nèi bù néng chōu yān
    Smoking not allowed inside

    Common Chinese Grammar Patterns for 想 (xiǎng) vs. 觉得 (juéde)

    想 and 觉得 both mean to think or feel, so what&#;s the difference?

    想 is most commonly used to casually express that you want to do something. 觉得 is mainly used to express your opinion about something.

    想 + Verb

    Use 想 when you feel like (doing something):

    wǒ xiǎng chī dōngxi
    I want to eat something.

    觉得 + Verb

    Use 觉得 when you&#;re expressing your opinion about something.

    wǒ juéde hěn hǎo chī
    I think it tastes good.

    Common Chinese Grammar Patterns for 了

    Finally, we&#;re at 了, the most frustrating Chinese grammar pattern that I&#;ve personally ever learned.

    了 is used to indicate the completion of an action, or a change of circumstances.

    Verb + 了

    了 is mainly used in 2 situations. First, it&#;s placed after a verb (or occasionally adjective) to indicate completion of an action, which usually indicates the past tense. (It&#;s also important to note that there are cases when it is used to indicate the expected completion of an action &#; in that case it&#;s not necessarily past tense.)

    wǒ chī le fàn yǐ hòu yào chū qù
    After I’m done eating, I want to go out

    Aside from signaling the completion of a specific verb, when 了 is added to the end of a sentence, it that a new state exists.

    wǒ è le
    I’m hungry (I wasn’t hungry before, but now I am.)


    Other Resources for Learning Mandarin Chinese Grammar Patterns and Structures

    This post is just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to Chinese grammar. Here are the 2 top resources I know:

    Chinese Grammar Wiki: by the one and only John Pasden and his consultancy, All Set Learning. 1, articles, carefully written and constantly growing. beautifully designed site by Hugh Grigg and Amanda Wang. They tackle the most common Chinese grammar questions and break them down into small, digestible topics that make sense.

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    In Chinese the sentence words order is especially important, partly as a consequence of its lack of case endings for nouns. There are no special endings of noun in Chinese to indicate adjectives, adverbs and etc. like in English.

    Although Chinese is not the only language where the sentence words order is important, it is extremely important to take care of the right Chinese Sentence order. A slight difference in the words order may result in a completely different sentence and meaning. For example:

    Some person/people have come


    lái rén Le


    The person/people (we expecting to) have come


    rén lái Le


    The meanings are different in the two sentences. Also, the Chinese sentence words order is very different from English, like this example:

    English: who are you?

    Chinese: 你是谁?(nǐ shì shéi?


    So a word-by-word translation from English to Chinese would result in meaningless sentences in Chinese. There is no way to make sense of the Chinese words order from English. The aim of this article is to explain clearly and intuitively the rules of the Chinese sentence structure and point out some important exceptions. Let’s take a look.


    The basic sentence pattern in Chinese is similar to English and it follows this:

    Subject + Verb + Object (S-V-O)


    Here is an example of what this would look like:

    He read Chinese book.

    他        看               中文书

    tā       kàn         zhōng wén shū

    S          V                    O


    If there is also an indirect object, it always precedes the direct object. It will look like this structure followed by good sentence examples.

    Subject + Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object (S-V-O-O)

    He bought me a dog.

    他    给我         买了       一只狗

    tā    gěi wǒ    mǎi Le    yī zhī gǒu

    S        IO            V                O

    He smiled to me.

    他   对我       笑了       一笑

    tā   duì wǒ  xiào le    yī xiào

    S       IO           V             O

    He send me a book.

    他   送           我          

    tā   sòng       wǒ          yī běn shū

    S     V             IO                O  


    Differences from Chinese and English:

    The Location of Prepositions

    Now we will look into differences in the Chinese grammar compared to English. Prepositions (介词) are words that come before nouns and pronouns to expressing time, place, direction, objective, reason, means, dependence, passivity, comparison, etc. Common prepositions in Chinese are:


    在zài (in/on), 从còng (from),向xiàng(towards),跟gēn(with),往wǎng(to, towards),到dào (to a place, until a certain time),对duì(for),给gěi (to, for),对于duìyú(regarding ),关于guānyú(concerning ,about),把bǎ(to hold),被bèi(by),比bǐ(particle used for comparison ), 根据gēnjù (based on),为了wèile (in order to ),除了chúle (except for)……


    Preposition always occur right before the verb and its objects:

    Subject + preposition + verb + direct object


    Here are a couple examples of preposition in Chinese:

    Add milk to the flour.

    往               面粉里                 加             牛奶

    wǎng       miàn fěn lǐ           jiā            niú nǎi

    Prep.            Place                 V                O

    A flight from Beijing to Chengdu takes hours.

    从           北京        到           成都             坐飞机      要           个半小时

    Cóng   běi jīng    dào       chéng dū    zuòfēi jī   yào  liǎng gè bàn xiǎoshí                                            

    Prep     Place      Prep         Place          


    The Adverb Placement

    Adverbs (describes the verb) in Chinese typically occur at the beginning of the predicate before an adjective, verb and preposition. Here are examples of adverbs:

    只zhǐ(only),才cái (only ,only then),都dōu (all),肯定kěn dìng (sure), 一定yīdìng (surely, certainly), 很hěn (very),太tài (too much, very),够gòu(enough),非常fēicháng (extremely), 已经yǐjīng (already),经常jīng cháng(frequently), 将要jiāngyào(will, shall), 最后zuìhòu(finally),当初dāng chū(at that time / originally),可能kěnéng (maybe), 大概dàgài(approximate), 或许huòxǔ(perhaps , maybe),几乎jīhū(almost)

    Here are a few ways of how it would be used in Chinese:

    They all can speak Japanese.

    他们            都            会说             日语

    tāmen       dōu        huìshuō         rì yǔ

    S                 Adv           V                   O

    That tall man goes away in a hurry.

    那个很高的男人                          匆匆地                     走了

    nàgè hěn gāo de nán rén        cōng cōng de           zǒu Le

    S                                                      Adv                            V

    He likes the cat very much.

    他      非常             喜欢             猫。      

    Tā    fēicháng    xǐhuān        māo.  

    S         Adv               V                 O


    The Location Word

    The location word almost always occurs before the verb in Chinese. There are exceptions we will discuss them in a next lesson. Here is the structure frame and an example of how it is used.

    Subject + location + verb


    I work in Beijing.

    我     在           北京             工作

    wǒ    zài        běi jīng      gōng zuò

    S      prep       place               V


    If the description of the place contents several places, then the order in Chinese is always from the biggest place to the smallest. It would look like the following sequence.


    China,                      Beijing University,        Department of Mathematic

    中国                                北京 大学                          数学

    zhōng guó                 běi jīng dà xué                   shù xué xì

    the biggest place      smaller place                the smallest place

    The Placement of ‘time when&#;

    Unlike English, a word that indicates the ‘time when’ a situation in Chinese is placed at the beginning of the predicate.

    Subject + time when + predicate


    For a few examples:

    I had a dinner yesterday.

    我      昨天                 吃了晚饭

    wǒ   zuótiān           chīle wǎn fàn

    S      time when            predicate

    I will go to Shanghai tomorrow.

    我         明天         要去上海。

    Wǒ   míngtiān     yào qù shànghǎi.

    S     time when      predicate

    I will send it via email this afternoon.

    我          今天下午             用电邮发。

    Wǒ       jīntiān xiàwǔ       yóng  diànyóu fā.

    S          time when            predicate


    With time and location, which comes first?

    When a sentence includes both a ‘time when’ and a location, ‘time when’ generally occurs before location. Both of them will come before the verb in the sentence frame like the examples given.

    Subject + time when + location + verb


    I swim in swimming pool every day.

    我       每天         在              游泳池                  游泳                                                     

    wǒ   měi tiān    zài           yóu yǒng chí        yóuyǒng

    S     Time         Prep          Place                         V

    I eat in the cafeteria at school every day.

    我      天        在         堂              吃饭

    wǒ   měi tiān    zài     xué xiào shí tang     chīfàn

    S         Time                    Place                           V


    The Time Duration Words

    Duration of time word indicates the length of time that an action occurs. Time duration directly follow the verb. Unlike English no preposition is associated with it. See the following structure and examples

    Subject + verb + time duration


    I slept two hours yesterday afternoon.

    我          昨天下午                睡了    两个小时。

    wǒ     zuótiān xià wǔ     shuìle    liǎng gè xiǎo shí

    S           Time                        V          time duretion


    I run every day.

    我       每天             跑步

    wǒ     měitiān      pǎobù   

    S        Time            V

    Yesterday I bought several books                         

    昨天             我           买了       几本书。

    zuótiān      wǒ          mǎile      jǐběnshū

    Time              S               V            O


    In summary, The Chinese sentence structure is as follows:

    Subject + time preposition + Time + location preposition + Location (from the biggest to the smallest) + how (can be adverb or a phrase containing a preposition.) + Verb + time duration + indirect object + Object

    Here are some tips you can follow to better remember the sentence structure.

    1. The subject can be located after the time.
    2. Sometime the duration of time word is an adverb phrase, which describes a verb or an adjective phrase describing a noun. In this case it is located before the verb (or noun) and not after it. Pay attention not to let it confuse you. (Look at examples)

    Since coming to China, I learnt Chinese very hard for three hours every day with my sister in Beijing University.


    Time                    S                      Location   Adv.V.    O                 

    zì cóng lái dào zhōng guó,wǒ hé mèi mei měi tiān zài běi jīng dà xué   nǔ lì xué xí sān gè xiǎo shí de zhōng wén

    My dog lies in the couch of living room all day.

    我的狗             整天       在客厅的沙发上             躺着       睡懒觉。

    S                     Time          Location                       How          V

    wǒ de gǒu zhěng tiān zài kè tīng lǐ de shā fā shàng tǎng zhe      shuì lǎn jiào

    Important Exceptions in the Chinese sentence order

    As we know the basic Chinese sentence order is: Subject + Time (when) + Place + verb. There are some special verbs, which seem to be allowed to break the rules. These verbs are put before the place and not after it as usual. For these verbs we have the structure:

    Subject + Time (when) + verb + Place      


    Which verbs are breaking the rules? There are two kinds of these verbs:

    1. Verbs implying movement or location:

    住(zhù/live), 放 (fàng/put), 坐 (zuò/sit), 站 (zhàn/stand),走 (zǒu/walk),去 (qù/go),达到 (dá dào/arrive),来 (lái/come),飞 (fēi/fly),扔 (rēng/throw),待 (dāi/stay), etc.


    1. Verbs that express variability from one situation to another in this place:

    结 (jiē/ bear fruit ),积累/积 (jī lěi / accumulate) , 生长 (shēng zhǎng/ grow ),烹饪(pēng rèn/cooking), etc.


    Here are several exception examples:

    The food is put in the stove

    食物放在炉子上 (type 2)

    (shí wù fàng zài lú zi shàng)

    Banana grow on the tree.

    香蕉结在树上 (type 2)

    (xiāng jiāo jiē zài shù shàng)

    Don&#;t throw on the ground.

    不要扔在地上 (type 1)

    (bú yào rēng zài di shàng)

    Kids always like sitting on the ground.

    孩子 总是 喜欢 上 (type 1)

    (hái zi zǒng shì xǐ huan zuò zài dì shàng)


    This may be a lot of information to take in and may be overwhelming but don&#;t fret. If you continue to listen and read as much real Chinese as you can, it will let you get a natural feel for these exceptions and put them before the place word naturally. These verbs can be also used in the normal order (after the place) in case we want to emphasize the place. For example:

    I live in US


    (wǒ zài měi guó zhù) (not in china).


