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Basics of Chinese Negation Every Beginner Should Know

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There’s certainly a need for sentences of positivity and affirmation in our everyday lives, but what about the negative ones?

Unsurprisingly, they’re actually an essential part of human expression in every language. Knowing how to form negative sentences and answers can improve the effectiveness of our communication with others and help us set healthy boundaries. 

As a beginner, you should definitely start learning about negation in Chinese as early on as possible. I get that it can sometimes be tough to say no, but as long as you find the appropriate way to express your rejection, you have nothing to worry about! As a matter of fact, learning how to say no can actually save time for all parties involved.

Even for something as basic as negation, there’s a lot to map out. But don’t worry—you’ll find all the information and examples you need right here in this guide! We’ll cover not only the basic negative phrases and answers, but also some unique phrases for expressing negation in Chinese like a native.

Let’s get straight to it!

A Woman Holding Her Palms Out in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

We have to learn to say NO to things we don’t want.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. How to Negate a Statement
  2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question
  3. Ten Negative Words You Need to Know
  4. Special Ways to Say No
  5. Double Negatives
  6. Bonus: Polite Ways of Saying No in Chinese
  7. Conclusion

1. How to Negate a Statement

Chinese negation really just boils down to two basic words: 不 () and 没 (méi). While 不 is often used to negate things in the present or future tense, 没 is used to negate things in the past tense.

Learning how to correctly use these two Chinese negation words is half the battle. Once you have this down, you’ll have little difficulty grasping variants based on them. 

There are a few different patterns you can use to convey negation in Chinese: 

1. 不 () + Verb + Object

In Chinese: 我不喜欢吃香蕉。
Pinyin: Wǒ bù xǐ huān chī xiāng jiāo. 
In English: “I don’t like eating bananas.”

2. 不 () + Adjective

In Chinese: 我觉得这件衣服不好看。
Pinyin: Wǒ jué de zhè jiàn yī fú bù hǎo kàn. 
In English: “I think this piece of clothing isn’t good.”

3. 不 () + Proposition

In Chinese: 邻居不在家。
Pinyin: Lín jū bú zài jiā. 
In English: “My neighbor is not at home.”

4. 没 / 没有 (méi / méi yǒu) + Verb

In Chinese: 我没有偷东西。
Pinyin: Wǒ méi yǒu tōu dōng xi.
In English: “I didn’t steal anything.”

2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s cover another topic of interest: How to reply to a question with a negative answer. 

The following patterns and phrases are easy to learn, but you need to be mindful when using them. Depending on the context, they might sound a bit rough in Chinese. If you want to express negation in a more secure and polite way so as not to offend anyone, check out the bonus section at the end of this article for a little treat!

1. The Simplest Way to Deny Something

A Woman Making an X with Her Arms in Order to Reject Something or Someone

It’s not as hard as you think to deny something. Just say it!

Example

Question: 是你把我的芝士蛋糕吃了吗?
Pinyin: Shì nǐ bǎ wǒ de zhī shì dàn gāo chī le ma? 
In English: “Did you eat my cheesecake?”

#1. To say that something did not happen the way it was described: 不是 (bú shì)
#2. To say that something didn’t happen at all: 没有 (méi yǒu)

2. Other Negative Responses

#1

In Chinese: 不是这样的。
Pinyin: Bú shì zhè yàng de. 
In English: “It’s not like that.”

#2

In Chinese: 不行。 
Pinyin: Bù xíng.
In English: “No way.”

#3

In Chinese: 不可以。
Pinyin: Bù kě yǐ. 
In English: “That’s not allowed. ”

3. Ten Negative Words You Need to Know

Do you feel confident with the two basic words described earlier? Then you should go ahead and try to memorize the following words for negation in Mandarin Chinese!

A Man Speaking Out Loud with Letters Coming Out of His Mouth

Sometimes we just have to speak out loud what we truly think.

#1. 不能 / 不可以 (bù néng / bù kě yǐ) – “can’t”

In Chinese: 你不能/不可以 这么做。
Pinyin: Nǐ bù néng / bù kě yǐ zhè me zuò. 
In English: “You can’t do it. ”

#2. 不会 (bú huì) – “won’t”

In Chinese: 我不会离开你的。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú huì lí kāi nǐ de. 
In English: “I won’t leave you.”

#3. 从不 (cóng bù) – “never”

In Chinese: 我从不撒谎。
Pinyin: Wǒ cóng bú sā huǎng.
In English: “I never lie.”

#4. 很少 (hěn shǎo) – “hardly”

In Chinese: 她很少吃甜点。
Pinyin: Tā hěn shǎo chī tián diǎn. 
In English: “She hardly eats dessert.”

#5. 没有人 (méi yǒu rén) – “nobody”

In Chinese: 这里没有人。
Pinyin: Zhè lǐ méi yǒu rén. 
In English: “Nobody is here.”

#6. 别 / 不要 (bié / bú yào) – “don’t”

In Chinese: 不要这样做。
Pinyin: Bú yào zhè yàng zuò
In English: “Don’t do this.”

#7. 不再 (bú zài) – “no longer”

In Chinese: 我终于长大了,不再是那个年幼无知的小女孩了。
Pinyin: Wǒ zhōng yú zhǎng dà le, bú zài shì nà gè nián yòu wú zhī de xiǎo nǚ hái le. 
In English: “I finally grew up and am no longer that naive little girl.”

#8. 无处 (wú chù) – “nowhere”

In Chinese: 从此这架飞机便无处可寻了,哪里都找不到。
Pinyin: Cóng cǐ zhè jià fēi jī biàn wú chù kě xún le, nǎ lǐ dōu zhǎo bú dào.
In English: “Ever since then, the airplane went nowhere and no one ever found it.”

#9. 否则 (fǒu zé) – “otherwise”

In Chinese: 你真该庆幸有我在,否则你就完蛋了。
Pinyin: Nǐ zhēn gāi qìng xìng yǒu wǒ zài, fǒu zé nǐ jiù wán dàn le.
In English: “You should be glad I’m here, otherwise you would be screwed.”

#10. 也不 (yě bù) – “either” / “neither”

In Chinese: 我也不想出去吃饭。
Pinyin: Wǒ yě bù xiǎng chū qù chī fàn. 
In English: “I don’t want to dine out either.”

4. Special Ways to Say No


Restricted Area

We have to stop ourselves from doing the wrong things when needed.

#1. 非 (fēi) – negation for illegal things

In Chinese: 你所做的属于非法行为。
Pinyin: Nǐ suǒ zuò de shǔ yú fēi fǎ xíng wéi. 
In English: “What you did was illegal.”

#2. 无 () – “none of…” [formal]

In Chinese: 我只想在一个无人打扰的地方度过余生。
Pinyin: Wǒ zhǐ xiǎng zài yī gè wú rén dǎ rǎo de dì fang dù guò yú shēng. 
In English: “I just want to spend the rest of my life in a place where no one can disturb me.”

#3. 否 (fǒu) – “not” [formal]

In Chinese: 你是否愿意和我在一起?
Pinyin: Nǐ shì fǒu yuàn yì hé wǒ zài yī qǐ?
In English: “Do you or do you not want to be with me?”

#4. 勿 () – “don’t” [formal]

In Chinese: 请勿践踏草坪。
Pinyin: Qǐng wù jiàn tà cǎo píng. 
In English: “Please do not step on the grass.”

5. Double Negatives

Ready to move on to a more fun topic? Below are some examples of Chinese double negation, where two negators are used in the same sentence and cancel each other out. 

1. Subject + 不是 (bú shì) + 不 () / 没 (méi) + Predicate

#1.

In Chinese: 她不是不知道这件事的严重性。
Pinyin: Tā bú shì bù zhī dào zhè jiàn shì de yán zhòng xìng.
In English: “It’s not like she doesn’t know how serious this is.”

[She knows how serious this is.]

#2.

In Chinese: 我不是没提醒过他。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú shì méi tí xǐng guò tā. 
In English: “It’s not like I didn’t remind him.”

[I reminded him.]

#3.

In Chinese: 你不是不知道他有多喜欢你。
Pinyin: Nǐ bú shì bù zhī dào tā yǒu duō xǐ huān nǐ. 
In English: “It’s not like you don’t know how much he likes you.”

[You know how much he likes you.]

2. Subject + 不 () + 会 (huì) / 能 (néng) / 可能 (kě néng) + 不 () / 没 (méi) + Predicate

#1.

In Chinese: 父母是不会不疼爱孩子的,只是有时候方法不对。
Pinyin: Fù mǔ shì bú huì bù téng ài hái zi de, zhǐ shì yǒu shí hòu fāng fǎ bú duì.
In English: “It’s impossible that parents don’t love their children, it’s just that sometimes they are not doing it in the right way.”

3. (Subject) + 没有 (méi yǒu) + [Singular Noun] + 不 () / 没 (méi) + Predicate + 的

#1

In Chinese: 这里面没有一个人不是单身。
Pinyin: Zhè lǐ miàn méi yǒu yī gè rén bú shì dān shēn. 
In English: “There is no one that is not single.”

[Everyone is single.]

#2.

In Chinese: 这个超市里没有一个东西是不贵的。 
Pinyin: Zhè gè chāo shì lǐ méi yǒu yī gè dōng xi shì bú guì de. 
In English: “There is nothing in this supermarket that is not expensive.”

[Everything in this supermarket is expensive.]

6. Bonus: Polite Ways of Saying No in Chinese

A Couple being Led to a Table by a Waiter in a Suit

Stay polite and reject offers in the proper way.

Unlike in some Western cultures where people are used to being straightforward, there are a lot of expressions in Chinese culture that show one’s opinion in a vague way in order to be polite. This also gives the other party 面子 (miàn zi), meaning “face,” which refers to the “dignity” you’re giving to the other person by not rejecting them outright.

There are certain words used this way that might not indicate a strong will, but you should still heed them. Instead of forcing the answer you want, realize that the other person has probably made up his or her mind despite giving a “soft” rejection. 

#1

In Chinese: 要不算了吧。
Pinyin: Yào bu suàn le ba. 
In English: “Just let it go.”

You can use this phrase if you feel that you can’t help something. For example, imagine your friends ask you to tell the girl you like about your feelings, but she’s just gotten a new boyfriend.

#2

In Chinese: 这个忙我可能帮不了。
Pinyin: Zhè gè máng wǒ kě néng bāng bu liǎo. 
In English: “I probably won’t be able to help you with this.”

