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35 Intermediate Chinese Phrases and Sentence Patterns


First of all, a virtual high five for your hard work in getting to the intermediate level! We know it’s not easy to get where you are, especially for those who are learning Chinese outside of China and without constant guidance from a teacher. But no need to worry—we’re here to help. In this article, you’ll find a list of the most common intermediate Chinese phrases and sentence patterns for a variety of situations: daily communication, business meetings, travel, and more. We hope this guide will help you move a few steps closer to speaking Chinese fluently and confidently.

Even though this article is meant for intermediate learners, beginners and advanced students can also get something out of it. You may want to get your pencil and paper (or your favorite >note-taking program) ready before we dive in, because you’ll use these phrases often in everyday life!

Taking Notes Under a Lamp

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Past Events and Completed Actions
  2. Plans and Permissions
  3. Reasons and Explanations
  4. Recommendations and Complaints
  5. Social Etiquette & Business Phrases
  6. Advanced Conversation Responses
  7. Last But Not Least

1. Past Events and Completed Actions

Many intermediate-level learners know that the word 了 (le) is used to describe things that happened in the past. And yet, many of these students complain that they’re just as confused by the usage of 了 as when they first started—sometimes 了 is seen in supposed “past tense” sentences, and sometimes it’s not. 

Well, it’s true that 了 (le) can indicate past events and completed actions, but you don’t need to add 了 (le) for everything that happened in the past. 

Let’s first look at a couple of everyday phrases with 了(le).

chī le shí ge jiǎozi
“ate ten dumplings”

liǎng ge yuè qián fēnshǒu le
“broke up two months ago”

In the two examples above, the purpose of 了 (le) is to emphasize that something has been completed or ended. However, many times there is no need to add 了 (le) when talking about past events and actions.

Xièxie nǐ de zhāodài, wǒ zuówǎn wán de hěn kāixīn.
“Thank you for your hospitality; I had fun last night.”

Shàngge zhōumò wǒ zài jiā xiūxi.
“Last weekend, I rested at home.”

Hmm. 了 (le) or no 了 (le)? That’s a valid question.

A Confused Look

Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to answer that question. But remember, Chinese is a highly contextual language. The best thing to do is ditch the concept of “tenses” and focus on the context. If you’re describing yourself having fun and enjoying yourself last night (as in #3), it wasn’t a past action; it was ongoing at that moment, so there’s no need to mark the completion of an action with 了 (le). Same thing with the scenario in #4: You’re describing something you were doing last weekend, so you shouldn’t mark it as completed. 

    Tip: Try to make some more sentences using the sentence stems of the above examples, and share them in the comments section below.

2. Plans and Permissions

Every day, we make plans with our family, friends, and colleagues. Below are some intermediate Chinese sentence patterns you can use to make plans or to ask for permission when doing so.

Checking the Daily Schedule

    Tip: If you already know some of the patterns, focus on the example sentences underneath them.

[time] 有空吗?
[time] yǒukòng ma?
“(Are you) free at [time]?”

    a. 下个月四号有空吗?
    Xià ge yuè sì hào yǒukòng ma?
    “(Are you) free next month on the fourth?”
    b. 晚上八点后有空吗?
    Wǎnshang bā diǎn hòu yǒukòng ma?
    “(Are you) free after eight p.m.?”

我想去 [place] [activity]。
Wǒ xiǎng qù [place] [activity].
“I’d like to go to [place] to do [activity].”

    a. 我想去工地看看。
    Wǒ xiǎng qù gōngdi kànkan.
    “I’d like to go to the construction site to take a look.”
    b. 我想去公园钓个鱼。
    Wǒ xiǎng qù gōngyuán diào ge yú.
    “I’d like to go fishing at the park.”

Note: The [verb][verb] pattern (in #6a) and the [verb]个(ge) [object] pattern (in #6b) are used quite often in colloquial language to make the speech more casual. 

去 [activity] 怎么样?
[activity] zěnmeyàng? 
“How about (we) go do [activity]?”

    a. 去尝尝那家新开的日本餐厅怎么样?
    Qù chángchang nà jiā xīn kāi de Rìběn cāntīng zěnmeyàng?
    “How about we try that newly opened Japanese restaurant?”
    b. 明天我们去喝手磨咖啡怎么样?
    Míngtiān wǒmen qù hē shǒu mó kāfēi zěnmeyàng?
    “How about we go drink >handground coffee tomorrow?”

可以带 [person/thing] 来吗?
Kěyǐ dài [person/thing] lái ma?
“Can (I) bring [person/thing]?”

    a. 我可以带我女朋友来吗?
    Wǒ kěyǐ dài wǒ nǚpéngyou lái ma?
    “Can I bring my girlfriend with me?”
    b. 可以带外卖来吗?
    Kěyǐ dài wàimài lái ma?
    “Can I bring takeout food?”