    Chinese grammar is not difficult; I believe learning the grammar of any language is usually done by repetition. However I still want to suggest a way to make the use of the correct sentence words order easier for Dig Mandarin audiences. Take an easy Chinese sentence, which still contains most of the sentence grammatical words (like subject, object, verb, prepositions and etc.) and say it to yourself for some days until you will be able to recite it fluently. Then, whenever you need to compose a sentence in Chinese only check the situation in this sentence frame.


    I can also promise you this: as you progress in Chinese, you will feel you are grasping the sense of the language. The more you listen to Chinese speaking (don&#;t give up if you don&#;t understand every sentence) the more you will get an understanding of the language. Then you will not need to recite the grammar anymore and instead know it by your inner feeling and intuition. You will notice that your mistakes are less and less without thinking. So listen to Chinese as much as you can. You will then see miracles!


    Orna Taub

    Orna Taub

    Orna Taub was born in Haifa, Israel in to a happy family with a twin sister. After the army service she studied pure mathematics in the Technion in Haifa. After receiving the MS.c she studied four years Chinese medicine and some subjects in alternative medicine. She worked in her own clinic for several years. In a certain point she started to feel an unexplained very strong attraction to China and as a result started to learn mandarin by her own. This strong feeling towards China only gets stronger and she uses every opportunity to base and deepen her knowledge and mastery in the Chinese language, history, culture and life. the Chinese language is her main hobby and occupation and recently she decided to share her knowledge in insights with other students and wrote some textbook for students.

    The Guide to Chinese Sentence Structure (Chinese Word Order) - Chinese Grammar

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    Beginner-Friendly Grammar Points

    A1 grammar points: Our list is designed especially for beginners, all difficult vocabulary and grammar banished to the later levels. Easy examples, each one with pinyin. Try clicking on one of the images below:

    See the full list of 40 A1 grammar points

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    A2 grammar points: So you've learned some basic grammar, but still need pinyin and want to build a stronger foundation? You've come to the right place! Check out some of the following pages:

    See the full list of 99 A2 grammar points

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    B1 grammar points: For when you're ready to really consolidate your grammar knowledge and fill in the gaps, but really don't want to slog through a grammar textbook. Our self-contained grammar points give you just the right amount to work on.

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    B2 grammar points: These aren't easy, and often involve more formal language or finer points of the more basic grammar points. It's getting hard to find explanations that really address your needs, but this is one place you can find them!

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    Try it out with this: 你 会 中文 吗 ?

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    Need Help with Chinese Word Order?

    There's a lot of confusion out there about how similar Chinese word order and English worder really are. This video will set you straight:

    For more details, please read our A1 article on basic sentence order.

    Chinese Keywords

    Certain Chinese words appear in lots of different grammar points. Get clear on how these words work in different ways by examining the keyword pages. Here are some examples to get you started:

    There are about Chinese keywords in the full list. Check it out.

    English Translations

    Sometimes it's useful to start with English words and look at the different ways those English words can be translated into Chinese. Here are some English words worth a closer look in translation:

    There are about English translation words in the full list. Check it out.

    We've Got Your Textbooks and Grammar Books Covered

    It's not yet time to throw out those textbooks! We all use the internet for everything now, but we see also the value in textbook grammar explanations and exercises, and are doing our best to link textbooks to our own Chinese Grammar Wiki content. To see how it works, click on one of the book covers below or try finding your own textbook in our list, and then seeing what it links to.

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    List structures chinese grammar

    Complete Guide to Basic Chinese Grammar & Sentence Structures

    Basic Chinese Grammar and Sentence Structures // The Complete Guide

    Basic Chinese Grammar is not hard &#; honestly!

    In fact, all Chinese grammar is quite easy to get your head around once you have the basics nailed.

    We&#;ll prove this to you right now with a rundown of all the key Chinese grammar pointers you need to know.

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#; Subject + Verb Sentence

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;Subject + Verb + Object Sentence

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;The 是 (shì) Sentence

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;The 有 (yǒu) Sentence

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;The 吗 (ma) Question?

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;Expressing “and” with 和 (hé)

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;Expressing Existence with 在 (zài)

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;Basic Negative Form of Verbs

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;Questions with Question Words?

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;The 把 (bǎ) Sentence

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;Expressing Experience with 过 (guò)

    BONUS &#; Free Quickfire Grammar Quiz

    Basic Chinese Grammar &#;FAQs

    PSST &#; If you want an even more in depth look into Grammar check out our Chinese Grammar Bank here. We are adding new articles all the time so you have a one stop place to understand every bit of grammar in Mandarin

    1. Subject + Verb Sentence

    So for our first basic Chinese grammar point, we&#;re going to show you the simplest sentence structure in the Chinese language.

    You can form very simple sentences with just two words, a subject + verb. For example:

    • 我忙 (wǒ máng): I&#;m busy.

    我 (wǒ) means &#;I&#; (or in some cases &#;me&#;). 忙 (máng) means &#;busy&#;. Simple!

    • 我累 (wǒ lèi): I&#;m tired.
    • 我要 (wǒ yào): I want.
    • 你吃 (nǐ chī): You eat.

    2. Subject + Verb + Object Sentence

    The next basic sentence structure of Mandarin Chinese is the same as in English: subject + verb + object.

    • 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ): I love you.
    • 我吃苹果 (wǒ chī píngguǒ): I eat apples.
    • 我们喜欢汉语 (wǒmen xǐhuān hànyǔ): We like Chinese.

    3. The 是 (shì) Sentence

    This is a sentence in which the main verb is (well, obviously) the verb “shi” (是), which is best translated as the verb &#;to be&#; or &#;is&#;.

    The sentence structure goes like this: subject + 是 (shì) + object.

    At beginner level, 是 (shì) is usually used to identify people or objects. The position of the subject and object cannot be reversed, so for example the following sentence is incorrect:

    学生是你。(The literal translation would be: &#;Student you are&#;.)

    The correct form of this sentence would be:
    你是学生 (nǐ shì xuéshēng): You are a student.

    Here are some other examples:

    • 老师 (wǒ shì lǎoshī): I am a teacher.
    • 演员 (tā shì yǎnyuán): She is an actor.
    • 电脑 (zhè shì diànnǎo): This is a computer.
    • 手机 (nà shì shǒujī): That is a phone.
    Body Parts in Chinese 👤 From Head to Toe Thumbnail

    Body Parts in Chinese 👤 From Head to Toe

    Identifying and naming correctly the parts of the body in Mandarin can come in handy when seeing the doctor, playing sports, going clothes shopping, and more.

    4. The 有 (yǒu) Sentence

    Another sentence structure common in Chinese is one where the main verb is 有 (yǒu). It means &#;to have&#; or &#;to possess&#;. For instance:

    • 铅笔 (tā yǒu qiānbǐ): He has pencils.
    • 中饭 (wǒ yǒu zhōngfàn): I have lunch.
    • 生病 (wǒ yǒu shēngbìng): I am sick.

    Notice how the last sentence (&#;I am sick&#;) is different from the rest. With 有, you can use nouns and adjectives as well.

    The 有 sentence can also be used to express existence. In this case, it is similar to the expression &#;there is/there are&#; in the English language, when meaning that something &#;exists&#; at a certain place.

    This can sometimes be confusing to learners of Chinese language (but also to Chinese people learning English, who tend to literally translate such sentences into English). Let&#;s take the next sentence as an example:

    • 我家五口人 (wǒ jiā yǒu wǔ kǒu rén): There are five people in my family (literally: my family has five people).

    In this example, the sentence would be translated with the &#;there is/there are&#; expression and not as &#;my family has five people&#;, since the verb 有 has a different meaning here.

    Note: 有 is the equivalent of the English verb “to have”. The 有 verb does not, however, change in any way to indicate subject or tense.

    75 Useful Academic Vocabulary 🎓 Let&#;s Go back to School in Chinese Thumbnail

    75 Useful Academic Vocabulary 🎓 Let&#;s Go back to School in Chinese

    Thinking of coming to learn Chinese? Good! As a present, we are getting you ahead of the rest with our hugely useful set of Chinese school vocabulary.

    5. The 吗 (ma) Question?

    Asking a 吗 (ma) question is similar to asking a yes or no question in English.

    To make a 吗 question, we simply add the particle 吗 at the end of the statement. This means that any statement can be turned into a question. Let&#;s look at a simple sentence, such as: “You like coffee.” (Who doesn&#;t?!)

    你喜欢咖啡 (nǐ xǐhuān kāfēi): You like coffee.

    We simply turn it into a question by adding the particle 吗 (ma) at the end of the sentence.

    你喜欢咖啡吗? Nǐ xǐhuān kāfēi ma? Do you like coffee?

    Some more examples:

    StatementThe 吗 Question
    nǐ zài kànshū
    You are reading
    nǐ zài kànshū ma?
    Are you reading?
    tā zài xuéxí
    She is studying
    tā zài xuéxí ma?
    Is she studying?
    tā zài hē shuǐ
    He is drinking water
    tā zài hē shuǐ ma?
    Is he drinking water?

    For some more top tips on how to order a coffee, check out our blog.

    But back to the grammar. It is important to note that we cannot add the 吗 particle at the end of a sentence that is already a question. For example:

    • 你是谁? is already a question asking, &#;Who are you?&#;
    • 你是谁吗?Nǐ shì shéi ma? Who are you &#;ma&#;? Doesn&#;t really make sense. It&#;s already a question without the &#;ma&#; particle.

    To answer a 吗 (ma) question, one can give either an affirmative or negative answer.

    In English, the word order and format of a &#;yes/no&#; question may change depending on a subject, tense and verb forms. But in Chinese, the form of the 吗 question never changes.

    Pro tip &#; also, be careful with the use of the verbs 是 (shì) and 有 (yǒu), which we mentioned earlier.

    The questions that contain the verb 是 (shì) should be answered with 是 (shì, affirmative) or 不是 (bú shì, negative) and those that contain 有 (yǒu) should be answered with 有 (yǒu, affirmative) or 没有 (méi yǒu, negative).

    The question can also be affirmatively answered with 对 (duì).

    The Complete Guide on How to Learn Chinese (in ) 🏆 13 Tips For Success Thumbnail

    The Complete Guide on How to Learn Chinese (in ) 🏆 13 Tips For Success

    How to Learn Chinese? For a native English speaker, Chinese is an intimidating language! But it needn&#;t be as hard as you think if you follow these tips.

    6. Expressing &#;and&#; with 和 (hé)

    The character 和 (hé) is the most common way to express &#;and&#; in Chinese. But be careful! It is only used to link nouns. So don&#;t use it to link verse, adjectives or subordinate clauses.

    The structure is the following: noun 1 + 和 (hé) + noun 2

    • 我 (nǐ wǒ): You and I.
    • 我有一只猫一只狗 (Wǒ yǒuyī zhǐ māo yī zhǐ gǒu): I have a cat and a dog.
    • 我的爷爷奶奶都70岁了 (Wǒ de yéye nǎinai dōu qīshí suì le): My grandpa and grandma are both 70 years old.

    7. Expressing Existence with 在 (zài)

    The verb 在 (zài) can be used to express &#;existence in a place&#;. This is similar to English in which we use &#;to be at&#; or &#;to be in&#; to express the same.

    The structure is the following: subject +在 (zài) + place

    Let&#;s look at the following examples.

    • 上海。Wǒ zài Shànghǎi. I am in Shanghai.
    • 他们英国。Tāmen zài Yīngguó. They are in England.

    What do we see in these examples? Although it can be tempting to use a verb here, there&#;s no need for it. In fact, using a verb here would be grammatically incorrect. Here, 在 functions as a verb, so there is no need for 是 (shì) or 有 (yǒu) or any other verb.

    在 can also be used as a preposition or adverb.