You could use this phrase after someone asks a favor of you, assuming you either can’t help them or don’t want to. For example, imagine a friend asks you to take care of his child when he’s gone, but you’re too busy to babysit.

#3

In Chinese: 还是别这样了。
Pinyin: Hái shì bié zhè yàng le. 
In English: “Don’t be like this.”

This phrase is used to warn someone who has done something inappropriate. For example, you could say this if your friend wants to have a party at your house, but your parents need to work quietly at home and cannot be disturbed.

#4

In Chinese: 我不是很想去。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú shì hěn xiǎng qù. 
In English: “I don’t really want to go.”

This is a polite way to reject an invitation. For example, you might use this phrase if your friend asks you to go for a drink at night, but you don’t like the taste of alcohol.

#5

In Chinese: 改天再说吧。
Pinyin: Gǎi tiān zài shuō ba. 
In English: “Let’s talk about it another day.”

This phrase is often used to postpone rejecting an invitation (or to put off giving a specific reason for your rejection). You could say this, for example, if a friend asks you to dine out and you just don’t feel like it. 

7. Conclusion

Chinese negation isn’t as difficult as you thought, right? Learning about negation in Chinese grammar early on can help increase your confidence as a beginner and make the rest of your studies much easier! 

Always keep in mind that Chinese people are very polite in some ways, so you should be careful with your tone and the way you phrase your rejections. 

If you still have any confusion about Chinese negation, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments. Asking questions is the only way to really improve! 

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced Chinese learner (or are anywhere in between), ChineseClass101 has customized content and convenient tools for efficient learning. 

Can’t wait to see your growth in your Chinese-learning journey? Join ChineseClass101 today to boost your language skills like a pro.

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Chinese Tenses: A New Way to View Past, Present, and Future

We all want to deliver the most accurate information when having a conversation, right? While building up a solid vocabulary base and learning proper syntax are important in this regard, there’s another key step: learning how to indicate the correct tense. 

If you’re a native English speaker (or a speaker of any other alphabet-based language), you’re probably used to changing the form of a verb to express tense. 

However, Chinese is a unique language that does not depend on verb conjugation. You heard that right: There is no verb conjugation in Chinese! Instead, one indicates different tenses in Chinese by adding different time adverbs based on the context. This method can be quite ambiguous and it requires a strong sense of understanding in a conversation. 

Of course, there are also advantages to learning Chinese tenses and once you get used to how it works, it will begin to flow very naturally. You’ll soon realize it can be quite convenient compared to memorizing several different verb conjugations.

In this article, we’ll let you in on all the tricks you’ll need to learn Chinese tenses. You’ll be integrating them into your daily conversations before you know it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Present
  2. Present Continuous
  3. Past
  4. Future
  5. Past / Future Continuous
  6. Past / Present Perfect
  7. Conclusion

1. Present

Signs with Now, Tomorrow, and Yesterday on Them

Time is always flying between now, the past, and the future.

The Chinese present tense is one of the simplest tenses to learn. All you need to do is add a time adverb to the sentence in order to indicate an habitual action.

A- Time Phrases

  • 总是/老 (zǒng shì / lǎo)  – “Always”
  • 经常 (jīng cháng) – “Often”
  • 现在 (xiàn zài) – “Now” 
  • 每次 (měi cì) – “Every time”
  • 天天/每天 (tiān tiān /měi tiān) – “Every day”
  • 一般情况下 (yī bān qíng kuàng xià) – “In general”
  • 有时 (yǒu shí) – “Sometimes”

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 父母不在家的时候,总是由姐姐照顾我。
Pinyin: Fù mǔ bú zài jiā de shí hòu, zǒng shì yóu jiě jie zhào gù wǒ.
In English: “When my parents are not home, it is always my older sister who takes care of me.”
Phrase used: 总是 (zǒng shì)

In Chinese: 他通常一个人去看电影。
Pinyin: Tā tōng  cháng yī gè rén qù kàn diàn yǐng. 
In English: “He often goes to the movie theater by himself.”
Phrase used: 通常 (tōng cháng)

2. Present Continuous

The present continuous tense in Chinese is one of the more complicated Chinese tenses to learn. This is because we must introduce Chinese auxiliary verbs that have no literal English translation. 

For example, we can use 在 (zài), 正 (zhèng), 正在 (zhèng zài), and 着 (zhe) to express the present continuous tense. They all mean something along the lines of “be doing” in English, indicating that the action is currently in progress. However, they are used differently and are not interchangeable with each other. Here are a couple of examples:

Structure #1: Subject + 在 / 正 / 正在 + Verb + Object
Structure #2: Subject + Verb + 着

A- Time Phrases

  • 正在/正/在… (zhèng zài /zhèng/ zài) – “Be doing”
  • 着… (zhe) – “Be doing”
  • 此时此刻 / 此刻 (cǐ shí cǐ kè / cǐ kè) – “At this moment”
  • 目前 (mù qián) – “Currently”
  • 现在 (xiàn zài) – “Right now”

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 我正在忙着写作业呢,不能陪你出去。
Pinyin: Wǒ zhèng zài máng zhe xiě zuò yè ne, bù néng péi nǐ chū qù. 
In English: “I am busy doing my homework and cannot go out with you right now.”
Phrases used: 正在 (zhèng zài), 着 (zhe)

In Chinese: 妈妈正在做一顿大餐,而我则在一旁帮她打下手。
Pinyin: Mā ma zhèng zài zuò yī dùn dà cān, ér wǒ zé zài yī páng bāng tā dǎ xià shǒu.
In English: “My mom is preparing a feast right now, and I am helping her by her side.”
Phrase used: 正在 (zhèng zài)

3. Past 

Again, we’re going to introduce some new “friends” for the past tense in Chinese. The particle 了 (le) is a suffix that can indicate things that happened in the past and those that will happen in the immediate future, so be careful and try to get a good understanding of both functions.

Another verb suffix is 过 (guò), which is used often for the past tense in Chinese. It’s usually (though not always) paired with 已经 (yǐjīng), meaning “already” in English. Check below for details on how to use them. 

Structure #1: Subject + Verb + Object + 了
Structure #2: Subject + 已经 + Verb + 过 + Object + 了

A- Time Phrases

  • 了 (le) – Indicating that something happened in the past
  • 过 (guò) – Indicating that something happened in the past
  • 已经 (yǐ jīng) – “Already”
  • 曾经 (céng jīng) – “Once”
  • 以前 (yǐ qián) – “Before”
  • 昨天 (zuó tiān) – “Yesterday” 
  • 去年 (qù nián) – “Last year”
  • 上周 (shàng zhōu) – “Last week” 

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 他昨天和朋友出去喝酒了。
Pinyin: Tā zuó tiān hé péng yǒu chū qù hē jiǔ le. 
In English: “He went drinking with his friends yesterday.”
Phrases used: 昨天 (zuó tiān), 了 (le)

In Chinese: 我曾经去过这家餐厅吃饭。
Pinyin: Wǒ céng jīng qù guò zhè jiā cān tīng chī fàn. 
In English: “I went to eat at this restaurant in the past.”
Phrases used: 曾经 (céng jīng), 过 (guò)

4. Future

A Road with Forward Arrows Drawn on It

Do you look forward to the future?

Clear time phrases such as “tomorrow” and “next year” are great indicators for the future tense in Chinese, but you may still need some special Chinese verbs and particles to complete the sentence and make it smoother. For instance, as mentioned above, the particle 了 (le) can be used not only for the past tense, but also for the future tense.

A- Time Phrases

  • 将 (jiāng) – “Will”
  • 打算/计划 (dǎ suàn /jì huà) – “Plan to…”
  • 会/要 (huì /yào) – “Intend to…”
  • 即将 / 马上 / 快 (jí jiāng / mǎ shàng / kuài) – “Soon”
  • 明天 (míng tiān) – “Tomorrow”
  • 下周 (xià zhōu) – “Next week”
  • 明年 (míng nián) – “Next year”

B- Example Sentences

In Chinese: 我打算明年去英国旅游。
Pinyin: Wǒ dǎ suàn míng nián qù Yīng guó lǚ yóu.
In English: “I plan to go to England for a trip next year.”
Phrases used: 打算 (dǎ suàn), 明年 (míng nián)

In Chinese: 妈妈的生日快到了,我计划给她办一场生日派对。
Pinyin: Mā ma de shēng rì kuài dào le, wǒ jì huá gěi tā bàn yī chǎng shēng rì pài duì. 
In English: “My mom’s birthday is coming up; I plan to throw her a birthday party.”
Phrases used: 快 (kuài), 计划 (jì huá)

5. Past / Future Continuous

For the past/future continuous tense in Chinese, simply combine the time phrases provided above with a proper past or future time indicator. The magic here is all in the coordination, nothing complex.

A- Time Phrases

Continuous 

  • 正在 / 正 / 在… (zhèng zài / zhèng / zài) – “Be doing”
  • 着… (zhe) – “Be doing”
  • 此时此刻 / 此刻 (cǐ shí cǐ kè / cǐ kè) – “At this moment”
  • 目前 (mù qián) – “Currently”
  • 现在 (xiàn zài) – “Right now”

Example Past Indicators

  • 昨天 (zuó tiān) – “Yesterday” 
  • 去年 (qù nián) – “Last year”
  • 上周 (shàng zhōu) – “Last week”

Example Future Indicators

  • 明天 (míng tiān) – “Tomorrow”
  • 下周 (xià zhōu) – “Next week”
  • 明年 (míng nián) – “Next year”

B- Example Sentences

Past Continuous

In Chinese: 昨天你给我打电话的时候,我正在刷牙呢。
Pinyin: Zuó tiān nǐ gěi wǒ dǎ diàn huà de shí hòu, wǒ zhèng zài shuā yá ne. 
In English: “I was brushing my teeth yesterday when you called me.”
Phrases used: 昨天 (zuó tiān), 正在 (zhèng zài)

Future Continuous 

In Chinese: 明天你休息的时候,我可能正在和客户谈工作。
Pinyin: Míng tiān nǐ xiū xi de shí hòu, wǒ kě néng zhèng zài hé kè hù tán gōng zuò. 
In English: “I will probably be discussing business with my client when you take a break tomorrow.”
Phrases used: 明天 (míng tiān), 正在 (zhèng zài)

6. Past / Present Perfect

A Woman Looking Up from Her Homework and Thinking

Are you struggling with the Chinese tenses right now?