可以改成 [time] 吗?
Kěyǐ gǎichéng [time] ma?
“Can (we) change to [time]?”

    a. 可以改成上午九点二十吗?
    Kěyǐ gǎichéng shàngwǔ jiǔ diǎn èrshí ma?
    “Can (we) change to 9:20 a.m.?”
    b. 可以把我们的见面时间改成周四吗?
    Kěyǐ bǎ wǒmen de jiànmiàn shíjiān gǎichéng zhōusì ma?
    “Can we change our meeting time to Thursday?”

[time/event] 我可能来不了了。
[time/event] wǒ kěnéng lái bù liǎo le.
“(I) might not come at [time]/to [event].”

    a. 后天我可能来不了了。
    Hòutiān wǒ kěnéng lái bù liǎo le.
    “I might not come the day after tomorrow.”
    b. 你的生日聚会我可能来不了了。
    Nǐ de shēngrì jùhuì wǒ kěnéng lái bù liǎo le.
    “I probably can’t come to your birthday party.”

Note: The primary function of 可能 (kěnéng) is to soften the tone of voice when turning someone down or giving a negative response, not to express possibilities.  

3. Reasons and Explanations

It’s easier to convince someone or explain something more effectively when you present your ideas in a logical way. Here’s how you can do that in Chinese:

这么做是因为 [noun/clause]。
Zhè me zuò shì yīnwèi [noun/clause].
“I did this because [noun/clause].”

    a. 我这么做是因为我们这个家。
    Wǒ zhè me zuò shì yīnwèi wǒmen zhège jiā.
    “I did this because of our family.”
    b. 他们这么做是因为公司的预算有些紧张。
    Tāmen zhème zuò shì yīnwèi gōngsī de yùsuàn yǒuxiē jǐnzhāng.
    “They did this because the company’s budget is a bit tight.”

考虑到 [noun/clause]
kǎolǜ dào [noun/clause]
“considering [noun/clause]”

    a. 考虑到天气炎热,学校决定取消户外活动。
    Kǎolǜ dào tiānqì yánrè , xuéxiào juédìng qǔxiāo hùwài huódòng.
    “Considering the heat, the school decided to cancel outdoor activities.”
    b. 考虑到父母的身体状况,她搬回了老家。
    Kǎolǜ dào fùmǔ de shēntǐ zhuàngkuàng, tā bān huí le lǎojiā.
    “Considering the health condition of her parents, she moved back to her hometown.”

主要是因为 [clause 1], 其次是 [clause 2]
“Mostly because [clause 1]; next is [clause 2]”

    a. 我们不打算报名,主要是因为时间不合适,其次是费用有些高。
    Wǒmen bù dǎsuàn bàomíng , zhǔyào shì yīnwèi shíjiān bù héshì , qícì shì fèiyòng yǒuxiē gāo.
    “We don’t plan on signing up, mostly because the time doesn’t work out well; next is that the fees are a little high.”

原因有以下几点:第一 [clause 1]。第二 [clause 2]。第三 [clause 3]。最后 [clause 4]。
Yuányīn yǒu yǐxià jǐdiǎn: dì yī [clause 1]. Dì èr [clause 2]. Dì sān [clause 3]. Zuìhòu [clause 4].
“The reasons are listed as follows: Firstly [clause 1]. Secondly [clause 2]. Thirdly [clause 3]. Lastly [clause 4].”

    a. 原因有以下几点:第一, 人手不够。 第二,设备不齐。 第三,时间不多。
    Yuányīn yǒu yǐxià jǐdiǎn: dì yī, rénshǒu bù gòu. Dì èr, shèbèi bù qí. Dì sān, shíjiān bù duō.
    “The reasons are listed as follows: Firstly, not enough help. Secondly, not enough equipment. Thirdly, not enough time.”

4. Recommendations and Complaints

Living in the era of the internet and technology, we deal with comments and reviews every day. Next are some of the common phrases you’ll read or write in product reviews. However, keep in mind that these phrases are like internet slang expressions: they tend to get outdated and replaced by new ones quickly.

Shopping in the Virtual World

qiángliè tuījiàn
“strongly/highly recommend”

    a. 这款电扇太好用了,强烈推荐。
    Zhè kuǎn diànshàn tài hǎoyòng le, qiángliè tuījiàn.
    “This fan is so great to use. (I) highly recommend it.”
    b. 这个APP太牛了,墙裂推荐。
    Zhège APP tài niú le, qiángliè tuījiàn.
    “This app is so awesome. (I) highly recommend it.”