    • 学中文。Wǒ zài xué zhōngwén. I am learning Chinese.
    • 游泳。Nǐ zài yóuyǒng. You are swimming.
    • 买菜。Tā zài mǎi cài. He is buying groceries.

    8. Basic Negative Form of Verbs

    sentence structures in chinese

    In Chinese, there are basically two adverbs used for negation: 不 (bù) and 没/有 (méi/yǒu). Both are placed before the verb in a sentence.

    Note that 是 (shì) cannot be negated with 没/有 (méi/yǒu), and 有 (yǒu) cannot be negated with 不 (bù).

    不 (bù) is used to negate an action done at the present:

    • 我今天不学中文。Wǒ jīntiān bù xué Zhōngwén. I am not studying Chinese today.
    • 我今天不去了。Wǒ jīntiān bù qùle. I won&#;t go today.

    It can also be used to negate an action in the future:

    • 明年我不去中国。Míngnián wǒ bù qù Zhōngguó. I won&#;t go to China next year.
    • 我明天不上学。Wǒ míngtiān bù shàngxué. I will not go to school tomorrow.

    Or for a habitual action:

    • 周末我不看书。 Zhōumò wǒ bù kànshū. I don’t read books on the weekend.
    • 我通常不唱歌。Wǒ tōngcháng bù chànggē. I don&#;t usually sing.

    没 (méi) is used to negate 有 (yǒu) — 没有 (méiyǒu) — and means that one “does not have”. The negative form of 有 (yǒu) is always 没有 (méiyǒu), never 不有 (bùyǒu).

    • 我没有中国朋友。Wǒ méiyǒu Zhòng uó péngyǒu. I don&#;t have Chinese friends.
    • 我的卡里没有钱。Wǒ de kǎ lǐ méiyǒu qián. My card does not have money.

    WANT MORE? We&#;ve prepared a more in depth post about negation in Mandarin here.

    How Hard Is It To Learn Mandarin - Not At All! Thumbnail

    How Hard Is It To Learn Mandarin &#; Not At All!

    How Hard Is It To Learn Mandarin? Reasons Why It Isn&#;t As Tough As You Think &#;OMG, how hard is it to learn Mandarin?&#;&#;Wow, you are learning Chinese, that&#;s amazing, Chinese is soooooo hard.&#;&#;Ugh, I could never learn Chinese grammar,&#;

    9. Questions with Question Words?

    First things first, let’s look at some of the most common question words in Chinese. Look closely at this list, it will come in handy often!

    • (shéi): who
    • 什么 (shén me): what
    • 哪里 (nǎ lǐ): where*
    • 哪个 (nǎ ge): which
    • 什么时候 (shén me shí hou): when
    • 为什么 (wèi shén me): why
    • 怎么 (zěn me): how
    • 多少 (duō shǎo): how many
    • (jǐ): how many (any number under ten)

    *Note: 哪里 (nǎ lǐ) is different from 那里 (nà lǐ).

    Alone, 哪里 (nǎ lǐ) is a question — 哪里? Where? 我的笔在那里?Where is my pencil?

    那里 (nà lǐ) is a statement saying something is there. Where is my pencil? 那里。There. 你的笔在那里。Your pencil is there.

    Now, let’s talk about the most common structure of questions which use question words.

    questions in chinese

    The question word is placed in relation to (meaning, in the position of) the word you’re asking about. Here are some of the most common sentence structures:

    Question word + verb + (object)

    • 谁教你中文?Shéi jiào nǐ zhōngwén? Who teaches you Chinese?
    • 什么东西到了? Shénme dōngxī dàole? What thing arrived?

    Subject + verb + question word

    • 你去全家买了什么?Nǐ qù quánjiā mǎile shénme? What did you buy at FamilyMart?
    • 我的铅笔在哪里?Wǒ de qiānbǐ zài nǎlǐ? Where is my pencil?

    Question word + subject + verb + (object)

    • 多少人要参加明天的会?Duōshǎo rén yào cānjiā míngtiān de huì? How many people will attend tomorrow&#;s meeting?
    • 为什么天是蓝色的?Wèishéme tiān shì lánsè de? Why is the sky blue?

    Subject + verb + question word + (object)

    • 你昨晚吃了什么?Nǐ zuówǎn chīle shénme? What did you eat last night?
    • 这双鞋是谁的?Zhè shuāng xié shì shéi de? Whose shoes are those?

    As you can see, the sentence structure of a question is the same as a statement. The main difference is that a question has the addition of question words to make it a question. This is different from English, where questions and statements have very different sentence structures.

    Keep the last section in mind! The particle 吗 (ma) cannot be used in questions with question words, because 吗 (ma) is a question word itself.

    WANT MORE &#; We&#;ve prepared a more in depth post about all the key questions in Chinese here.

    10. The 把 (bǎ) Sentence

    The 把 (bǎ) sentence is a useful structure for making longer sentences. The focus of the 把 (bǎ) sentence is on the action and its object.

    This is a really common sentence pattern in Chinese, but can (at least at first) feel a bit weird for English speakers.

    A basic sentence in Chinese is formed with a subject-verb-object (SVO) word order, as in English:

    2-on-1 Chinese Class

    Subject + [verb phrase] + object

    In a 把 (bǎ) sentence, things are changed and the structure goes like this:

    Subject + 把 (bǎ) + object + [verb phrase]

    We can see now that theobject has moved, it is preceded by the 把 (bǎ) and the word order is now in fact an SOV word order.

    So, why use this sentence which is somewhat weird (well, at least weird for English speakers)?

    Though you may think you&#;ll never need the 把 (bǎ) sentence, they&#;re quite convenient. Let&#;s look at the following example:

    • 把书放在桌子上 。Bǎ shū fàngzài zhuōzi shàng. Put the book on the table.

    How would you say this without the 把 (bǎ) construction? You might try this: 书放在桌子上 (Shū fàng zài zhuōzi shàng.)

    While this sentence is grammatically correct, the meaning may change. 书放在桌子上 (without 把, bǎ) can mean the same thing, but it could also mean &#;The book is on the table&#;. It is the answer to two questions: (1) where should I put the book?, and (2) where is the book?

    The 把 (bǎ) sentence is clearer. 书放在桌子上 is a command; you are telling someone to put the book on the table. There is less room for confusion.

    Here&#;s another example of a 把 (bǎ) sentence.

    • 她把我的手机放在她的包里了。Tā bǎ wǒde shǒujī fàngzài tāde bāo lǐ le. She put my phone in her bag.

    In the 把 (bǎ) sentence, we put emphasis on the object and what happens to it. This is something that is useful to remember if you don&#;t know when to use this sentence structure.

    Expressing Experience with 过 (guò)

    The particle 过 (guò) is used to express that an action has been experienced in the past. The basic structure is formed so that you just place it after the verb: Subject + verb + 过. The particle &#;guo&#; can also take on an object.

    How to Learn Chinese? Don&#;t STOP Speaking!
    • 我试过。Wǒ shì guò. I&#;ve tried that before.
    • 我喝过。Wǒ hē guò. I&#;ve drank that before.
    • 我弄过。Wǒ nòng guò. I&#;ve done that before.

    The usual sentence structure with an object is the following: Subject + verb +过 (guò) + object.

    This 过 (guò) expression is used to talk about if something has ever happened. In that respect it is similar to the present perfect tense in English and how it is used to express past experiences.

    It is useful to think about how in English, you would say &#;I have been to London&#; or &#;I have travelled to Shanghai&#; to express past experience.

    过 (guò) is used in the same manner in Chinese.

    • 我也吃日本菜。 Wǒ yě chī guò Rìběn cài. I&#;ve also eaten Japanese food.
    • 你看过这部电影吗? Nǐ kàn guò zhè bù diànyǐng ma? Have you watched this movie?
    • 我去过加拿大。Wǒ qù guò Jiā&#;nádà. I&#;ve been to Canada.

    We form the negative sentence using 没 (méi) and the structure is the following: Subject + 没 (méi)+ verb + 过 (guò)+ object.

    You can also use 没有 (méiyǒu) for emphasis.

    • 他没坐过飞机。Tā méi zuò guò fēijī. He has never flown in a plane.
    • 我没学过西班牙语。Wǒ méi xué guò Xībānyáyǔ. I&#;ve never learned Spanish.
    • 你没来过我的家。Nǐ méi lái guò wǒ de jiā. You&#;ve never been to my house before.

    Asking questions with 过 (guò)

    A few of the example sentences above were questions, but you might like to see a couple more ways you can ask questions with 过 (guò).

    The following sentences are the same question structured in different ways, all grammatically correct. They&#;re asking, &#;Have you been to Japan?&#;

    • 你去日本吗?Nǐ qù guò Rìběn ma?
    • 你有没有去日本?Nǐ yǒu méi yǒu qù guò Rìběn?
    • 你去日本没有?Nǐ qù guò Rìběn méiyǒu?

    This is a similar question: 你没去日本?Nǐ méi qù guò Rìběn? You&#;ve never been to Japan?

    Using 过 (guò) with 从来没有 (cónglái méiyǒu)

    Since 过 (guò) is used to talk about experience in the past, it can be combined with 从来没有 (cónglái méiyǒu) to express something that has never happened.

    Structure: Subject +从来没有 (cónglái méiyǒu) + verb + object

    • 从来没有日本?Nǐ cónglái méiyǒuguò Rìběn? Have you never been to Japan?
    • 从来没有这么多!Wǒ cónglái méiyǒu chī guò zhème duō! I&#;ve never eaten this much before!
    • 从来没有《冰雪奇缘》?Nǐ cónglái méiyǒu kàn guò “bīngxuě qí yuán”? You&#;ve never watched Frozen?

    We hope you found this post useful! Let us know if you want us to cover any other topic, grammatical or not!

    WANT MORE? We spent hours putting together these Free HSK Quizzes which are excellent are giving you a rough idea on your Chinese level. Come check them out.

    BONUS &#; Free Quickfire Grammar Quiz

    OK, so now you&#;ve got the basics nailed down it&#;s time to see how much you remember.

    To help you we&#;ve prepared a quick quiz which is only 15 questions long.

    Get your results instantly upon submission and see how well you did. Any questions, drop us a comment below!

    We hope it&#;s useful


    Time is Up!

    Basic Chinese Grammar — FAQ&#;s

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    Chinese Grammar: 80% of Chinese Sentences Follow This ONE Rule!

    It will only take 6 minutes to read this post!

    If you don&#;t have time to read this article now, just download your 18 Intermediate Chinese Sentence Patterns You Need to Learn PDF and read it later!

    I previously wrote an article that focused on sentence patterns for beginners, 10 Essential Chinese Sentence Patterns Every Beginner Should Know. Hopefully you’ve covered those 10 patterns, and it’s time to move on to more intermediate sentence patterns.

    1. 是……的(de) to emphasise

    是 (shì) can be omitted from the sentence. The phrase in between 是 (shì) and 的 (de) is the focus of emphasis.

    我(是)坐地铁来的 。(wǒ shì zuò dì tiě lái de) I’m taking the metro.

    我(是)跟朋友看电影。(wǒ shì gēn péng you kàn diàn yǐng) My friends and I saw the movie.

    2. 一边……一边 to indicate 2 actions occurring at the same time

    一边 (yī biān) is used before each verb phrase:

    Subject + 一边 + verb phrase + 一边 + verb phrase.

    我喜欢一边喝咖啡一边看书。(wǒ xǐ huan yī biān hē kā fēi yī biān kàn shū) I like to drink coffee and read a book.

    3.  又 to link adjectival verbs

    又 (yòu) can be used to indicate ‘both&#;and…’

    又 + adj+ 又 + adj

    这个酱汁又浓又香。(zhè ge jiàng zhī yòu nóng yòu xiāng) The sauce is both thick and rich.