Congratulations! Now you’ve made it to the advanced tenses in Chinese. 

However, don’t become too perplexed by these so-called advanced tenses. There’s really not much to it! You just need to use the time phrases provided below and combine them with some time adverbs according to the tense. 

For example, for the past perfect tense, you should use one of the time phrases provided below and combine it with something like 上周 (shàng zhōu), meaning “last week.”

Additionally, most of these time phrases can also stand alone without the help of any other time indicators. It all depends on the context.

A- Time Phrases

  • 已经 (yǐ jīng) –  “Already”
  • 自从 (zì cóng) – “Since”
  • ……完 (wán) – “Finish”
  • 到……为止 (dào…wéi zhǐ) – “Until” 

B- Example Sentences

Past Perfect

In Chinese: 截止到上周五,我才完成了该完成的工作的一半。
Pinyin: Jié zhǐ dào shàng zhōu wǔ, wǒ cái wán chéng le gāi wán chéng de gōng zuò de yī bàn.
In English: “I had only finished half of the assigned work by last Friday.”
Phrases used: 截止到… (jié zhǐ dào), 上周五 (shàng zhōu wǔ)

Present Perfect

In Chinese: 我们已经是认识十年的好朋友了。
Pinyin: Wǒ men yǐ jīng shì rèn shi shí nián de hǎo péng yǒu le. 
In English: “We have already known each other and been good friends for ten years.”
Phrase used: 已经 (yǐ jīng)

7. Conclusion

A Man Studying in a Library

The language-learning journey is never easy, but at least we’re all in this together.

It may take a while to digest what you’ve learned today about Chinese-language tenses, but it shouldn’t take too long! Remember, Chinese is not only an ambiguous language but also a flexible one. Just follow the rules and then make sense of it; you’ll soon be amazed at your progress!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Chinese?

How long will it take me to achieve the desired level in my target language? Will I ever get there? 

These can be excruciating questions for any diligent language learner, but knowing the answers can give you a sense of security and motivate you to work even harder toward your goal

Today, we’re going to answer that pressing question: How long does it take to learn Chinese? We’ll give you the best possible answer for each of the three major levels in Chinese learning (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). Moreover, we’ll provide you with a few secret tips on how to learn Chinese effectively! 

But first: Have you ever wondered why some people can learn Chinese quickly, and others learn it more slowly? Well, there are many contributing factors. Your language learning progress can be affected by any number of things, such as…

  • …the kind of environment you’re in. 
  • …the amount of time and effort you dedicate to learning. 
  • …your own gift or knack for languages. 

After reading this article, I believe you’ll have a much better idea of how long it will take you to master Chinese based on these and other factors.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. The Factors Involved in Your Learning Progress
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?
  5. Conclusion

1. The Factors Involved in Your Learning Progress

As mentioned, there are a few different things that can affect how long it takes to learn Chinese. Here’s a quick breakdown of those factors for you. 

Your Native Language vs. Chinese

All of the time estimates in this guide are based on the assumption that your native language is English or one of the Romance languages, which are very different from the Chinese language. But if you happen to know one or more Asian languages already (such as Korean or Japanese), congratulations! This will definitely give you a major advantage and make the learning process a lot faster for you, because these languages share many similarities with Chinese. 

Your Study Method

Everyone has his or her own way of learning and adapting to things. The first thing you should do is become aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses, and then find the best way to utilize or tackle them. 

Secondly, determine your goal and main reason for learning the language. Do you want to become a fluent Chinese speaker so you can have fulfilling conversations while traveling? Or would you like to read a book in Chinese? Your answers to these questions will determine how much time you should assign to learning different parts of the language, such as reading comprehension/vocab memorization and speaking/pronunciation practice. 

Once you pinpoint your goals, it’s time to take real action! Are you going to self-teach or learn the language systematically at an institution or convenient online class? To figure this out, ask yourself whether you thrive in people-oriented environments, or whether you have enough discipline to study by yourself. Either way, find the learning methods that best suit your interests and preferences. 

From there, it’s all about dedication! 

Your Own Dedication

A Man Studying Late at Night

If you want to achieve something, then you’ll have to pour your sweat and tears into it.

Have you established your goals and put a systematic learning system in place for yourself? Great! But that’s just the start. Learning a language is a daily practice that requires consistency; if you ever break that consistency, your progress may go downhill. 

You need to always keep your motivation in mind and push yourself forward in this long journey, little by little. You might get upset sometimes, but remember that this happens to everyone. It may take a long time for the progress to reveal itself, so it’s normal to become frustrated. The important thing is that you don’t give up. 

The Environment Around You

If you’re planning to move to China for work, study, or even just a short trip, take advantage of the opportunity and talk to people. Pay attention to the way they talk and never feel afraid to speak, even if you have limited proficiency. 

If you were raised in a bilingual environment, this is another huge plus for learning a third language. This is because your brain has already adapted to language learning and switching between languages—one less factor to worry about! 

Of course, it’s possible that you’re stuck in your own place for now and have no native Chinese speakers around. No worries! Try your best to create an immersive environment for yourself, whether that means listening to local Chinese audio sources, watching Chinese shows, or even trying to make a Chinese friend online. All of these things may boost your language speaking ability dramatically!

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Beginner Level?

Regardless of your goals, it’s important to start strong as you enter the beginner level. Here’s some useful information on how long you can expect this to take, what the “beginner level” looks like, and how to get there quickly! 

What a Chinese Beginner Needs to Know

A Man with Steam Coming Out of His Ears in Frustration

The beginning part of the learning process is always the hardest!

HSK, also known as 汉语水平考试 (hàn yǔ shuǐ píng kǎo shì) in Chinese, is the only official Mandarin Chinese proficiency exam for non-native speakers in China. It includes six levels across the beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages. 

As a beginner in the Chinese language, you should first start by learning the Pinyin system. Once you have that down, you can move on to learning phrases for basic daily greetings, self-introductions, telling the time, and asking for help and directions, as well as other everyday vocabulary. 

Of course, your proficiency is very limited at this point. Chinese is a tonal language, a concept that is difficult for speakers of English and Romance languages to grasp. In addition, the writing system is quite different and thus complicated to learn. Don’t worry about those things just yet; try your best to master the basics first and the harder aspects will become easier as you progress.

Required Time to Achieve the Beginner Level

Because Chinese is one of the most difficult languages in the world, it usually takes more time to grasp the fundamentals than it would for other languages. Assuming a student is studying consistently on a daily basis and putting in quality effort, it should take around 30-50 hours to achieve a beginner level. 

Secret Tips for Beginners

Are you feeling overwhelmed already, and wondering how to learn Chinese from scratch in the most efficient way possible? Don’t worry! These tips from ChineseClass101.com will help you make the most of your study time. 

Tip #1

Take advantage of your free time or time between tasks! You can keep a stack of flashcards in your pocket to review throughout the day or repeat vocabulary in your head while waiting in line, doing chores, or even taking a shower. Don’t underestimate these precious moments; once they accumulate, they can become pretty powerful.

Tip #2

Watch some Netflix shows or YouTube videos in Chinese with the help of English or Chinese subtitles, and never let a new vocab word slip past you again! Once you catch a word you don’t know, pause the video and look it up. It can be excruciating to pause the video over and over again, but trust me: you’ll learn more this way than you would just being entertained!

Tip #3

Chinese is a flexible language. As a beginner, you should start by mastering the Pinyin and trying to get a hang of the tones. Once you grasp the pronunciation aspect, it’s time to learn the most frequently used vocabulary and practice using those words in sentences. Don’t worry about the writing just yet—after all, learning how to converse is the most important part of learning a language.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “How are you?”

Language points: Common daily phrases
Highlight: Learn how to use Chinese adjectives and how to negate them.
Estimated time to study: An hour
Tips: Try to read out loud along with the video, doing so several times until you get used to reading the new phrases. Try reading them by yourself while thinking about the meaning.

3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?

Depending on your goals, the next logical step is probably to begin working toward an intermediate level. But what exactly does this look like and how long will it take to get there? 

What an Intermediate Chinese Learner Needs to Know

Two Twin Girls Sitting on the Couch and Raising Their Arms

You’re getting better and better now after so much practice! Congratulations!

It takes about 1-3 years to become fluent in daily conversations in Chinese. At this level, you’ll be able to talk about what you’ve done and express your feelings, which are considered intermediate-level topics. Additionally, you should be able to articulate the different tones most of the time and be able to read any Chinese character with the help of Pinyin. 

The writing system may still seem complicated to you as an intermediate learner, but you should be able to write some basic Chinese characters. In addition, you should be able to read most of the commonly used sentences and have a good understanding of how they’re structured. 

Required Time to Achieve the Intermediate Level

I suggest you spend at least two hours a day studying, which will ensure you can achieve the intermediate level within three years. These two hours should be spent effectively, studying all aspects of the language: active reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Secret Tips for Intermediate Chinese Learners

Tip #1

Instead of flashcards, you should now have a handbook of all the new and old vocabulary you’ve learned. You should form the habit of reviewing and updating it daily to keep track of your progress.

Tip #2

As you approach the intermediate level, you should try to start thinking like a Chinese speaker. This will pave the way for your upcoming advanced-level studies. Namely, you should actively learn Chinese like a native speaker and try to memorize vocabulary without translating it to your own language.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “Chinese Study Abroad”

Language points: Vocabulary and grammar
Highlight: Learn how to stand up for yourself.
Estimated time to study: An hour and a half
Tips: Take advantage of the “Vocabulary” part of the lesson, because it will introduce you to the Chinese spelling, Pinyin, and pronunciation of the most commonly used words for daily conversations.

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?

If your goal is to become completely fluent in Chinese, then let us congratulate you! That will be a huge accomplishment that will change your life for the better. To help you out, here’s everything you need to know about how to reach this level and how long it will take. 

What an Advanced Chinese Learner Needs to Know

Two People with Cardboard Boxes on Their Head Giving the Thumbs-up Sign

Gotta give yourself a thumbs-up if you ever achieve this level!

An advanced Chinese learner should be able to express things in depth and in a more elaborate manner. Prior to reaching this level, you should have started to learn more like a native speaker, meaning that you’re now able to speak, write, read, and listen without translation to your native language (most of the time).