Note: #15b is a play on words. 墙裂 (qiángliè) – “wall cracking” has the same pronunciation as 强烈 (qiángliè) – “strongly.” Younger internet users prefer to use >homophones for online communications.

bì mǎi

    a. 喜欢吃辣的童鞋必买。
    Xǐhuān chī là de tóng xié bì mǎi.
    “For those of you who like spicy food, this is a must-buy.”

wúxiàn huígòu
“(worth) repurchasing endlessly”

    a. 这个牌子的蕃茄酱值得无限回购。
    Zhège páizi de fānjiājiàng zhíde wúxiàn huígòu.
    “This brand of ketchup is worth buying again and again.”

làngfèi qián
“a waste of money”

    a. 一点用也没有。简直是浪费钱。
    Yì diǎn yòng yě méiyǒu. Jiǎnzhí shì làngfèi qián.
    “Doesn’t work at all. It’s literally a waste of money.”

fúwù tàidu chà
“bad service attitude

    a. 不仅价格高,而且服务态度差。
    Bùjǐn jiàgé gāo, érqiě fúwù tàidu chà.
    “Not only are the prices high, but the servers’ attitudes are bad.”

túpiàn yǔ shíwù bù fú
“pictures don’t match the product”

    a. 图片与实物严重不符。谨慎购买。
    Túpiàn yǔ shíwù yánzhòng bù fú. Jǐnshèn gòumǎi.
    “Product is way different from the pictures. Think twice before you buy it.”

A Lady Disappointed with Her Purchase

5. Social Etiquette & Business Phrases

Business and etiquette phrases are often used in formal situations and in writing. At this stage, you could definitely benefit from learning some of these intermediate-level Chinese business phrases and social niceties by heart. 

    Tip: Remember the following as set phrases for accurate reproduction.

qǐng màn yòng
“please enjoy (food/meal)” / (Literally: “please slowly use”)

    a. 菜上齐了。请慢用。
    Cài shàng qí le. Qǐng màn yòng.
    “All the dishes are on the table. Please enjoy.”

qǐng zhǐjiào
“please kindly advise”

    a. 有需要修改的地方,请指教。
    Yǒu xūyào xiūgǎi de dìfang, qǐng zhǐjiào.
    “If there’s any place that needs revision, please kindly advise.”

qǐng duō tí bǎoguì yìjiàn
“please give valuable comments and advice”

    a. 写得不好,请多提宝贵意见。
    Xiě de bù hǎo, qǐng duō tí bǎoguì yìjiàn.
    “(I) didn’t write it well. Please give valuable comments and advice.”

bāo nín mǎnyì
“satisfaction guaranteed”

    a. 您放心, 包您满意。
    Nín fàngxīn, bāo nín mǎnyì.
    “I’d like to reassure you that your satisfaction will be guaranteed.”

Gǎnxiè nín de lǐjiě hé zhīchí.
“Your understanding and support are greatly appreciated.”

Yǒu wèntí qǐng suíshí liánxì.
“If there’s a question, contact us anytime.”

qídài nín de huífù
“look forward to your reply”

6. Advanced Conversation Responses

Knowing how to give natural and authentic responses puts you at a different proficiency level. In this section, we’ll look at a few intermediate Chinese phrases you could respond with in real-life situations. We’ll give you the basic ways to respond (which you probably know) to a line taken from the examples above, and then show you their more advanced variations.

Suppose someone tells you:

Tāmen liǎng ge yuè qián fēnshǒu le.
“They broke up two months ago.”

    ➢ Basic response to express surprise:

Zhēnde ma?

    ➢ Variations:

Zhēn de jiǎ de?
“Are you serious?” (Literally: “Real or fake?”)

Nǐ dòu wǒ de ba?
“Are you kidding/teasing me?”

Now suppose someone says something you don’t fully agree with:

Tāmen zhème zuò shì yīnwèi gōngsī de yùsuàn yǒuxiē jǐnzhāng.
“They did this because the company’s budget is a bit tight.”

    ➢ Basic response to express slight disagreement or doubt:

Bú duì ba?
“That’s not right, is it?”

    ➢ Variations:

Hǎoxiàng búshì zhèyàng ba.
“Seems like this is not the case.”

Nǐ quèdìng ma? Jù wǒ suǒ zhī…
“Are you sure? As far as I know…”

Next, suppose someone tells you a story, and you’d like to learn more:

Shàngge zhōumò wǒ zài jiā xiūxi.
“Last weekend, I rested at home.”

    ➢ Basic response to prompt for more information:

Hái yǒu ne?

    ➢ Variation:

Nǐ xiángxì jiǎng jiǎng.
“Tell me in detail.”

7. Last But Not Least

Our list of intermediate Chinese phrases could go on and on. If you’d like to learn more, make sure to explore for additional resources and tools. 

For those of you who are not sure whether you’re at the intermediate level, take our diagnostic assessments to see which level you’re really at. Or simply pick Level 3, which is in line with HSK levels 2-3 and level B1 of the CEFR, and move up from there. Don’t forget you can get 1-on-1 coaching from your personal teacher with a Premium PLUS subscription. We look forward to seeing you there! 

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