    4. 越来越 to express change over time

    越来越 (yuè lái yuè) expresses a situation that becomes ‘more and more’ over time.

    subject + 越来越 + adj

    他越来越会说汉语了. (tā yuè lái yuè huì shuō hàn yǔ le) His Chinese is improving more and more.

    5. 几次 meaning ‘several times’

    几次 (jǐ cì) can be used to explain frequency amount, when used in a question, it’s becomes ‘home many times?’

    我访问了那个名人好几次。(wǒ fǎng wèn le nèi gè míng rén hǎo jǐ cì) I’ve interviewed this celebrity many times.

    你每个星期上运动几次?(nǐ měi gè xīng qī shàng yùn dòng jǐ cì) How many times a week do you workout?

    6. 得 to mark a complement

    得 (de) can be quite challenging to learn, as there is no English equivalent. Follow this sentence pattern to use the 得 (de) particle:

    adj / verb + 得

    她说得很好。(tā shuō de hén hǎo) She speaks well.

    他开得太快。(tā kāi de tài kuài) He drives too fast.

    You learn more about the other ‘de’ particles in our article, How to use the ‘de’ particles 的, 得 and 地 in Chinese.

    7. 会 to indicate ‘know how to’

    他会说汉语。(tā huì shuō hàn yǔ) He can speak Chinese.

    You can learn more about 会 (huì) and the other ways you can say ‘can’ in Chinese in our article, The 3 Cans: What’s the Difference Between 会, 可以 and 能?

    8. 离……远/近 to describe distance

    离 (lí) means ‘apart’ or ‘away from’. 远 (yuǎn) means ‘far’ and 近 (jìn) is ‘near’.

    Noun phrase + 离 + noun phrase + intensifier + 远/近

    图书馆离公园很近。 (tú shū guǎn lí gōng yuán hěn jìn) This library is close to the park.

    我家离我公司远。 (wǒ jiā lí wǒ gōng sī yuǎn) My home is far from my company.

    To talk about a specific distance use the following pattern:

    Noun phrase + 离 + noun phrase + 有 + distance

    学校离我家有四公里。 (xué xiào lí wǒ jiā yǒu sì gōng lǐ) The school is 4 miles from my home.

    9. 挺……的 to mean ‘quite’

    This is primarily used in spoken Chinese.

    挺 + adj + 的

    我家里挺小的。(wǒ jiā lǐ tǐng xiǎo de) My home is quite small.

     呢 particle

    呢 (ne) has two main uses: 1. To reply to a question, 2. To ask where’.

    你好吗?(ní hǎo ma) How’re you?

    很好。 你呢?(hén hǎo. Nǐ ne?) I’m great, you?

    The second use is the equivalent of ’在哪里‘ (zài nǎ lǐ) meaning ‘is where?’

    Thing + 呢?

    我眼镜呢?(wǒ yǎn jìng ne?) Where are my glasses?

    Learn about all the Chinese modal particles here.

     这么 meaning ’so’

    这么 (zhè me) can be used to express that something is ‘so’&#; or ‘so much’.

    这么+ adj

    这么贵!(zhè me guì) So expensive

    好 meaning ‘pleasant’

    When 好 (hǎo) is placed before a verb it forms an adjective meaning ‘pleasant’.

    好 + verb

    好看 (hǎo kàn) good-looking

    好喝 (hǎo hē) tastes good

    好吃 (hǎo chī) delicious

    好玩 (hǎo wán) interesting / fun

    比 to compare

    比 (bǐ) means ‘than’ and is used to compare differences.

    Noun phrase + 比 + noun phrase + adj

    他比我高。(tā bǐ wǒ gāo) He is taller than me.

    我的身体比以前好了。(wǒ de shēn tǐ bǐ yǐ qián hǎo le) My health is better than before.

    You can learn more about comparing in our article, 比 bǐ and 没有 méi yǒu: Making Comparisons in Mandarin Chinese.


    Intensifiers are used before adjective and verbs to show emphasis.

    Intensifier + adj / v

    Examples of intensifiers:

    很 (hěn) - 很好 (hén hǎo) very good

    真 (zhēn) - 真好 (zhēn hǎo) good / great

    特别 (tè bié) - 特别好 (tè bié hǎo) especially good

    非常 (fēi cháng) - 非常好 (fēi cháng hǎo) pretty good

    太 (tài) -太好了 (tài hǎo le) very good

    最 (zuì) - 最好 (zuì hǎo) best

     更 meaning ‘more, even more’

    更 (gèng) can be used to make a comparison and comes before the adjective.

    更 + adj

    通过这篇报道,我对中国有了更多的了解。(tōng guò zhè piān bào dào, wǒ duì

    zhōng guó yǒu le gèng duō de liǎo jiě) According to this news report, I know more about China.

    半 meaning ‘half’

    半 (bàn) is used before the measure word 个 (gè) to say ‘half an hour’

    半个小时 (bàn ge xiǎo shí) half an hour

    When indicating x hours and a ‘half’, then place 半 (bàn) after 个 (gè).

    两个半小时。(liǎng gè bàn xiǎo shí) Two and a half hours.

    To show ‘half’ a minute, place 半 (bàn) before 分 or 秒

    半分钟 (bàn fēn zhōng) half a minute

    半秒钟 (bàn miǎo zhōng) half a second

    To indicate x minutes and a ‘half’ place 半 after the minute/second words.

    一分半 (yī fēn bàn) one minute and a half

    两秒半 (liǎng miǎo bàn) two and a half seconds

    最 shows the highest degree of something

    To express the highest degree, or superlative meaning use the intensifier, 最 (zuì) meaning ‘most’

    最 + adj

    他是我最喜欢的老师。(tā shì wǒ zuì xǐ huan de lǎo shī) He is my favourite teacher.

    就 meaning ‘just’

    就 (jiù) has many uses, and one is to indicate ‘just’ or ‘only’.

    我就一个杯子。(wǒ jiù yī gè bēi zi) I only have 1 cup.

    If you have any questions or comments please leave them below!

    Tags: grammar, intermediate, particles

    About Hollie

    Hollie has been part of the Written Chinese team since July and is the British half of the Two White Chicks in China podcast. She loves vintage inspired fashion, crime dramas and Taobao!

    View all posts by Hollie


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    Chinese grammar

    This article concerns Modern Standard Chinese. For the grammars of other forms or varieties of Chinese, see their respective articles via links on Chinese language and varieties of Chinese.

    Chinese text in the body of this article is written in the format Pinyin, (Simplified Chinese; Traditional Chinese). Chinese text on its own line will be written in the format [Traditional Chinese].

    Grammar of modern Standard Mandarin

    meaning "Chinese grammar", written vertically in simplified(left) and traditional(right) Chinese characters

    The grammar of Standard Chinese or Mandarin shares many features with other varieties of Chinese. The language almost entirely lacks inflection and so words typically have only one grammatical form. Categories such as number (singular or plural) and verb tense are frequently not expressed by any grammatical means, but there are several particles that serve to express verbal aspect and, to some extent, mood.

    The basic word order is subject–verb–object (SVO), as in English. Otherwise, Chinese is chiefly a head-final language,[citation needed] meaning that modifiers precede the words that they modify. In a noun phrase, for example, the head noun comes last, and all modifiers, including relative clauses, come in front of it. This phenomenon is more typically found in subject–object–verb languages, such as Turkish and Japanese.

    Chinese frequently uses serial verb constructions, which involve two or more verbs or verb phrases in sequence. Chinese prepositions behave similarly to serialized verbs in some respects,[a] and they are often referred to as coverbs. There are also location markers, which are placed after a noun and so are often called postpositions; they are often used in combination with a coverb. Predicate adjectives are normally used without a copular verb ("to be") and so can be regarded as a type of verb.

    As in many other East Asian languages, classifiers or measure words are required when numerals and sometimes other words, such as demonstratives, are used with nouns. There are many different classifiers in the language, and each countable noun generally has a particular classifier associated with it. Informally, however, it is often acceptable to use the general classifier ge (simplified Chinese: 个; traditional Chinese: 個) in place of other specific classifiers.

    Word formation[edit]

    In Chinese, the concept of words and the boundaries between them is not always transparent,[b] and the Chinese script does not use spaces between words. Grammatically, some strings of characters behave as single words in some contexts, but are separable in others. Many English intransitive verbs are translated by verb+noun compounds, such as tiàowǔ (跳舞 literally "to jump a dance", meaning "to dance"); such items may be regarded as single lexical words, although the two parts can become separated by (for example) aspect markers, and in fact they generally behave grammatically as a verb plus an object. Sometimes the behavior of such compounds is anomalous, however; for instance guānxīn (关心; 關心, "to be concerned about") behaves as an inseparable word when the perfective particle le is attached, although it is separable in the phrase guān shénme xīn (关什么心; 關什麼心, literally "concern what about", meaning "to be concerned about what").

    Chinese morphemes, or minimum units of meaning, are mostly monosyllabic. Syllables, and thus in most cases morphemes, are represented as a rule by single characters. Some words consist of single syllables, but many words are formed by compounding two or more monosyllabic morphemes. These may be either free or bound – that is, they may or may not also be able to stand independently. Most two-syllable compound nouns have the head on the right, while in compound verbs the head is usually on the left.Loanwords from other languages may be polysyllabic; they are usually written using selected pre-existing characters that have the right phonetic values, for example, shāfā (沙发; 沙發, "sofa") is written with the charactersshā (沙, originally "sand") and (发; 發, originally "to send/to issue"). Native disyllabic morphemes such as zhīzhū (蜘蛛, "spider") have consonant alliteration.

    Many monosyllabic words have alternative disyllabic forms with virtually the same meaning, such as dàsuàn (大蒜, literally "big garlic") for suàn (蒜, "garlic"). Many disyllabic nouns are produced by adding the suffix zi (子, originally meaning "child") to a monosyllabic word or morpheme. There is a strong tendency for monosyllables to be avoided in certain positions; for example, a disyllabic verb will not normally be followed by a monosyllabic object. This may be connected with the preferred metrical structure of the language.


    A common feature in Chinese is reduplication, where a syllable or word is repeated to produce a modified meaning. This can happen with:

    • classifiers, to produce a phrase meaning "all"; for example, zuòzuò shān (座座山, "all the mountains"), where ordinarily zuò is the classifier used in a phrase denoting a specific number of mountains
    • syllables in some informal words denoting family relations, for example māma (妈妈; 媽媽, "mother"), dìdi (弟弟, "younger brother")
    • some adjectives, to add emphasis: hónghóng (红红; 紅紅 "so red"), from hóng (红; 紅, "red"). This is most common with monosyllabic adjectives, but can also occur with some disyllabic ones, in some cases on the pattern gāogāoxìngxìng (高高兴兴; 高高興興), from gāoxìng (高兴; 高興, "happy"); and in others on the pattern bīngliáng-bīngliáng (冰凉冰凉; 冰涼冰涼), from bīngliáng (冰凉; 冰涼, "ice-cool") [c][3]
    • many verbs, to mark the delimitative aspect ("to do something for a little bit") or for general emphasis – see the §&#;Aspects section
    • certain other single-syllable words and morphemes, as in xīngxīng (星星, "[distant] star, speck"), from xīng (星, "star"); chángcháng (常常, "often"); or gǒugǒu (狗狗, "puppy/doggy") where gǒu (狗) is "dog"
    • other adjectives have ABB reduplication structure. (香喷喷, "delicious"). (亮晶晶, "shining").