Required Time to Achieve the Advanced Level

It takes about 4-7 years (roughly 2200 to 4000 hours) to become fluent in every aspect of the language, if you spend at least an hour and a half to study every day. However, it’s quite common for learners to become more fluent in some areas than others depending on how they allotted their study time. For example, you might have excellent Chinese speaking skills but have limited reading and writing ability. 

Secret Tips for Advanced Chinese Learners

Tip #1

You should try to create the best possible language learning environment for yourself as possible. To do this, try to think and talk to yourself in Chinese whenever you can; this will enhance your ability to learn the language like a native speaker would. If you’ve experienced any struggles with thinking in Chinese, you should actively look for a solution to this problem while you continue to pick up useful vocabulary and expressions. 

Tip #2

You should now challenge yourself by reading simple Chinese books and trying to keep a journal in Chinese. This will improve your skills in both reading and writing, as well as speaking. Above all, you should shift your goal from simply being able to converse to enriching the conversation.

Sample Lesson from ChineseClass101 – “The Joy of Being Busy”

Language points: Grammar, structure of sentences, and vocabulary
Highlight: Listen to our Chinese host talk about what she does in her spare time to relax in China.
Estimated time to study: Two hours
Tips: Try to learn the sentence patterns and common phrases used here. You can use them for your journal to make your writing sound more natural.

Conclusion

A ChineseClass101 Image

ChineseClass101 has the ultimate Chinese learning resources for you!

How long does it take to learn Chinese? By now, you should have a much clearer picture of the time commitment you’re looking at based on your goals. No matter what those goals are or where you are right now, there are two important things you should do to maximize your progress: 

  • Know your personal strengths and weaknesses.
  • Build your own unique learning system.

ChineseClass101 has established a unique learning system customized for our dedicated members. Our approach allows students to learn Chinese in the fastest and easiest way possible. We provide thousands of practical, immersive lessons that will guide you through daily Chinese conversations with up-to-date vocabulary and colloquial language—and the fun doesn’t stop there! 

You’ll also get a chance to experience Chinese culture and local life. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, you can be sure to find your perfect fit as we have lessons for every level of proficiency. Join now and you’ll get much more than learning materials. You’ll be getting the language learning experience of a lifetime!

How likely are you to start (or continue) learning Chinese after reading this article? Do you still have any questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments!

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The Top 30 Chinese Proverbs

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There’s a good chance you use proverbs every now and then to enrich your daily conversations. Proverbs are classic sayings taken from literature, history, famous people, or even stories. They’re used to offer wisdom or advice in a nutshell, and they can be fun, powerful, or even life-changing if you ponder over them.

Chinese proverbs are called 谚语 (yànyŭ) in Chinese. There are many ancient Chinese proverbs from thousands of years ago, encapsulating our ancestors’ life-long lessons. These proverbs express all kinds of philosophies and ideas, so learning a few yourself will help you become more familiar with Chinese culture and society. Who knows? You may even be able to use a couple yourself to lighten a conversation

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Education
  2. Life & Philosophy
  3. Success
  4. Friends
  5. Other Chinese Proverbs
  6. Conclusion

1. Education

A Man Studying on a Library

Learning is a life-long journey.

What better way to begin our list than with a few Chinese proverbs about learning and education? 

#1

Chinese: 学如逆水行舟,不进则退。

Pinyin: Xué rú nì shuǐ xíng zhōu, bú jìn zé tuì. 

Literal Translation: “Learning is just like sailing against the current; if you don’t advance, you will be driven back.”

Meaning: We should never stop learning.

Usage in Context: You used to be very good at playing basketball, but you’ve been lazy and haven’t practiced it in a long time. At some point, you realize “学如逆水行舟,不进则退” and decide to start practicing again. 

#2

Chinese: 世上无难事,只怕有心人。

Pinyin: Shì shàng wú nán shì, zhǐ pà yǒu xīn rén. 

Literal Translation: “Nothing in the world is difficult for one who is determined enough to achieve it.”

Close English Proverb: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Meaning: We can overcome any difficulty as long as we put our heart into it.

Usage in Context: You’re trying to learn how to code, but you’ve become upset because it seems very hard. Your friend sees your frustration and encourages you by saying: “世上无难事,只怕有心人。” 

#3

Chinese: 活到老,学到老。

Pinyin: Huó dào lǎo, xué dào lǎo. 

Literal Translation: “Learn no matter how old you grow.”

Close English Proverb: “Live and learn.”

Meaning: We should continue learning new things for the rest of our lives.

Usage in Context: Your dad stays at home and kills time all day; he has lost interest in growing a hobby or learning something new. You try to motivate him to do so by saying: “活到老,学到老。”

2. Life & Philosophy

A Man Thinking Something

Philosophy comes from our daily lives.

We all experience and perceive life differently, but there are some universal words of wisdom we can all use to guide us or to express our feelings. With that in mind, here are a few Chinese proverbs about life and philosophy!

#4

Chinese: 光阴似箭,日月如梭。

Pinyin: Guāng yīn sì jiàn, rì yuè rú suō.

Literal Translation: “Light travels like an arrow, and time like a shuttle.”

Close English Proverb: “Time flies.”

Meaning: We need to cherish the time we have since it goes by so fast.

Usage in Context: You’ve just had your twenty-first birthday and your parents feel like you’ve grown up overnight, so they say “光阴似箭,日月如梭” to describe their feelings.

#5

Chinese:  强扭的瓜不甜。

Pinyin: Qiáng niǔ de guā bù tián. 

Literal Translation: “When you force a melon from the vines, it won’t be sweet. “

Meaning: It’s not productive to force something to be done.

Usage in Context: You know that someone you like doesn’t like you back, so you try really hard to win his/her heart. Your friend advises you to give it up by saying: “强扭的瓜不甜。”

#6

Chinese: 种瓜得瓜,种豆得豆。

Pinyin: Zhòng guā dé guā, zhòng dòu dé dòu. 

Literal Translation: “A man who plants melons will harvest melons, and a man who plants beans will harvest beans.”

Close English Proverb: “What goes around comes around.” / “You reap what you sow.”

Meaning: You’ll always get what you’ve worked for.

Usage in Context: Your friend has worked very hard and received a good grade on a test; on the contrary, you have been slacking off and received a bad grade. You would then describe the situation by saying: ” 种瓜得瓜,种豆得豆。” 

#7

Chinese: 赠人玫瑰,手有余香。

Pinyin: Zèng rén méi guī, shǒu yǒu yú xiāng. 

Literal Translation: “Fragrance will be lingering over your hands when you give out flowers.”

Meaning: If you help others, they will greatly appreciate you.

Usage in Context: You gave a beggar a sandwich; he seemed very touched by the gesture and thanked you for it. You feel very good about the situation and want to describe the happiness of helping others with the phrase: “赠人玫瑰,手有余香。” 

#8

Chinese: 饮水思源。

Pinyin: Yǐn shuǐ sī yuán. 

Literal Translation: “When you drink the water, remember the spring as the source of the water.”

Meaning: We need to appreciate the ones who originally gave us what we have.

Usage in Context: You have a very decent life and never need to worry about anything. You’ve never thought about why you have so much to enjoy, until you remember the proverb “饮水思源” and realize it’s because your parents worked hard for it. 

#9

Chinese: 机不可失,失不再来。

Pinyin: Jī bù kě shī, shī bú zài lái. 

Literal Translation: “Don’t let an opportunity slip, it won’t come again.”

Close English Proverb: “Opportunity seldom knocks twice.”

Meaning: We need to cherish every single opportunity we have, otherwise we may lose it forever.

Usage in Context: You saw that your dream company is hiring, and you’ve worked hard to revise your resume because you’re aware that ” 机不可失,失不再来。”

#10

Chinese: 不怕一万,就怕万一。

Pinyin: Bú pà yī wàn, jiù pà wàn yī. 

Literal Translation: “We are not scared of ‘ten thousand,’ we are scared of the ‘just in case’.”

Meaning: We need to have a second plan, just in case.

Language Note: In Chinese, “ten thousand” is the reverse of “just in case.”

Usage in Context: The weather is cloudy but it says it won’t rain today. You decide to bring your umbrella just in case. You could describe this situation as: “不怕一万,就怕万一。”

#11

Chinese: 吃一堑,长一智。  

Pinyin: Chī yī qiàn, zhǎng yī zhì. 

Literal Translation: “Every time you fail, you grow wiser.”

Close English Proverb: “A fall into a pit, a gain in your wit.”

Meaning: Learn from your mistakes.

Usage in Context: You fell for a scam and lost money, so you say “吃一堑,长一智。” to show that you have learned your lesson and will be more cautious next time.

#12

Chinese: 姜还是老的辣。

Pinyin: Jiāng hái shì lǎo de là. 

Literal Translation: “Aged ginger is more powerful and spicy.” 

Meaning: The older you grow, the wiser and stronger you get.

Usage in Context: You tried to trick your dad with a prank and failed. Your dad laughs and tells you: “姜还是老的辣。”

#13

Chinese: 物以类聚,人以群分。

Pinyin: Wù yǐ lèi jù, rén yǐ qún fēn. 

Literal Translation: “Objects are categorized with those that are alike, humans are grouped together with those who are similar.”

Close English Proverb: “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Meaning: People who have similar traits or interests get along with each other.

Usage in Context: You often see a group of teenagers bully people at school. You could use “物以类聚,人以群分” to describe the situation.

#14

Chinese: 滴水之恩定当涌泉相报。

Pinyin: Dī shuǐ zhī ēn dìng dāng yǒng quán xiāng bào. 

Literal Translation: “The favor of a drip of water should be reciprocated by a gushing spring.”

Meaning: We should return small favors with much larger ones, and be grateful for even the smallest amount of help. 

Usage in Context: Your friend lends you a pencil to take a test when you don’t have one. It seems like a small favor, but later on, you return the favor by lending him lots of money when he needs it. You could describe this situation as: “滴水之恩定当涌泉相报。”

3. Success

Success Is Never Easy, But It’s Always Worth It.

Success is never easy, but it’s always worth it.

We all want to achieve success, whether it be professionally or in our personal lives. To motivate and inspire you, here are some Chinese proverbs about success. You can always write them down on sticky notes and place them around your home or workspace! 

#15

Chinese: 实践出真知。

Pinyin: Shí jiàn chū zhēn zhī. 

Literal Translation: “Knowledge is tested from practice.”

Close English Proverb: “Practice makes perfect.”