    • — "-able"
      • — "reliable"
      • — "respectable"
    • — "anti-"
      • [反恐] — "anti-terror"
      • [反墮胎] — "anti-abortion"


    • — "change"
      • [國際化] — "internationalise"
      • [惡化] — "worsen"
    • — "ability"
      • — "safety"
      • — "validity"


    • — "can" and — "cannot"
      • — "can understand"
      • — "cannot understand"

    Sentence structure[edit]

    Chinese, like English, is classified as an SVO (subject–verb–object) language. Transitive verbs precede their objects in typical simple clauses, while the subject precedes the verb. For example:

    他 喝 酒。

    tā hē jiǔ

    He drink alcohol

    He drinks alcohol.

    Chinese can also be considered a topic-prominent language: there is a strong preference for sentences that begin with the topic, usually "given" or "old" information; and end with the comment, or "new" information. Certain modifications of the basic subject–verb–object order are permissible and may serve to achieve topic-prominence. In particular, a direct or indirect object may be moved to the start of the clause to create topicalization. It is also possible for an object to be moved to a position in front of the verb for emphasis.

    Another type of sentence is what has been called an ergative structure, where the apparent subject of the verb can move to object position; the empty subject position is then often occupied by an expression of location. Compare locative inversion in English. This structure is typical of the verb yǒu (有, "there is/are"; in other contexts the same verb means "have"), but it can also be used with many other verbs, generally denoting position, appearance or disappearance. An example:

    [院子裡停著車。/ 院子裏停着車。]



    院子 里 停着 车。

    yuànzi lǐ tíngzhe chē

    Courtyard in park vehicle

    In the courtyard is parked a vehicle.

    Chinese is also to some degree a pro-drop or null-subject language, meaning that the subject can be omitted from a clause if it can be inferred from the context. In the following example, the subject of the verbs for "hike" and "camp" is left to be inferred—it may be "we", "I", "you", "she", etc.




    今天 爬 山 明天 露 营。

    jīntiān pá shān míngtiān lù yíng

    Today climb mountain, tomorrow outdoors camp

    Today hike up mountains, tomorrow camp outdoors.

    In the next example the subject is omitted and the object is topicalized by being moved into subject position, to form a passive-type sentence. For passive sentences with a marker such as 被; bèi, see the passive section.




    饭 做 好 了。

    fàn zuò hǎo le

    Food make complete PFV

    The food has been made or the food is ready.

    Adverbs and adverbial phrases that modify the verb typically come after the subject but before the verb, although other positions are sometimes possible; see Adverbs and adverbials. For constructions that involve more than one verb or verb phrase in sequence, see Serial verb constructions. For sentences consisting of more than one clause, see Conjunctions.


    Some verbs can take both an indirect object and a direct object. Indirect normally precedes direct, as in English:




    我 给 了 她 六 本 书。

    wǒ gěi le tā liù běn shū

    I give PFV her six book-CL books

    I gave her six books.

    With many verbs, however, the indirect object may alternatively be preceded by prepositionalgěi (给; 給); in that case it may either precede or follow the direct object. (Compare the similar use of to or for in English.)

    In certain situations a direct object may be preceded by the accusative marker (把). This generally denotes an action that results in a change of state in the object. For further details of this, see the construction section. Such a phrase no longer occupies the normal direct object position, but moves in front of the verb. Compare:




    我 打 坏 了 盘子。

    wǒ dǎ huài le pánzi

    I [verb-form] break PFV plate

    I broke a plate.




    盘子 打 坏 了。

    pánzi dǎ huài le

    I ba plate [verb-form] break PFV

    I ba plate broke.

    The meanings of the above two sentences are similar, but the one with may be considered to place more emphasis on what happened to the object. It may also indicate definiteness—"the plate" rather than "a plate". Certain other markers can be used in a similar way to , such as the formal jiāng (将; 將) and colloquial (拿).

    Some verbs can apparently take two direct objects, which may be called an "inner" and an "outer" object. These cannot both follow the verb – typically the outer object will be placed at the start of the sentence (topicalized) or introduced via the construction. For example:




    橘子 皮 剥 了。

    júzi pí bō le

    I ba tangerine skin peel PFV

    I peeled the tangerine.[d]

    Here (皮, "skin") is the inner object, and júzi (橘子, "tangerine") is introduced via the construction as the outer object.


    Chinese nouns and other parts of speech are not generally marked for number, meaning that plural forms are mostly the same as the singular. However, there is a plural marker men (们; 們), which has limited usage. It is used with personal pronouns, as in wǒmen (我们; 我們, "we" or "us"), derived from (我, "I, me"). It can be used with nouns representing humans, most commonly those with two syllables, like in péngyoumen (朋友们; 朋友們, "friends"), from péngyou (朋友, "friend"). Its use in such cases is optional. It is never used when the noun has indefinite reference, or when it is qualified by a numeral.

    The demonstrative pronouns zhè (这; 這, "this"), and (那, "that") may be optionally pluralized by the addition of xiē (些), making zhèxiē (这些; 這些, "these") and nàxiē (那些, "those").

    Noun phrases[edit]

    The head noun of a noun phrase comes at the end of the phrase; this means that everything that modifies the noun comes before it. This includes attributive adjectives, determiners, quantifiers, possessives, and relative clauses.

    Chinese does not have articles as such; a noun may stand alone to represent what in English would be expressed as "the " or "a[n] ". However the word (一, "one"), followed by the appropriate classifier, may be used in some cases where English would have "a" or "an". It is also possible, with many classifiers, to omit the and leave the classifier on its own at the start of the noun phrase.

    The demonstratives are zhè (这; 這, "this"), and (那, "that"). When used before a noun, these are often followed by an appropriate classifier (for discussion of classifiers, see Classifiers below and the article Chinese classifiers). However this use of classifiers is optional. When a noun is preceded by a numeral (or a demonstrative followed by a numeral), the use of a classifier or measure word is in most cases considered mandatory. (This does not apply to nouns that function as measure words themselves; this includes many units of measurement and currency.)

    The plural marker xiē (些, "some, several"; also used to pluralize demonstratives) is used without a classifier. However (几; 幾, "some, several, how many") takes a classifier.

    For adjectives in noun phrases, see the Adjectives section. For noun phrases with pronouns rather than nouns as the head, see the Pronouns section.

    Possessives are formed by adding de (的)—the same particle that is used after relative clauses and sometimes after adjectives—after the noun, noun phrase or pronoun that denotes the possessor.

    Relative clauses[edit]

    Chinese relative clauses, like other noun modifiers, precede the noun they modify. Like possessives and some adjectives, they are marked with the final particle de (的 ). A free relative clause is produced if the modified noun following the de is omitted. A relative clause usually comes after any determiner phrase, such as a numeral and classifier. For emphasis, it may come before the determiner phrase.

    There is usually no relative pronoun in the relative clause. Instead, a gap is left in subject or object position as appropriate. If there are two gaps—the additional gap being created by pro-dropping—ambiguity may arise. For example, chī de (吃的) may mean "[those] who eat" or "[that] which is eaten". When used alone, it usually means "things to eat".

    If the relative item is governed by a preposition in the relative clause, then it is denoted by a pronoun, e.g. tì tā (替他, "for him"), to explain "for whom". Otherwise the whole prepositional phrase is omitted, the preposition then being implicitly understood.

    For example sentences, see Relative clause → Mandarin.


    Main article: Chinese classifier

    See also: List of Chinese classifiers

    Chinese nouns require classifiers called liàngcí (量词; 量詞; 'measure words') in order to be counted. That is, when specifying the amount of a countable noun,[e] a classifier must be inserted which agrees with the noun. Hence one must say liǎng tóu niú (两头牛; 兩頭牛, "two head of cattle") for "two cows", with tóu being the measure word or classifier. This phenomenon is common in East Asian languages. In English, some words, as in the cited example of "cattle", are often paired with a noun used much like the Chinese measure word. Bottle in "two bottles of wine" or sheet in "three sheets of paper" are further examples. However, certain nouns representing units of measurement, time, or currency are themselves classifiers. These can therefore be counted directly.

    Classifiers are generally associated with certain groups of nouns related by meaning, such as tiáo (条; 條) for long, thin objects or animals, like ropes, snakes or fish; (把) for objects with handles, like knives or umbrellas; or zhāng (张; 張) for flat, sheet-like objects like photographs, or fur. While there are dozens of classifiers, which must be memorized individually for each noun, a majority of words use the general classifier (个; 個). Many nouns that are associated with other classifiers can also use if the speaker chooses. The classifiers for many nouns appear arbitrary. The word zhuōzi (桌子, "table") is a zhāng noun, probably because a table-top is sheet-like; while yǐzi (椅子, "chair") is a noun, likely because a chair is moved by lifting something like a handle. Dèngzi (凳子), another word for chair or stool, is a noun.

    Classifiers are also used optionally after demonstratives, and in certain other situations. See the Noun phrases section, and the article Chinese classifier.


    Main article: Chinese numerals


    Main article: Chinese pronouns

    The Chinese personal pronouns are (我, "I, me"), (你; 你/妳,[f] "you"), and (他/她/牠/它, "he; him/she; her/it (animals)/it (inanimate objects)". Plurals are formed by adding men (们; 們): wǒmen (我们; 我們, "we, us"), nǐmen (你们; 你們, "you"), tāmen (他们/她们/它们/它们; 他們/她們/牠們/它們, "they/them"). There is also nín (您), a formal, polite word for singular "you". The alternative "inclusive" word for "we/us"—zán (咱) or zá[n]men (咱们; 咱們), referring specifically to the two people "you and I"—is not widely used. The third-person pronouns are not often used for inanimates, with demonstratives used instead.

    Possessives are formed with de (的), such as wǒde (我的, "my, mine"), wǒmende (我们的; 我們的, "our[s]"), etc. The de may be omitted in phrases denoting inalienable possession, such as wǒ māma (我妈妈; 我媽媽, "my mom").

    The demonstrative pronouns are zhè (这; 這, "this", colloquially pronounced zhèi) and (那, "that", colloquially pronounced nèi). They are optionally pluralized by the addition of xiē (些). There is a reflexive pronounzìjǐ (自己) meaning "oneself, myself, etc.", which can stand alone as an object or a possessive, or may follow a personal pronoun for emphasis. The reciprocal pronoun "each other" can be translated from bǐcǐ (彼此), usually in adverb position. An alternative is hùxiāng (互相, "mutually").


    Main article: Chinese adjectives

    Adjectives can be used attributively, before a noun. The relative marker de (的)[g] may be added after the adjective, but this is not always required; "black horse" may be either hēi mǎ (黑马; 黑馬) or hēi de mǎ (黑的马; 黑的馬). When multiple adjectives are used, the order "quality/size – shape – color" is followed, although this is not necessary when each adjective is made into a separate phrase with the addition of de.

    Gradable adjectives can be modified by words meaning "very", etc.; such modifying adverbs normally precede the adjective, although some, such as jíle (极了; 極了, "extremely"), come after it.

    When adjectives co-occur with classifiers, they normally follow the classifier. However, with most common classifiers, when the number is "one", it is also possible to place adjectives like "big" and "small" before the classifier for emphasis. For example yí dà ge xīguā (一大个西瓜; 一大個西瓜, "one big [classifier] watermelon").

    Adjectives can also be used predicatively. In this case they behave more like verbs; there is no need for a copular verb in sentences like "he is happy" in Chinese; one may say simply tā gāoxìng (他高兴; 他高興, "he happy"), where the adjective may be interpreted as a verb meaning "is happy". In such sentences it is common for the adjective to be modified by a word meaning "very" or the like; in fact the word hěn (很 , "very") is often used in such cases with gradable adjectives, even without carrying the meaning of "very".