Meaning: We can learn from experimenting and practicing.

Usage in Context: After college, you begin working as an intern at a company. After some time on the job, you realize how important it is to apply what you learned in class to the real world. You could describe this lesson as: “实践出真知。”

#16

Chinese: 良好的开端是成功的一半。

Pinyin: Liáng hǎo de kāi duān shì chéng gōng de yī bàn. 

Literal Translation: “A good beginning is half of the success.”

Close English Proverb: “Well begun is half done.”

Meaning: A strong beginning is crucial to later success.

Usage in Context: You just went to your very first drawing class and you feel very confident about it. You’re proud of what you’ve done for a good beginning and further motivate yourself by saying: “良好的开端是成功的一半。” 

#17

Chinese: 失败乃成功之母。

Pinyin: Shī bài nǎi chéng gōng zhī mǔ. 

Literal Translation: “Failure is the mother of success.”

Meaning: We can always learn from failures to eventually succeed.

Usage in Context: You’ve tried so many times to bake a cake and have failed for different reasons every time. You eventually succeed by recognizing all of the mistakes from your failures, because “失败乃成功之母。”

#18

Chinese: 有志者,事竟成。

Pinyin: Yǒu zhì zhě, shì jìng chéng. 

Literal Translation: “You will be able to achieve your goals as long as you have determination and ambition.”

Close English Proverb: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Meaning: “People who are ambitious and determined enough will be able to succeed.”

Usage in Context: You have a dream of becoming a ballet dancer, and your friend encourages you to pursue it by saying: “有志者,事竟成。”

#19

Chinese: 绳锯木断,水滴石穿。

Pinyin: Shéng jù mù duàn, shuǐ dī shí chuān. 

Literal Translation: “Constant dripping wears away a stone.”

Meaning: Willpower will make the impossible possible.

Usage in Context: You used to be very overweight and no one believed you could ever get in shape. However, after five years of constant healthy diet and exercise, you now have a perfect body shape. You knew you could achieve this because: “绳锯木断,水滴石穿。”

#20

Chinese: 冰冻三尺,非一日之寒。

Pinyin: Bīng dòng sān chǐ, fēi yī rì zhī hán. 

Literal Translation: “It takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze three feet deep.”

Meaning: Excellence comes from the accumulation of consistent, day-to-day hard work.

Usage in Context: You want to play the piano as well as your piano teacher does, but you’ve practiced only a week and feel like you can never achieve your teacher’s level. Your teacher then tells you, “冰冻三尺,非一日之寒。” to imply the years of hard work he’s dedicated to playing the piano.

4. Friends

A Group of Friends

Do you have friends that you want to cherish for a lifetime?

Friends are some of the dearest people in our lives, and there’s much to be said about them. Following are a few Chinese proverbs about friendship that offer useful wisdom and insight on the topic. 

#21

Chinese: 有缘千里来相会,无缘对面不相逢。

Pinyin: Yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiàng huì, wú yuán duì miàn bù xiàng féng. 

Literal Translation: “You will meet people who are thousands of miles away if it’s meant to be, otherwise you will never meet each other although you live just next door.”

Meaning: Fate brings people together no matter how far apart they may be.

Usage in Context: You made a friend during a trip abroad and never got his contact information. Incredibly, you met him again when you came back to your country. You could describe this situation as: “有缘千里来相会,无缘对面不相逢。”

#22

Chinese: 千里送鹅毛,礼轻情意重。

Pinyin: Qiān lǐ sòng é máo, lǐ qīng qíng yì zhòng.

Literal Translation: “Travel a thousand miles to bestow a goose feather; the gift may be small, but it’s a token of a profound friendship.”

Meaning: Gifts given from the heart are priceless.

Usage in Context: You have a friend who is very poor, and she wants to thank you for helping her out financially before. She then uses the best ingredient she has to make a meal to treat you; although it’s not a fancy meal, you feel her gratitude toward you and say “千里送鹅毛,礼轻情意重。” to describe how grateful you feel for such a wonderful meal.

#23

Chinese: 患难见真情。

Pinyin: Huàn nàn jiàn zhēn qíng. 

Literal Translation: “Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends.”

Meaning: True friends will be there for you through a difficult time.

Usage in Context: Your luggage was stolen when you were abroad by yourself. You called many friends to ask for help, and only your best friend immediately transferred you some emergency money. You’re very touched and would like to say “患难见真情。” to describe how you feel about your friendship.

#24

Chinese: 有福同享,有难同当。

Pinyin: Yǒu fú tóng xiǎng, yǒu nàn tóng dāng.

Literal Translation: “To enjoy blessings and endure misfortune together.”

Meaning: True friends share not only the good times, but also the hard times.

Usage in Context: You used to earn lots of money and would always support your friends who were in need of it, but one day you went broke. Your friend is now in a better situation than you are, so he tries to help you out although his life is difficult as well. You could use “有福同享,有难同当。” to describe this friendship.

#25

Chinese: 路遥知马力,日久见人心。

Pinyin: Lù yáo zhī mǎ lì, rì jiǔ jiàn rén xīn.

Literal Translation: “Just as distance tests a horse’s strength, time can reveal a person’s heart.”

Meaning: Time will reveal the true nature of humans.

Usage in Context: You have been best friends with Jack for ten years, and every time you need help he will be there for you; many of your other friends have grown distant with time. You realize how great your friendship with Jack is and use “路遥知马力,日久见人心。” to describe your feelings.

A Woman Reading Something while Standing on a Train

It may take some time to integrate proverbs into your heart.

5. Other Chinese Proverbs

Here are just a few more Chinese sayings and proverbs you may want to memorize! 

#26

Chinese: 说曹操曹操到。

Pinyin: Shuō Cáo Cāo Cáo Cāo dào.

Literal Translation: “Every time when you speak of Cao Cao, Cao Cao will be here.”

Close English Proverb: “Speak of the devil.”

Meaning: The person whom you were speaking about happens to come along.

Language Note: Cao Cao was a Chinese poet and warlord, and he was made a character in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This proverb is from the novel.

Usage in Context: You were just complaining about someone’s bad behavior to your friends, and the person you were complaining about happens to pass by. You tell your friends: “说曹操曹操到。”

#27

Chinese: 你敬我一尺,我敬你一丈。

Pinyin: Nǐ jìng wǒ yī chǐ, wǒ jìng nǐ yī zhàng. 

Literal Translation: “You give me one foot of respect and I will return you ten times.”

Meaning: We should return even more respect and kindness than what we’ve received.

Usage in Context: You’re in a business meeting, and your potential partner seems to respect you a lot and has shown much courtesy. He left a good impression by doing so, and you decide to be even more respectful to him. You could describe this situation as: “你敬我一尺,我敬你一丈。”

#28

Chinese: 百闻不如一见。

Pinyin: Bǎi wén bù rú yī jiàn. 

Literal Translation: “Seeing for oneself is a hundred times better than hearing from others.”

Meaning: Seeing something with your own eyes can be more effective than only hearing about it.

Usage in Context: My grandmother has never seen the beach in her life, and she has always heard that it’s pretty. When we took her to the actual beach, she was stunned by the beauty of the beach and couldn’t help using “百闻不如一见。” to describe her feelings.

#29

Chinese: 恨铁不成钢。

Pinyin: Hèn tiě bù chéng gāng. 

Literal Translation: “Wish iron could turn into steel once.”

Meaning: To wish that someone could reach one’s own expectations.

Usage in Context: You’ve failed your test again and your parents are disappointed in you, so they use “恨铁不成钢” to describe their feelings.

#30

Chinese: 瑞雪兆丰年。

Pinyin: Ruì xuě zhào fēng nián.

Literal Translation: “Snowing indicates a good harvest.”

Language Note: This is from a traditional Chinese belief that a time-appropriate snow implies a good harvest for the next year.

Usage in Context: A farmer sees snow not long before the harvest time, so he says “瑞雪兆丰年。” to express hope for a great upcoming harvest.

6. Conclusion

Now, how many Chinese proverbs can you remember? 

Chinese proverbs are worth pondering over as they comprise many people’s experiences and lend us useful wisdom for our day-to-day lives. They’re always simple to say, but hard to apply. That said, we should still try to learn from them! 

We hope you enjoyed this article, but keep in mind that ChineseClass101.com still has so much more to offer you! You can easily create a free lifetime account and receive a variety of lessons that are tailored to your specific needs. Whether you want to know more about Chinese proverbs, culture, slang, grammar, or anything else, we’ll probably have it in store for you—and if not, we’re always updating and adding to our lesson library!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Grammar

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What is the backbone of every language? Definitely grammar. 

Using proper grammar showcases your professionalism and respect for others. 

Chinese grammar is rather unique. As opposed to English and the Romance languages which follow a strict structure, Chinese is often perceived by foreigners as not even having grammar. Others claim that Chinese grammar is extremely difficult. 

As an art, the Chinese language has its own unique features and much flexibility in its grammar. If you’ve learned other languages before, you’ll find that learning Chinese grammar won’t be a typical language learning experience; there may be many new concepts that you’ve never even heard of. 

Now, let’s dig into this Chinese grammar guide for beginners. Judge the language for yourself!


Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. General Rules of Chinese Grammar
  2. Special Chinese Grammar Point #1: Particles
  3. Special Chinese Grammar Point #2: Different Modifiers
  4. Special Chinese Grammar Point #3: Formality
  5. Special Chinese Grammar Point #4: Common Adverbs
  6. Special Chinese Grammar Point #5: Common Verbs
  7. Special Grammar Point #6: Negative Sentences
  8. Conclusion

1. General Rules of Chinese Grammar

A Green Belter Karate Woman

Learning new concepts may be challenging, but you will eventually ace them!

Welcome to the first reassuring rule of Chinese grammar: The structure of basic Chinese sentences is Subject-Verb-Object, just like in English. However, other special words, such as adverbs of time, have no fixed location in a sentence; you can put these words anywhere based on how much emphasis you want placed on them. In English, on the other hand, we usually only place words like this at the beginning or end of a sentence.

In Chinese grammar, questions can be formed without the use of interrogative adverbs (like “why” or “who”). You can simply say the statement with a rising intonation, sort of like you can do in informal English (“You ate all the cake?”). 

The best part of Chinese grammar is that you don’t even need to worry about conjugating verbs; you can simply add specific words into the sentence to signify the tense.

Here’s a final tip for beginners: Remember that tones in Chinese can dramatically change the meaning of a word or sentence. Using the wrong tone for even a small word can be the difference between effective communication and total confusion. Keep practicing your spoken Chinese with native Chinese speakers and the language will eventually become a part of yourself

Keeping these basic Chinese grammar rules in mind, let’s get to the more challenging parts of Chinese grammar!

2. Special Chinese Grammar Point #1: Particles

Bright Ideas

Never be afraid of asking questions when you encounter a difficulty.

One of the most interesting components of Chinese grammar structures is the question/exclamation particles. They’re typically placed at the end of a sentence to indicate either a question or an exclamation. Magical, right? Just one simple word, and the purpose and tone of your whole sentence transforms! Now, let’s see how to distinguish between the unfamiliar faces of our new friends.

1. Clause + 吗 (ma

This particle is used to indicate that you require a yes/no answer to your question. 

In Chinese: 明天的派对你还打算去吗?
Pinyin: Míng tiān de pài duì nǐ hái dǎ suàn qù ma? 
In English: “Are you still planning to go to the party tomorrow?”

2. Clause + 吧 (ba

This particle is used to make a suggestion.

In Chinese: 妈妈,你就放心让我一个人去旅行吧!
Pinyin: Mā ma, nǐ jiù fàng xīn ràng wǒ yī gè rén qù lǚ xíng ba! 
In English: “Mom, please be reassured and let me go travel by myself!”

3. Clause + 呢 (ne)

This particle changes the emphasis on a topic.

In Chinese: 虽然姐姐比我大两岁,但是很多时候都是我在照顾她呢。
Pinyin: Suī rán jiě jie bǐ wǒ dà liǎng suì, dàn shì hěn duō shí hou dōu shì wǒ zài zhào gù tā ne. 
In English: “Even though my sister is two years older than me, I am the one who takes care of her most of the time.”

4. Clause + 啊 (a)

This particle is used to express exclamation in a statement.

In Chinese: 你家可真漂亮啊!
Pinyin: Nǐ jiā kě zhēn piāo liàng a! 
In English: “Your house is so pretty!”

5. Clause + 啦 (la)

This particle is used to add a relaxed tone in an exclamatory sentence. 

In Chinese: 不要担心我啦。
Pinyin: Bú yào dān xīn wǒ la. 
In English: “Don’t worry about me.”

6. Clause + 嘛 (ma)

This particle is used to place emphasis on an overt fact.

In Chinese: 今天雨下得这么大,我怎么可能还出去买菜嘛。
Pinyin: Jīn tiān yǔ xià de zhè me dà, wǒ zěn me kě néng hái chū qù mǎi cài ma. 
In English: “The rain is incredibly heavy today, there is no way I am still going to buy groceries. ”

Additional notes: As you may have noticed above, these particles don’t possess a tone; they’re simply indicated as “light-sounding” in Chinese. All of these particles can also be used in declarative sentences, as well as exclamatory and interrogative sentences depending on how strong the expression is.

3. Special Chinese Grammar Point #2: Different Modifiers

There are three general modifiers that are used in daily conversations, which are: 的 (de), 得 (de), and 地 (de). While they have the same pronunciation, each one is used differently. It may take some time to digest, but they’re fairly straightforward to learn. Don’t be afraid. Just take on the challenge!

1. Subject + 的 (de) + Object

This modifier may be one of the easiest to understand as you can literally translate it to “of.” It indicates a sense of ownership.

In Chinese: 这是我的书。 
Pinyin: Zhè shì wǒ de shū. 
In English: “This book is mine.”

2. Attribute + 的 (de) + Noun

In Chinese: 我哥哥是一个很有雄心壮志的人。
Pinyin: Wǒ gē ge shì yī gè hěn yǒu xióng xīn zhuàng zhì de rén. 
In English: “My older brother is someone who is very ambitious.”

3. Verb + 得 (de) + State

In Chinese: 这支舞她跳得可真美。
Pinyin: Zhè zhī wǔ tā tiào de kě zhēn měi. 
In English: “This dance she is performing is beautifully done.”

4. Adjective + 地 (de) + Verb

In Chinese grammar, many adjectives can function as adverbs when they modify verbs, without changing their form.

In Chinese: 勇敢地前进吧,我会永远支持你的。
Pinyin: Yǒng gǎn de qián jìn ba, wǒ huì yǒng yuǎn zhī chí nǐ de. 
In English: “Just bravely go for it, I will always be there for you. ”

4. Special Chinese Grammar Point #3: Formality

Man and Woman Shaking Hands

A polite person always draws people closer.

Don’t panic just yet. This is a very straightforward but important point in Chinese grammar. As a people that values politeness and formality, the Chinese use two different forms to express “you.” One is more polite, to be used with people whom you need to show more respect such as your elders or mentors. The other one can be casually used with peers and friends.

1. The polite form: 您 (nín)

In Chinese: 奶奶,您最近身体还好吗?
Pinyin: Nǎi nai, nín zuì jìn shēn tǐ hái hǎo ma? 
In English: “Grandma, how has your health been recently?”

2. The casual form: 你 ()

In Chinese: 谢谢你一直以来的陪伴。
Pinyin: Xiè xie nǐ yī zhí yǐ lái de péi bàn. 
In English: “Thank you for always keeping me company.”

5. Special Chinese Grammar Point #4: Common Adverbs

Woman Holding Her Laptop Thinking of Something

Still bewildered about Chinese grammar? Leave your questions in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!

Now that we’ve gone over some basic Chinese grammar rules, let’s dive in deeper with a list of the most common adverbs to make your sentences even more complete. Keep in mind that while these words are considered adverbs in Chinese, they may be of a different part of speech when translated into English.

1. Able to: 会 (huì)

In Chinese: 她五岁就会做饭了。
Pinyin: Tā wǔ suì jiù huì zuò fàn le.
In English: “She was able to cook ever since she was five years old.”

2. Allowed to/Could: 能 (néng)

In Chinese: 请问我能去一下你家的卫生间吗?
Pinyin: Qǐng wèn wǒ néng qù yī xià nǐ jiā de wèi shēng jiān ma? 
In English: “Could I please (Am I allowed to) go to the bathroom at your house?”

3. Also: 也 ()

In Chinese: 我原本也想买这本书。
Pinyin: Wǒ yuán běn yě xiǎng mǎi zhè běn shū. 
In English: “I was also thinking about buying this book. ”

4. Still: 还 (hái)

In Chinese: 我还是很怀念大学的时光。
Pinyin: Wǒ hái shì hěn huái niàn dà xué de shí guāng. 
In English: “I am still nostalgic about my college times.”

5. Too: 太 (tài)

In Chinese: 你弹钢琴的样子实在是太迷人了。
Pinyin: Nǐ tán gāng qín de yàng zǐ shí zài shì tài mí rén le. 
In English: “The way you play the piano is honestly way too attractive.”

6. Very: 很 (hěn)

In Chinese: 我家有一个很大的游泳池。
Pinyin: Wǒ jiā yǒu yī gè hěn dà de yóu yǒng chí. 
In English: “There is a very big swimming pool in my house.”

6. Special Chinese Grammar Point #5: Common Verbs

Verbs are one of the most important parts of speech, so it’s crucial that you know the most common ones and how to use them. 

1. To have / To possess: 有 (yǒu)

In Chinese: 我家有一只很可爱的小狗。
Pinyin: Wǒ jiā yǒu yī zhī hěn kě ài de xiǎo gǒu. 
In English: “I have a very cute doggie at home.”

2. To be somewhere: 在 (zài)

In Chinese: 你给我打电话的时候我正在外面。
Pinyin: Nǐ gěi wǒ dǎ diàn huà de shí hou wǒ zhèng zài wài mian. 
In English: “I was outside when you were calling me. ”

3. To be: 是 (shì)

In Chinese: 她是一个特别内向的人。
Pinyin: Tā shì yī gè tè bié nèi xiàng de rén. 
In English: “She is a very introverted person.”

4. To go: 去 ()

In Chinese: 我最好的朋友邀请我今天去她家吃饭。
Pinyin: Wǒ zuì hǎo de péng you yāo qǐng wǒ jīn tiān qù tā jiā chī fàn. 
In English: “My best friend invited me to go and eat at her place today.”

5. To come: 来 (lái)

In Chinese: 不管他来我家多少次,都永远记不住路。
Pinyin: Bù guǎn tā lái wǒ jiā duō shǎo cì, dōu yǒng yuǎn jì bú zhù lù. 
In English: “No matter how many times he came to my house, he will never remember the directions.”

7. Special Grammar Point #6: Negative Sentences

There are two words that can be used to form a negative sentence: 不 () and 没 (méi). Remember that these are not interchangeable and have different usages.

1. Subject + 不 () + Verb

Use this structure to indicate that you don’t want to do something (or that you just won’t do it). 

In Chinese: 我是不会出国留学的。
Pinyin: Wǒ shì bú huì chū guó liú xué de. 
In English: “I won’t go study abroad.”

2. Subject + 不 () + Verb

This structure can be used to say that someone is not in the habit of doing something.

In Chinese: 我不喜欢熬夜。
Pinyin: Wǒ bù xǐ huan áo yè. 
In English: “I don’t like to stay up late.”

3. 不 () + Adjective

This structure expresses the negation of an adjective.

In Chinese: 她觉得自己不好看。
Pinyin: Tā jué de zì jǐ bù hǎo kàn. 
In English: “She thinks she is not pretty.”

4. Subject + 没(有)(méi yǒu) + Verb + Object

Use this structure to negate actions in the past or future. 

In Chinese: 我没去打篮球。
Pinyin: Wǒ méi qù dǎ lán qiú. 
In English: “I didn’t go play basketball.”

In Chinese: 我还没吃饭呢。
Pinyin: Wǒ hái méi chī fàn ne. 
In English: “I haven’t eaten yet.”

5. Subject + 没有 (méi yǒu) + Verb + Object

This structure is used to indicate that you don’t have something.

In Chinese: 抱歉,我没有多余的笔。
Pinyin: Bào qiàn, wǒ méi yǒu duō yú de bǐ. 
In English: “Sorry, I don’t have an extra pencil.”

Learning Stuff

Spare some time every day to study a language, and you will certainly improve over time!

8. Conclusion

Now take a deep breath. Have you gotten used to these basic Chinese grammar rules? If you’re still struggling with something, don’t worry. Learning a new language is like embracing a new lifestyle; only when you gradually integrate it into your daily life will you be able to master Chinese.