    It is nonetheless possible for a copula to be used in such sentences, to emphasize the adjective. In the phrase tā shì gāoxìng le, (他是高兴了; 他是高興了, "he is now truly happy"), shì is the copula meaning "is", and le is the inceptive marker discussed later. This is similar to the cleft sentence construction. Sentences can also be formed in which an adjective followed by de (的) stands as the complement of the copula.

    Adverbs and adverbials[edit]

    Adverbs and adverbial phrases normally come in a position before the verb, but after the subject of the verb. In sentences with auxiliary verbs, the adverb usually precedes the auxiliary verb as well as the main verb. Some adverbs of time and attitude ("every day", "perhaps", etc.) may be moved to the start of the clause, to modify the clause as a whole. However, some adverbs cannot be moved in this way. These include three words for "often", cháng (常), chángcháng (常常) and jīngcháng (经常; 經常); dōu (都, "all"); jiù (就, "then"); and yòu (又, "again").

    Adverbs of manner can be formed from adjectives using the clitic de (地).[h] It is generally possible to move these adverbs to the start of the clause, although in some cases this may sound awkward, unless there is a qualifier such as hěn (很, "very") and a pause after the adverb.

    Some verbs take a prepositional phrase following the verb and its direct object. These are generally obligatory constituents, such that the sentence would not make sense if they were omitted. For example:




    放 本 书 桌子

    fàng běn shū zài zhuōzi shàng

    put book-CL book in table on

    Put the book on the table

    There are also certain adverbial "stative complements" which follow the verb. The character (得)[i] followed by an adjective functions the same as the phrase "-ly" in English, turning the adjective into an adverb. The second is hǎo le (好了, "complete"). It is not generally possible for a single verb to be followed by both an object and an adverbial complement of this type, although there are exceptions in cases where the complement expresses duration, frequency or goal. To express both, the verb may be repeated in a special kind of serial verb construction; the first instance taking an object, the second taking the complement. Aspect markers can then appear only on the second instance of the verb.

    The typical Chinese word order "XVO", where an oblique complement such as a locative prepositional phrase precedes the verb, while a direct object comes after the verb, is very rare cross-linguistically; in fact, it is only in varieties of Chinese that this is attested as the typical ordering.[22]

    Locative phrases[edit]

    Expressions of location in Chinese may include a preposition, placed before the noun; a postposition, placed after the noun; both preposition and postposition; or neither. Chinese prepositions are commonly known as coverbs – see the Coverbs section. The postpositions—which include shàng (上, "up, on"), xià (下, "down, under"), (里; 裡, "in, within"), nèi (内, "inside") and wài (外, "outside")—may also be called locative particles.

    In the following examples locative phrases are formed from a noun plus a locative particle:


    zhuōzi shàng

    table on

    on the table






    house in

    in the house

    The most common preposition of location is zài (在, "at, on, in"). With certain nouns that inherently denote a specific location, including nearly all place names, a locative phrase can be formed with zài together with the noun:





    zài měiguó

    in America

    in America

    However other types of noun still require a locative particle as a postposition in addition to zài:





    zài bàozhǐ shàng

    in newspaper on

    in the newspaper

    If a noun is modified so as to denote a specific location, as in "this [object]", then it may form locative phrases without any locative particle. Some nouns which can be understood to refer to a specific place, like jiā (家, home) and xuéxiào (学校; 學校, "school"), may optionally omit the locative particle. Words like shàngmiàn (上面, "top") can function as specific-location nouns, like in zài shàngmiàn (在上面, "on top"), but can also take the role of locative particle, not necessarily with analogous meaning. The phrase zài bàozhǐ shàngmiàn (在报纸上面; 在報紙上面; 'in newspaper-top'), can mean either "in the newspaper" or "on the newspaper".

    In certain circumstances zài can be omitted from the locative expression. Grammatically, a noun or noun phrase followed by a locative particle is still a noun phrase. For instance, zhuōzi shàng can be regarded as short for zhuōzi shàngmiàn, meaning something like "the table's top". Consequently, the locative expression without zài can be used in places where a noun phrase would be expected – for instance, as a modifier of another noun using de (的), or as the object of a different preposition, such as cóng (从, "from"). The version with zài, on the other hand, plays an adverbial role. However, zài is usually omitted when the locative expression begins a sentence with the ergative structure, where the expression, though having an adverbial function, can be seen as filling the subject or noun role in the sentence. For examples, see sentence structure section.

    The word zài (在), like certain other prepositions or coverbs, can also be used as a verb. A locative expression can therefore appear as a predicate without the need for any additional copula. For example, "he is at school" (他在学校; 他在學校; tā zài xuéxiào, literally "he at school").

    Comparatives and superlatives[edit]

    Comparative sentences are commonly expressed simply by inserting the standard of comparison, preceded by (比, "than"). The adjective itself is not modified. The (比, "than") phrase is an adverbial, and has a fixed position before the verb. See also the section on negation.

    If there is no standard of comparison—i.e., a than phrase—then the adjective can be marked as comparative by a preceding adverb bǐjiào (比较; 比較) or jiào (较; 較), both meaning "more". Similarly, superlatives can be expressed using the adverb zuì (最, "most"), which precedes a predicate verb or adjective.

    Adverbial phrases meaning "like [someone/something]" or "as [someone/something]" can be formed using gēn (跟), tóng (同) or xiàng (像) before the noun phrase, and yīyàng (一样; 一樣) or nàyàng (那样; 那樣) after it.

    The construction yuè yuè 越越 can be translated into statements of the type "the more , the more ".


    Further information: Chinese copula

    The Chinese copular verb is shì (是). This is the equivalent of English "to be" and all its forms—"am", "is", "are", "was", "were", etc. However, shì is normally only used when its complement is a noun or noun phrase. As noted above, predicate adjectives function as verbs themselves, as does the locative preposition zài (在), so in sentences where the predicate is an adjectival or locative phrase, shì is not required.

    For another use of shì, see shì [de] construction in the section on cleft sentences. The English existential phrase "there is" ["there are", etc.] is translated using the verb yǒu (有), which is otherwise used to denote possession.


    There are on-going debates over whether tense exists in Chinese or not.[26][27]

    The difference between tense and aspect[edit]

    Tense is the information conveying the temporal relationship between an event and the moment when the sentence is uttered.[27] The tense system is a study which is highly related to time. In , Reichenbach builds a system by proposing three times: Speech Time, Event Time and Reference Time.[28] Following the research on time, in , Klein builds a system by proposing three times: Situation Time, Topic Time, and Utterance Time.[29] Situation Time is the time when the event takes place. Topic Time is the time at which the speaker is referring to. Utterance Time is the time when the sentence is spoken. In practice, Topic Time can sometimes be indicated by materials such as when-clause, while-clause, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

    Two elements that are related to the time in a sentence: tense and aspect. Tense is in charge of the relationship between Topic Time and Utterance Time. Aspect is in charge of the relationship between Situation Time and Topic Time.

    As the sentences shown below,[27] it serves as an example to understand the concepts and to distinguish tense from aspect.

    It is a sentence of present tense because of the main verb 'has' being in its present tense form and a perfect aspect because it contains 'have (has) + Vp.p' structure. The Situation Time is in the past because John has done the action of buying a house. However, the Topic Time is present because unlike 'John bought a house', this sentence focuses on the current effect of completing the action of buying a house. Therefore, present time is the speaker's focus and so Topic Time is present. Therefore, we can see that the position of three times being Situation Time precedes Topic Time which coincides the Utterance Time. Since tense is in charge of the relationship between Topic Time and Utterance Time, the sentence is of present tense. However, since aspect is in charge of the relationship between Situation Time and Topic Time and that Situation Time precedes Topic Time, this sentence has perfect aspect. It can be seen that tense and aspect are in charge of different relationships. This is emphasized to help distinguishing these two concepts.

    Whether Chinese tense exists or not[edit]

    Take sentences below as examples:[30]

    昨天 回來。

    zuótiān huílái

    He yesterday {come back}

    He came back yesterday.

    今天 回來

    jīntiān huílái

    He today {come back}

    He came back today.

    明天 回來

    míngtiān huílái

    He tomorrow {come back}

    He will come back tomorrow.

    It can be seen that these three examples have 'ta' (he), 'huilai' (come back) in common. The only difference is the time adverbials 'zuotian' (yesterday), 'jintian' (today), 'mingtian' (tomorrow). One thing to note is that the verb huilai' stays the same in three different times. If the time adverbials were removed, readers or listeners could not tell any difference from the verb form.

    Unlike Chinese, English changes the verb to indicate different times, e.g. 'came' for past time, 'will come' for future time. In this case, if the time adverbials were removed, readers or listener could still tell the temporal references from the verbs.

    Theories supporting the existence of Chinese tense[edit]

    Tense and T node[edit]

    From a syntactic point of view, the existence of a T node in a language indicates the existence of tense. Therefore, a sentence with a T node can show its temporal reference. As an argument, some researchers state that a sentence without a T node may not be able to show its temporal reference.[31] That is to say, since there are a lot of Chinese sentences carrying temporal reference, there should be a T node in Chinese; and thus tense exists in Chinese.

    Implicit default tense[edit]

    It is argued that if the time in a Chinese sentence can be modified by time adverbials, it can be the case there is a covert T node which the time adverbials, one of the linguistic materials, takes effect on.[31]

    Theories opposing the existence of Chinese tense[edit]

    Time adverbials[edit]

    As shown in section 'Whether Chinese tense exists or not', 他 昨天/今天/明天 回來 (He yesterday/today/tomorrow come back) share a common verb 回來 (come back). Researchers argue that time adverbials can already represent temporal reference in sentences and therefore there is no tense marker (at least on verb).[30]

    Aspectual elements[edit]

    Some researchers argue that aspects can take over the job of indicating time in Chinese. Shown by an example below, that the perfective aspect of the sentence implies that the Topic Time is past.[32] He argues that such perfective telic event can be uttered only when it has been completed before the Utterance Time because if it has not, it should be imperfective aspect which could be unnatural for a telic event (breaking a vase).

    張三 打破 一 個 花瓶

    zhāngsān dǎpò yī ge huāpíng

    Zhāngsān break one CL vase

    Zhāngsān broke a vase.


    Chinese does not have grammatical markers of tense. The time at which action is conceived as taking place—past, present, future—can be indicated by expressions of time—"yesterday", "now", etc.—or may simply be inferred from the context. However, Chinese does have markers of aspect, which is a feature of grammar that gives information about the temporal flow of events. There are two aspect markers that are especially commonly used with past events: the perfective-aspectle (了) and the experientialguo (过; 過). Some authors, however, do not regard guo (or zhe; see below) as markers of aspect. Both le and guo immediately follow the verb. There is also a sentence-final particlele, which serves a somewhat different purpose.

    The perfective le presents the viewpoint of "an event in its entirety". It is sometimes considered to be a past tense marker, although it can also be used with future events, given appropriate context. Some examples of its use:




    我 当 兵。

    wǒ dāng le bīng

    I {serve as} le soldier.

    I became a soldier.

    Using le (了) shows this event that has taken place or took place at a particular time.




    他 看 三 场 球赛。

    tā kàn le sān chǎng qiúsài

    He watch le three sports-CL ballgames.

    He watched three ballgames.

    This format of le (了) is usually used in a time-delimited context such as "today" or "last week".

    The above may be compared with the following examples with guo, and with the examples with sentence-final le given under Particles.

    The experiential guo "ascribes to a subject the property of having experienced the event".




    我 当 兵。

    wǒ dāng guo bīng

    I serve-as guo soldier.

    I have been a soldier before.

    This also implies that the speaker no longer is a soldier.




    他 看 三 场 球赛。

    tā kàn guo sān chǎng qiúsài

    He watch guo three sports-CL ballgames.

    He has watched three ballgames up to now.