Of course, we couldn’t include everything about Chinese grammar here—there’s so much more that’s worth exploring. ChineseClass101 is honored to share with you our large pool of Chinese grammar resources, language and culture lessons, and other effective learning materials. We’re here to assist you and help you succeed in your language learning journey. If you want to bring yourself to the next level, don’t hesitate to create your free lifetime account today!

If you have any questions about what we went over today, feel free to leave us a comment. We’ll get back to you with useful information!

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Chinese Final Particles: Signals for Tone of Voice

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Let’s take a look at these three sentences:

  • 你坐啊。(Nǐ zuò a.)
  • 你坐吧。(Nǐ zuò ba.)
  • 你坐嘛。(Nǐ zuò ma.)

They all have the same “sentence stem,” which is made up of the subject 你 (),  or “you,” and the action verb 坐 (zuò), meaning “to sit.” The last word in each sentence (a/ba/ma) is a particle, which doesn’t carry referential meaning, and therefore has no direct translations. Literally, these three sentences could all translate as: “You sit.” 

However, the Chinese particles at the end of each sentence drastically change the speaker’s mood and attitude. Final particles in Chinese can, for example, express that the speaker is feeling excited, making a polite suggestion, or being a little pushy and forceful.

Particles at the end of a sentence or question in Chinese are called final particles, also known as Chinese modal particles, as they indicate the speaker’s mood. Sentence-final particles can imply one’s attitude and intention in an indirect and subtle way, while at the same time making the speech colloquial. They’re often in a neutral tone, with no tone mark. 

In this article, you’ll learn some of the most commonly used final particles in Chinese and how to use them properly in different contexts. Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Most Common Final Particles Used in Sentences
  2. Most Common Final Particles Used in Questions
  3. Comparison of Chinese Sentence Ending Particles
  4. Conclusion

1. Most Common Final Particles Used in Sentences

Note: Since there are barely any modal particles in English, we’ll provide the translations in the example sentences below with the indicated meanings, instead of the literal meanings. 

1- 啊 (a)

A- Usage 1: indicating excitement, exclamation, or a sense of urgency from the speaker

Kid with Open Mouth

Example:

  • 好香啊!
    Hǎo xiāng a!
    “It smells so good!”

This Chinese particle is used when you’re amazed at how great something smells, whether it’s food, flowers, or anything else with an aroma. Adding the particle 啊 (a) is the equivalent of saying “wow” in this context.

  • 我不知道啊!
    Wǒ bù zhīdào a!
    “I honestly don’t know!”

The 啊 (a) after 我不知道 (Wǒ bù zhīdào), or “I don’t know,” gives more flavor to the sentence. An example situation of when you could say this is if everyone is looking at you, but you honestly have no idea why!

  • 你快说啊!
    Nǐ kuài shuō a!
    “Say it, hurry!”

This could be used to ask someone to tell you something you need to know right now. For example, when a police officer interrogates a suspect, or a teenage girl is eager to find out more about her crush.

B- Usage 2: listing a number of things in colloquial language

啊 (a) is attached after someone has listed a number of things.

  • 动物园里有大象啊,老虎啊,狮子啊等等。
    Dòngwùyuán lǐ yǒu dàxiàng a, lǎohǔ a, shīzi a děngděng.
    “In the zoo, there are elephants, tigers, lions, and so on.”
  • 他擅长各种运动。比如说跑步啊,游泳啊,骑车啊,打篮球什么的。
    Tā shàncháng gèzhǒng yùndòng. Bǐrú shuō pǎobù a, yóuyǒng a, qíchē a, dǎ lánqiú shénme de.
    “He’s good at all kinds of sports, such as running, swimming, biking, playing basketball, and things like these.”

2- 了 (le)

了 (le) is considered one of the most difficult Chinese particle words to use. This is because it’s such a versatile and flexible word that it comes in many different forms and can be used in a variety of situations. 

When put at the end of a sentence (not as part of a sentence pattern), the particle 了 (le) has two major functions:

A- Usage 1: indicating completed actions and past events

Now, Yesterday, Tomorrow Signs
  • 今天早上我喝咖啡了。
    Jīntiān zǎoshang wǒ hē kāfēi le.
    “This morning, I drank coffee.”

Because Chinese verbs don’t conjugate, 了 (le) is often used as a marker for “past tense.” However, you need to be careful with the 就要……了 (jiù yào …le) pattern, meaning “about to….” This pattern is used for future events or actions. 

In order to confirm the time an action took place (or will take place), always check the time phrases and context, which is how the Chinese language works in terms of tenses. 

Like in our example, the time phrase 今天早上 (jīntiān zǎoshang), meaning “this morning,” lets the listener know that this is a completed action.

B- Usage 2: indicating change of status or state

For example, this may not be something you want to tell your friend, even if it’s true:

  • 你胖了。
    Nǐ pàng le.
    “You gained weight.”

The “you”‘ is in a different condition now. “You” were thinner when I last saw “you.” 

  • 下雨了。
    Xiàyǔ le.
    “It’s starting to rain.”

下雨 (xiàyǔ) means “to rain.” With the final particle 了(le), the sentence indicates that the weather is changing. It wasn’t raining, but now it is. 

3- 啦 (la)

A- Usage 1: can be viewed as the combination of 了 (le) and 啊 (a)

When we say the Chinese particles 了 (le) and 啊 (a) together quickly, it sounds like 啦 (la). As a result, it could indicate completed actions and change of state, with a tone of exclamation.

For example:

你胖了 (nǐ pàng le) without any more modal particles is usually a very neutral statement, even though it could hurt someone’s feelings. But when you say it with the particle 啦 (la), you’re making a big deal of it. 

  • 你胖啦! 
    Nǐ pàng la!
Big Belly

It’s almost like saying: “OMG, you gained weight!”

If your friend gets mad, you’re absolutely guilty. 

  • 今天早上我喝咖啡啦!
    Jīntiān zǎoshang wǒ hē kāfēi la!

You could use the sentence above when you haven’t had coffee for years, and finally this morning, you had some coffee. One could definitely feel the excitement, as well as the caffeine in you, when you say: 今天早上我喝咖啡啦!

B- Usage 2: 啦 can also be used as a soft imperative to urge someone to do something 

This usage is very common in Taiwanese Mandarin.

Example:

  • 再吃点啦。
    Zài chī diǎn la.
    “Eat more.”

The sentence above is urging someone to eat more, but with good intentions. It’s typically used by a parent to their child, or a host to guests at a homemade dinner

4- 吧 (ba)

吧 (ba) is one of the few very common, yet easy-to-use, final particles in Chinese. Great for boosting your confidence after wrapping your mind around all the complicated particles.

A- Usage 1: making suggestions

Example:

  • 我们走吧。
    Wǒmen zǒu ba.
    “Let’s go.”

Without 吧 (ba), 我们走 (wǒmen zǒu), which literally translates as “we go,” sounds a bit harsh, like making a command. By adding the 吧 (ba) at the end, the tone of voice gets softened. It still tells the other person to go, but in a more polite way, almost like making a suggestion.

  • 这样吧,我们先取消这个会议。
    Zhèyàng ba, wǒmen xiānqǔ xiāo zhège huìyì.
    “How about this? We’ll cancel this meeting for now.”

The phrase 这样吧 (zhèyàng ba) is often used to bring up a solution in a humble way, without sounding bossy.

B- Usage 2: indicating that the speaker is accepting something half-heartedly

Example: 

  • 那好吧。
    Nā hǎo ba.
    “Alright then.”

If you don’t like someone’s idea, but can’t quite think of a better solution, this is the phrase to use. 

  • 行吧,你想取消就取消。
    Xíng ba, nǐ xiǎng qǔxiāo jiù qǔxiāo.
    “Okay then, if you want to cancel it, cancel it then.”

行吧 (xíng ba) is used to okay something you’re not thrilled about, but don’t mind trying.

5- 哦 (o)

哦 (o) is used more by females than by males as a modal particle, since it adds a tone of softness, friendliness, and sometimes even intimacy to the speech.  

  • 小心哦。
    Xiǎoxīn o.
    “Be careful, okay?”

小心 (xiǎoxīn) means “be careful.” By adding the particle 哦 (o), the tone becomes more gentle and sweet. A strict father may tell you 小心 (xiǎoxīn), while a loving mother may tell you 小心哦 (xiǎoxīn o).

  • 不要忘了给我打电话哦。
    Búyào wàng le gěi wǒ dǎ diànhuà o.
    “Don’t forget to give me a call, alright?”

This is something a girl would tell her boyfriend, or a worrying mother would tell her son who’s going abroad for new adventures. 

6- 呢 (ne)

As a sentence final article, 呢 (ne) can soften the tone while emphasizing a fact, usually when trying to convince someone of something.

  • 还早呢。不用担心。
    Hái zǎo ne. Búyòng dānxīn.
    “It’s still early. Don’t worry.”

“It’s still early” is the fact. “Don’t worry” is what you’re trying to convince the other person to do.  

  • 一百多块呢。还是别买了。
    Yìbǎi duō kuài ne. Háishì bié mǎi le.
    “It’s over a hundred kuai. We’d better not buy it.”

块 (kuài) is the colloquial way to say 元 (yuán), the official unit name for Chinese currency

“It’s over a hundred kuai” is the fact. “Don’t buy it” is what you’re trying to tell the other person to do. 

7- 嘛 (ma)

This final particle is used when the speaker thinks something is obvious. 

Be careful using this particle, because in some situations, it could sound condescending, pushy, and impatient. 

  • 这个很简单嘛。
    Zhège hěn jiǎndān ma.
    “This is so simple.”

Without the particle 嘛 (ma), 这个很简单 (zhège hěn jiǎndān) is a neutral statement meaning “This is simple.” With the 嘛 (ma), it could imply that “This is so simple, you don’t get it?” or “This is so simple, I can solve it in only a few seconds.”

  • 你快点嘛!
    Nǐ kuàidiǎn ma!
    “Hurry up, will you?”

In this context, 嘛 (ma) makes the speaker sound very impatient, like a father yelling at his son to keep him from missing a flight

2. Most Common Final Particles Used in Questions

Chinese final particles are not only used in sentences, but also in questions. Here are some common Chinese question particles:

1- 吗 (ma)

Unlike the 嘛 (ma) we mentioned above, this 吗 (ma) is a question marker that turns a sentence into a yes-or-no question.