    There are also two imperfective aspect markers: zhèngzài (正在) or zài (在), and zhe (着; 著), which denote ongoing actions or states. Zhèngzài and zài precede the verb, and are usually used for ongoing actions or dynamic events – they may be translated as "[be] in the process of [-ing]" or "[be] in the middle of [-ing]". Zhe follows the verb, and is used mostly for static situations.

    [正] 在

    zhèng zài





    我 {[正] 在} 挂 画。

    wǒ {zhèng zài} guà huà

    I in-middle-of hang pictures

    I'm hanging pictures up.




    墙 上 挂 一 幅 画。

    qiáng shàng guà zhe yì fú huà

    Wall on hang ongoing one picture-CL picture

    A picture is hanging on the wall.

    Both markers may occur in the same clause, however. For example, tā zhèngzai dǎ [zhe] diànhuà, "he is in the middle of telephoning someone" (他正在打[着]电话; 他正在打[著]電話; 'he [in-middle-of] [verb form] [ongoing] telephone').

    The delimitative aspect denotes an action that goes on only for some time, "doing something 'a little bit'". This can be expressed by reduplication of a monosyllabic verb, like the verb zǒu (走 "walk") in the following sentence:




    我 到 公园

    wǒ dào gōngyuán zǒuzǒu

    I to park walkwalk

    I'm going for a walk in the park.

    An alternative construction is reduplication with insertion of "one" (一). For example, zǒu yi zǒu (走一走), which might be translated as "walk a little walk". A further possibility is reduplication followed by kàn (看 "to see"); this emphasizes the "testing" nature of the action. If the verb has an object, kàn follows the object.

    Some compound verbs, such as restrictive-resultative and coordinate compounds, can also be reduplicated on the pattern tǎolùn-tǎolùn (讨论讨论; 討論討論), from the verb tǎolùn (讨论; 討論), meaning "discuss". Other compounds may be reduplicated, but for general emphasis rather than delimitative aspect. In compounds that are verb–object combinations, like tiào wǔ (跳舞; 'to jump a dance', "dance"), a delimitative aspect can be marked by reduplicating the first syllable, creating tiào-tiào wǔ (跳跳舞), which may be followed with kàn (看).


    As mentioned above, the fact that a verb is intended to be understood in the passive voice is not always marked in Chinese. However, it may be marked using the passive marker 被 bèi, followed by the agent, though bèi may appear alone, if the agent is not to be specified.[j] Certain causative markers can replace bèi, such as those mentioned in the Other cases section, gěi, jiào and ràng. Of these causative markers, only gěi can appear alone without a specified agent. The construction with a passive marker is normally used only when there is a sense of misfortune or adversity. The passive marker and agent occupy the typical adverbial position before the verb. See the Negation section for more. Some examples:




    我们 他 骂 了。

    wǒmen bèi tā mà le

    We by him scolded PFV

    We were scolded by him.




    我 打 了 一 顿。

    bèi wǒ dǎ le yí dùn

    He by me beaten PFV one event-CL

    He was beaten up by me once.


    The most commonly used negating element is (不), pronounced with second tone when followed by a fourth tone. This can be placed before a verb, preposition or adverb to negate it. For example: "I don't eat chicken" (我不吃鸡; 我不吃雞; wǒ bù chī jī; 'I not eat chicken'). For the double-verb negative construction with , see Complement of result, below. However, the verb yǒu (有)—which can mean either possession, or "there is/are" in existential clauses—is negated using méi (没; 沒) to produce méiyǒu (没有; 沒有; 'not have').

    For negation of a verb intended to denote a completed event, méi or méiyǒu is used instead of (不), and the aspect markerle (了) is then omitted. Also, méi[yǒu] is used to negate verbs that take the aspect marker guo (过; 過); in this case the aspect marker is not omitted.

    In coverb constructions, the negator may come before the coverb (preposition) or before the full verb, the latter being more emphatic. In constructions with a passive marker, the negator precedes that marker; similarly, in comparative constructions, the negator precedes the phraseNot clear (unless the verb is further qualified by gèng (更, "even more"), in which case the negator may follow the gèng to produce the meaning "even less").

    The negator bié (别) precedes the verb in negative commands and negative requests, such as in phrases meaning "don't ", "please don't ".

    The negator wèi (未) means "not yet". Other items used as negating elements in certain compound words include (无; 無), (勿), miǎn (免) and fēi (非).

    A double negative makes a positive, as in sentences like wǒ bú shì bù xǐhuān tā (我不是不喜欢她; 我不是不喜歡她, "It's not that I don't like her" ). For this use of shì (是), see the Cleft sentences section.


    In wh-questions in Chinese, the question word is not fronted. Instead, it stays in the position in the sentence that would be occupied by the item being asked about. For example, "What did you say?" is phrased as nǐ shuō shé[n]me (你说什么?; 你說什麼?, literally "you say what"). The word shénme (什么; 什麼, "what" or "which"), remains in the object position after the verb.

    Other interrogative words include:

    • "Who": shuí/shéi (谁; 誰)
    • "What": shénme (什么; 什麼); shá (啥, used informally)
    • "Where": nǎr (哪儿; 哪兒); nǎlǐ (哪里; 哪裡)
    • "When": shénme shíhòu (什么时候; 什麼時候); héshí (何时; 何時)
    • "Which": (哪)
      • When used to mean "which ones", is used with a classifier and noun, or with xiē (些) and noun. The noun may be omitted if understood through context.
    • "Why": wèishé[n]me (为什么; 為什麼); gànmá (干吗; 幹嘛)
    • "How many": duōshǎo (多少)
      • When the number is quite small, (几; 幾) is used, followed by a classifier.
    • "How": zěnme[yang] (怎么[样]; 怎麼[樣]); rúhé (如何).

    Disjunctive questions can be made using the word háishì (还是; 還是) between the options, like English "or". This differs from the word for "or" in statements, which is huòzhě (或者).

    Yes-no questions can be formed using the sentence-final particlema (吗; 嗎), with word order otherwise the same as in a statement. For example, nǐ chī jī ma? (你吃鸡吗?; 你吃雞嗎?; 'you eat chicken MA', "Do you eat chicken?").

    An alternative is the A-not-A construction, using phrases like chī bu chī (吃不吃, "eat or not eat").[k] With two-syllable verbs, sometimes only the first syllable is repeated: xǐ-bu-xǐhuān ( 喜不喜欢; 喜不喜歡, "like or not like"), from xǐhuān (喜欢; 喜歡, "like"). It is also possible to use the A-not-A construction with prepositions (coverbs) and phrases headed by them, as with full verbs.

    The negator méi (没; 沒) can be used rather than in the A-not-A construction when referring to a completed event, but if it occurs at the end of the sentence—i.e. the repetition is omitted—the full form méiyǒu (没有; 沒有) must appear.

    For answering yes-no questions, Chinese has words that may be used like the English "yes" and "no" – duì (对; 對) or shì de (是的) for "yes"; (不) for "no" – but these are not often used for this purpose; it is more common to repeat the verb or verb phrase (or entire sentence), negating it if applicable.


    Second-person imperative sentences are formed in the same way as statements, but like in English, the subject "you" is often omitted.

    Orders may be softened by preceding them with an element such as qǐng (请, "to ask"), in this use equivalent to English "please". See Particles for more. The sentence-final particle ba (吧) can be used to form first-person imperatives, equivalent to "let's".

    Serial verb constructions[edit]

    Chinese makes frequent use of serial verb constructions, or verb stacking, where two or more verbs or verb phrases are concatenated together. This frequently involves either verbal complements appearing after the main verb, or coverb phrases appearing before the main verb, but other variations of the construction occur as well.


    A main verb may be preceded by an auxiliary verb, as in English. Chinese auxiliaries include néng and nénggòu (能 and 能够; 能夠, "can"); huì (会; 會, "know how to"); kéyǐ (可以, "may"); gǎn (敢, "dare"); kěn (肯, "be willing to"); yīnggāi (应该; 應該, "should"); bìxū (必须; 必須, "must"); etc. The auxiliary normally follows an adverb, if present. In shortened sentences an auxiliary may be used without a main verb, analogously to English sentences such as "I can."

    Verbal complements[edit]

    The active verb of a sentence may be suffixed with a second verb, which usually indicates either the result of the first action, or the direction in which it took the subject. When such information is applicable, it is generally considered mandatory. The phenomenon is sometimes called double verbs.

    Complement of result[edit]

    A complement of result, or resultative complement (结果补语; 結果補語; jiéguǒ bǔyǔ) is a verbal suffix which indicates the outcome, or possible outcome, of the action indicated by the main verb. In the following examples, the main verb is tīng (听; 聽 "to listen"), and the complement of result is dǒng (懂, "to understand/to know").

    听 懂

    tīng dǒng

    hear understand

    to understand something you hear

    Since they indicate an absolute result, such double verbs necessarily represent a completed action, and are thus negated using méi (没; 沒):




    听 懂

    méi tīng dǒng

    not hear understand

    to have not understood something you hear

    The infixde (得) is placed between the double verbs to indicate possibility or ability. This is not possible with "restrictive" resultative compounds such as jiéshěng (节省, literally "reduce-save", meaning "to save, economize").




    tīng de dǒng

    hear possible/able understand

    to be able to understand something you hear

    This is equivalent in meaning to néng tīng dǒng (能听懂; 能聽懂), using the auxiliarynéng (能), equivalent to "may" or "can".[l]

    To negate the above construction, de (得) is replaced by (不):




    tīng dǒng

    hear impossible/unable understand

    to be unable to understand something you hear

    With some verbs, the addition of and a particular complement of result is the standard method of negation. In many cases the complement is liǎo, represented by the same character as the perfective or modal particle le (了). This verb means "to finish", but when used as a complement for negation purposes it may merely indicate inability. For example: shòu bù liǎo (受不了, "to be unable to tolerate").

    The complement of result is a highly productive and frequently used construction. Sometimes it develops into idiomatic phrases, as in è sǐ le (饿死了; 餓死了, literally "hungry-until-die already", meaning "to be starving") and qì sǐ le (气死了; 氣死了, literally "mad-until-die already", meaning "to be extremely angry"). The phrases for "hatred" (看不起; kànbùqǐ), "excuse me" (对不起; 對不起; duìbùqǐ), and "too expensive to buy" (买不起; 買不起; mǎi bùqǐ) all use the character (起, "to rise up") as a complement of result, but their meanings are not obviously related to that meaning. This is partially the result of metaphorical construction, where kànbùqǐ (看不起) literally means "to be unable to look up to"; and duìbùqǐ (对不起; 對不起) means "to be unable to face someone".

    Some more examples of resultative complements, used in complete sentences:




    他 把 盘子 了。

    tā bǎ pánzi le

    he object-CL plate hitbreak PRF

    He hit/dropped the plate, and it broke.

    Double-verb construction where the second verb, "break", is a suffix to the first, and indicates what happens to the object as a result of the action.




    这 部 电影 我

    zhè(i) bù diànyǐng wǒ kàndǒng

    this {} movie I lookimpossible/unableunderstand

    I can't understand this movie even though I watched it.

    Another double-verb where the second verb, "understand", suffixes the first and clarifies the possibility and success of the relevant action.

    Complement of direction[edit]

    A complement of direction, or directional complement (趋向补语; 趨向補語; qūxiàng bǔyǔ) indicates the direction of an action involving movement. The simplest directional complements are (去, "to go") and lái (来; 來, "to come"), which may be added after a verb to indicate movement away from or towards the speaker, respectively. These may form compounds with other verbs that further specify the direction, such as shàng qù (上去, "to go up"), gùo lái (过来; 過來, "to come over"), which may then be added to another verb, such as zǒu (走, "to walk"), as in zǒu gùo qù (走过去; 走過去, "to walk over"). Another example, in a whole sentence:




    他 走 了。

    tā zǒu shànglái le

    he walk upcome PRF

    He walked up towards me.

    The directional suffixes indicate "up" and "towards".

    If the preceding verb has an object, the object may be placed either before or after the directional complement(s), or even between two directional complements, provided the second of these is not (去).

    The structure with inserted de or is not normally used with this type of double verb. There are exceptions, such as "to be unable to get out of bed" (起不来床; 起不來床; qǐ bù lái chuáng or 起床不来; 起床不來; qǐ chuáng bù lái).


    Chinese has a class of words, called coverbs, which in some respects resemble both verbs and prepositions. They appear with a following object (or complement), and generally denote relationships that would be expressed by prepositions (or postpositions) in other languages. However, they are often considered to be lexically verbs, and some of them can also function as full verbs. When a coverb phrase appears in a sentence together with a main verb phrase, the result is essentially a type of serial verb construction. The coverb phrase, being an adverbial, precedes the main verb in most cases. For instance:




    你 找 他。

    bāng nǐ zhǎo tā.

    I help you find him

    I will find him for you.

    Here the main verb is zhǎo (找, "find"), and bāng (帮; 幫) is a coverb. Here bāng corresponds to the English preposition "for", even though in other contexts it might be used as a full verb meaning "help".




    飞机 上海 北京 去。

    zuò fēijī cóng Shànghǎi dào Běijīng qù.

    I sit airplane from Shanghai arrive(to) Beijing go

    I'll go from Shanghai to Beijing by plane.

    Here there are three coverbs: zuò (坐 "by"), cóng (从; 從, "from"), and dào (到, "to"). The words zuò and dào can also be verbs, meaning "sit" and "arrive [at]" respectively. However, cóng is not normally used as a full verb.

    A very common coverb that can also be used as a main verb is zài (在), as described in the Locative phrases section. Another example is gěi (给), which as a verb means "give". As a preposition, gěi may mean "for", or "to" when marking an indirect object or in certain other expressions.




    你 打 电话。

    gěi nǐ dǎ diànhuà

    I to you strike telephone

    I'll give you a telephone call

    Because coverbs essentially function as prepositions, they can also be referred to simply as prepositions. In Chinese they are called jiè cí (介词; 介詞), a term which generally corresponds to "preposition", or more generally, "adposition". The situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that location markers—which also have meanings similar to those of certain English prepositions—are often called "postpositions".

    Coverbs normally cannot take aspect markers, although some of them form fixed compounds together with such markers, such as gēnzhe (跟著; 'with +[aspect marker]'), ànzhe (按著, "according to"), yánzhe (沿着, "along"), and wèile (为了 "for").

    Other cases[edit]

    Serial verb constructions can also consist of two consecutive verb phrases with parallel meaning, such as hē kāfēi kàn bào, "drink coffee and read the paper" (喝咖啡看报; 喝咖啡看報; 'drink coffee read paper'). Each verb may independently be negated or given the le aspect marker. If both verbs would have the same object, it is omitted the second time.

    Consecutive verb phrases may also be used to indicate consecutive events. Use of the le aspect marker with the first verb may imply that this is the main verb of the sentence, the second verb phrase merely indicating the purpose. Use of this le with the second verb changes this emphasis, and may require a sentence-final le particle in addition. On the other hand, the progressive aspect marker zài (在) may be applied to the first verb, but not normally the second alone. The word (去, "go") or lái (来; 來, "come") may be inserted between the two verb phrases, meaning "in order to".

    For constructions with consecutive verb phrases containing the same verb, see under Adverbs. For immediate repetition of a verb, see Reduplication and Aspects.

    Another case is the causative or pivotal construction. Here the object of one verb also serves as the subject of the following verb. The first verb may be something like gěi (给, "allow", or "give" in other contexts), ràng (让; 讓, "let"), jiào (叫, "order" or "call") or shǐ (使, "make, compel"), qǐng (请; 請, "invite"), or lìng (令, "command"). Some of these cannot take an aspect marker such as le when used in this construction, like lìng, ràng, shǐ. Sentences of this type often parallel the equivalent English pattern, except that English may insert the infinitive marker "to". In the following example the construction is used twice:




    他 要 我 他 喝 啤酒。

    tā yào wǒ qǐng tā hē píjiǔ

    he want me invite him drink beer

    He wants me to treat him [to] beer.


    See also: Chinese particles and Chinese exclamative particles

    Chinese has a number of sentence-final particles – these are weak syllables, spoken with neutral tone, and placed at the end of the sentence to which they refer. They are often called modal particles or yǔqì zhùcí (语气助词; 語氣助詞), as they serve chiefly to express grammatical mood, or how the sentence relates to reality and/or intent. They include:

    • ma (吗; 嗎), which changes a statement into a yes-no question
    • ne (呢), which expresses surprise, or produces a question "with expectation"
    • ba (吧), which serves as a tag question, e.g. "don't you think so?"; produces a suggestion e.g. "let's"; or lessens certainty of a decision.
    • a (啊),[m] which reduces forcefulness, particularly of an order or question. It can also be used to add positive connotation to certain phrases or inject uncertainty when responding to a question.
    • ou (呕; 噢), which signals a friendly warning
    • zhe (着; 著), which marks the inchoative aspect, or need for change of state, in imperative sentences. Compare the imperfective aspect marker zhe in the section above)
    • le (了), which marks a "currently relevant state". This precedes any other sentence-final particles, and can combine with a (啊) to produce la (啦); and with ou (呕; 噢) to produce lou (喽; 囉).

    This sentence-final le (了) should be distinguished from the verb suffix le (了) discussed in the Aspects section. Whereas the sentence-final particle is sometimes described as an inceptive or as a marker of perfect aspect, the verb suffix is described as a marker of perfective aspect.[48] Some examples of its use:




    我 没 钱

    wǒ méi qián le

    I no money PRF

    I have no money now or I've gone broke.




    我 当 兵

    wǒ dāng bīng le

    I work soldier PRF

    I have become a soldier.

    The position of le in this example emphasizes his present status as a soldier, rather than the event of becoming. Compare with the post-verbal le example given in the Aspects section, wǒ dāng le bīng.




    他 看 三 场 球赛

    tā kàn sān chǎng qiúsài le

    He watch three sports-CL ballgames PRF

    He [has] watched three ballgames.

    Compared with the post-verbal le and guoexamples, this places the focus on the number three, and does not specify whether he is going to continue watching more games.

    The two uses of le may in fact be traced back to two entirely different words. The fact that they are now written the same way in Mandarin can cause ambiguity, particularly when the verb is not followed by an object. Consider the following sentence:

    妈妈 来

    māma lái le

    Mom come le

    This le might be interpreted as either the suffixal perfective marker or the sentence-final perfect marker. In the former case it might mean "mother has come", as in she has just arrived at the door, while in the latter it might mean "mother is coming!", and the speaker wants to inform others of this fact. It is even possible for the two kinds of le to co-occur:




    他 吃

    tā chī le fàn le

    He eat PFV food PRF

    He has eaten.

    Without the first le, the sentence could again mean "he has eaten", or it could mean "he wants to eat now". Without the final le the sentence would be ungrammatical without appropriate context, as perfective le cannot appear in a semantically unbounded sentence.

    Cleft sentences[edit]

    There is a construction in Chinese known as the shì [de] construction, which produces what may be called cleft sentences. The copula shì (是) is placed before the element of the sentence which is to be emphasized, and the optional possessive particle de (的) is placed at the end of the sentence. For example:







    昨天 买 菜 []。

    shì zuótiān mǎi cài [de]

    He shi yesterday buy food [de].

    It was yesterday that he bought food.

    If an object following the verb, is to be emphasized in this construction, the shì precedes the object, and the de comes after the verb and before the shì.




    他 昨天 买 菜。

    tā zuótiān mǎi deshì cài

    He yesterday buy deshi vegetable.

    What he bought yesterday was vegetable.

    Sentences with similar meaning can be produced using relative clauses. These may be called pseudo-cleft sentences.




    昨天 是 他 买 菜 时间。

    zuótiān shì tā mǎi cài de shíjiān

    yesterday is he buy food de time

    Yesterday was the time he bought food.


    Chinese has various conjunctions (连词; 連詞; liáncí) such as (和, "and"), dànshì (但是, "but"), huòzhě (或者, "or"), etc. However Chinese quite often uses no conjunction where English would have "and".

    Two or more nouns may be joined together by the conjunctions (和, "and") or huò (或 "or"); for example dāo hé chā (刀和叉, "knife and fork"), gǒu huò māo (狗或貓, "dog or cat").

    Certain adverbs are often used as correlative conjunctions, where correlating words appear in each of the linked clauses, such as búdàn érqiě (不但 而且; 'not only (but) also'), suīrán háishì (虽然 还是; 雖然還是; 'although still'), yīnwèi suǒyǐ (因为 所以; 因為所以; 'because therefore'). Such connectors may appear at the start of a clause or before the verb phrase.

    Similarly, words like jìrán (既然, "since/in response to"), rúguǒ (如果) or jiǎrú (假如) "if", zhǐyào (只要 "provided that") correlate with an adverb jiù (就, "then") or (也, "also") in the main clause, to form conditional sentences.

    In some cases, the same word may be repeated when connecting items; these include yòu yòu (又又, "both and "), yībiān yībiān (一边一边, " while "), and yuè yuè (越越, "the more , the more ").

    Conjunctions of time such as "when" may be translated with a construction that corresponds to something like "at the time (+relative clause)", where as usual, the Chinese relative clause comes before the noun ("time" in this case). For example:




    当 我 回 家 时候

    dāng wǒ huí jiā de shíhòu

    At I return home de time

    When I return[ed] home

    Variants include dāng yǐqián (当以前; 當以前 "before ") and dāng yǐhòu (当以后; 當以後, "after "), which do not use the relative marker de. In all of these cases, the initial dāng may be replaced by zài (在), or may be omitted. There are also similar constructions for conditionals: rúguǒ /jiǎrú/zhǐyào dehuà (如果/假如/只要的话, "if then"), where huà (话; 話) literally means "narrative, story".

    See also[edit]


    1. ^Several of the common prepositions can also be used as full verbs.
    2. ^The first Chinese scholar to consider the concept of a word (, (词; 詞) as opposed to the character (, 字) is claimed to have been Shizhao Zhang in However, defining the word has proved difficult, and some linguists consider that the concept is not applicable to Chinese at all. See San, Duanmu (). The Phonology of Standard Chinese. Oxford University Press. ISBN&#;.
    3. ^bīngbīngliángliáng冰冰凉凉; 冰冰涼涼 is also commonly used
    4. ^A more common way to express this would be wǒ bǎ júzi pí bō le (我把橘子皮剥了; 我把橘子皮剝了, "I BA tangerine's skin peeled"), or wǒ bō le júzi pí (我剥了橘子皮; 我剝了橘子皮, "I peeled tangerine's skin").
    5. ^More rarely used for uncountable nouns.
    6. ^妳 is an alternative character for (你, "you") when referring to a female; it is used mainly in script written in traditional characters.
    7. ^Also used after possessives and relative clauses
    8. ^Not the same character as the de used to mark possessives and relative clauses.
    9. ^Note that this is a different character again from the two types of de previously mentioned.
    10. ^This is similar to the English "by", though it is always followed by an agent.
    11. ^Either the verb or the whole verb phrase may be repeated after the negator ; it is also possible to place after the verb phrase and omit the repetition entirely.
    12. ^Néng (能) does not mean "may" or "can" in the sense of "know how to" or "have the skill to".
    13. ^alternately ya (呀), wa (哇), etc. depending on the preceding sound



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