Woman Holding a Yes and a No Card

这是一只猫(Zhè shì yī zhī māo.)  is a sentence meaning “This is a cat.” When we attach 吗 (ma) to the end of the sentence, it becomes a question.

  • 这是一只猫吗?
    Zhè shì yī zhī māo ma?
    “Is this a cat?”

By itself, 她会说英语。 (Tā huì shuō Yīngyǔ.) means “She speaks English.” Look at what happens when we add 吗 (ma):

  • 她会说英语吗?
    Tā huì shuō Yīngyǔ ma?
    “Does she speak English?”

2- 啊 (a)

啊 (a) can be used at the end of a sentence, and at the end of a question, to express surprise or excitement in colloquial speech.

  • 你没去啊? 
    Nǐ méi qù a?
    “You didn’t go?”

By adding 啊 (a), it indicates that the speaker is surprised about the fact that “you didn’t go.”

  • 你到底什么意思啊?
    Nǐ dàodǐ shénme yìsi a?
    “What on earth do you mean?”

The speaker is clearly angry here, using the adverb 到底 (dàodǐ) “on earth” and the Chinese exclamation particle 啊 (a) to intensify his tone. 

3- 吧 (ba)

When used in questions, 吧 (ba) softens the tone like it does in sentences. But at the same time, it’s soliciting agreement from the listener, similar to the tag questions in English. An answer is expected from the listener. 

  • 他走了吧?
    Tā zǒu le ba?
    “He left, didn’t he?”

Notice that there are two particles in a row in this sentence. 了 (le) to indicate completed actions, and 吧 (ba) to ask a question that he’s pretty sure he knows the answer to. 

If we switch 吧 with 吗, the question becomes 他走了吗? (Tā zǒu le ma?) In this case, the speaker doesn’t know if “he has left” or not. He’s simply asking a question he’s not sure about. 

  • 今晚不会下雨吧?
    Jīnwǎn búhuì xiàyǔ ba?
    “It won’t rain tonight, right?”

The speaker may be seventy percent sure it won’t rain tonight, but still wants to double-check with the listener. 

4- 呢 (ne) 

When used in questions, 呢 (ne) can be used in a few ways.

A- Usage #1: after a topic is brought up, attach 呢 (ne) to another subject to ask “How about …?” 

  • 我很好。你呢?
    Wǒ hěn hǎo. Nǐ ne?
    “I’m very good. How about you?”
  • 他爸爸去世了。他妈妈呢?
    Tā bàba qùshì le. Tā māma ne?
    “His dad passed away. How about his mom?”

B- Usage  #2: meaning “where”

woman looking over the horizon with hand over forehead

Simply put 呢 (ne) after a subject whose whereabouts you’d like to know. 

  • 小明呢?
    Xiǎo Míng ne?
    “Where is Xiaoming?”
  • 我的手机呢?
    Wǒ de shǒujī ne?
    “Where is my phone?”

C- Usage #3: softening the tone in a question of choices

  • 我要不要去呢?
    Wǒ yào búyào qù ne?
    “Should I go or not go?”

This has the same meaning as 我要去吗?(Wǒ yào qù ma?) in which 吗 is used to indicate that it’s a yes-or-no question, while in 我要不要去呢?the choices have been given: 要 (yào) or 不要 (búyào), and the 呢 at the end softens the tone. 

  • 你有没有考虑过我的感受呢?
    Nǐ yǒu méiyǒu kǎo lǜ guò wǒ de gǎnshòu ne?
    “Have you ever thought about my feelings?”

The literal translation is: “You have or have not thought about my feelings?” 呢 (ne) is untranslatable as it only helps to soften the tone. 

3. Comparison of Chinese Sentence Ending Particles

Now let’s revisit the three sentences at the beginning of this article. Can you tell what tone of voice they could carry and in what situation they may be used?

Chair

1. 你坐啊。(Nǐ zuò a.)
2. 你坐吧。(Nǐ zuò ba.)
3. 你坐嘛。(Nǐ zuò ma.)

Sentence 1 with the final particle 啊 (a) could be used when you’re visiting your friend, and he or she asks you to take a seat and make yourself at home. It’s like saying: “Sit, make yourself comfortable.”

Sentence 2 with the final particle 吧 (ba) could be used by your supervisor who’s inviting you to sit in his office when he needs to speak with you in private. It’s like saying: “Grab a seat. We need to talk.” He’s trying to be nice by making a suggestion with 吧 (ba). 

Sentence 3 with the final particle 嘛 (ma) could be used by your mom urging you to sit after having told you many times. It’s like saying: “Please sit down for me!”

Well done. Now let’s try to put some more Chinese final particles after the sentence stem 你坐 (nǐ zuò).

4. 你坐哦。Nǐ zuò o. 
5. 你坐吗?Nǐ zuò ma? 
6. 你坐了啊?Nǐ zuò le a? 

Sentence 4 with the final particle 哦 (o) could be used by your new girlfriend acting sweet on you, telling you to sit next to her. It’s like saying: “Sit, my dear.” 

Sentence 5 is a question with the final particle 吗 (ma). It’s simply asking: “Are you going to sit?” in a neutral tone. 

In question 6, there are two final particles. The first one is 了(le), possibly indicating that something happened in the past. The next one is 啊 (a), asking a question with strong emotion. In a question, it likely carries a tone of surprise. 

坐 (zuò) as a verb could translate either as “to sit” or “to ride.” So 你坐了啊 could either be saying: “You sat? Really?” or “You’ve ridden in it? Oh wow.” 

4. Conclusion

Understanding Chinese ending particles and knowing how to use them in different settings takes a lot of time and immersion

If you’re a beginner, my advice is to keep your ears open for these particles, but try to stay away from them when you speak. If you use them correctly, your Chinese will sound very native and impressive, for sure. But if you put them in the wrong settings, you could embarrass yourself and your listeners. Think of the particles as the garnishments in cooking. For a great chef who knows his basics, his dish tastes fantastic even without fancy plates or flowers! 

Once you’re more comfortable and confident speaking Chinese, try out some of the particles with your friends who are willing to correct you. Eventually, you’ll be able to add different flavors to your speech with the proper final particles. 

Don’t forget that simulating immersion with our lessons is what ChineseClass101.com strives to do. You can listen to our audio lessons while commuting, before you sleep, after your work, or anytime you want. Download our app or go to our website to enjoy our free lessons!  

How did you like this lesson? Is there anything about Chinese final particles you still need clarification on? Let us know in the comments; we look forward to hearing from you!

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Is Chinese Hard to Learn? (And How to Love it Anyway)

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You’re interested in learning Mandarin Chinese, but rumor has it that it’s the most difficult language in the world. You start to have second thoughts. 

You’re not alone. To a lot of people, especially those who speak a Romance language, the Chinese language not only “sounds Greek,” but worse. The mysterious symbols, the absence of an alphabet, the hard-to-pronounce sounds, the Yin and Yang, and the ancient philosophies behind the language…the list goes on. 

Is Chinese hard to learn? Maybe. But should it keep you from moving forward? 

Definitely not! 

Chinese is a beautiful language. Imagine if the Chinese language were a woman—stunning, exotic, seemingly distant. You want to pursue her, but there’s a voice whispering in your ear that she’s out of your league. Would you give up right away, without even trying? 

Never! 

With the proper motivation, strategies, perseverance, and a few tips (which I’ll provide you with in this article), you can have a wonderful relationship with Chinese that will make everybody else jealous!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Getting to Know Chinese: The Easy Parts and the Difficult Parts
  2. Getting Serious: Start Off on the Right Foot
  3. A Little Professional Help Goes a Long Way

1. Getting to Know Chinese: The Easy Parts and the Difficult Parts

Now you’re officially on a date with Chinese. Here are some things you should know about her.

A- What’s the easy part of Chinese?

Grammar.

That’s right. Grammar is the easiest thing about Chinese. Here’s why:

i. Distinctions between tenses and moods are vague, with no verb conjugations. 

Chinese is a highly contextual language. Whether an action has happened, is happening, or will happen is usually indicated by time phrases and particles. 

For example, 爱 (ài) is a verb that means “to love.”

Book Pages Making a Heart Shape
    ➢ 我爱中文。(Wǒ ài Zhōngwén.)
    “I love Chinese.”

Basic simple tense.

    ➢ 我曾经爱过中文。(Wǒ céngjīng àiguò Zhōngwén.)
    “I used to love Chinese.”

Key words: 曾经 (céngjīng), meaning “at one time,” and the particle (guò), which marks an action that has been completed.

Together, they suggest that this is an event that happened in the past. The literal translation is: “I at one time loved Chinese.”

    ➢ 我一直爱着中文。(Wǒ yìzhí àizhe Zhōngwén.)
    “I’ve been in love with Chinese the whole time.”

Key words: 一直 (yìzhí), meaning “always,” and the particle (zhe), which marks an ongoing action or a continuous state. 

Together, they make this sentence equivalent to one in the present perfect continuous tense. The literal translation is: “I always have been loving Chinese.” 

Learning Chinese saves you the pain of reciting patterns of different tenses and the verb conjugation chart (which I have been through, miserably). All you need to know is a handful of time phrases and particles. A lot simpler than English, by comparison.

ii. Nouns don’t have gender or plural forms. 

There’s no need to memorize the gender of every new noun you learn. And there are no plural forms, either. To express plurality in Chinese, simply use adjectives or a number plus measure words, before nouns.

For example, 苹果 (píngguǒ) means “apple.”

One and a Half Apples
    ➢ 你有一个苹果。(Nǐ yǒu yí ge píngguǒ.)
    “You have one apple.”

Key word: 一个 (yí ge), meaning “one count.”

    ➢ 我有很多苹果。(Wǒ yǒu hěn duō píngguǒ.)
    “I have many apples.”

Key word: 很多 (hěn duō), meaning “many.” 

The Chinese language doesn’t care if an apple is a girl or a boy, or whether you have one apple or many. 苹果(píngguǒ), “apple,” is just 苹果 (píngguǒ).

iii. The word order is the same as that in English. 

The sentence structure in Chinese is the same Subject + Verb + Object pattern that’s used in English. 

For example, to say “I love apples” in Chinese, simply translate it word-for-word, in the same order.

我 () + 爱 (ài) + 苹果 (píngguǒ)。
Subject + Verb + Object
“I” + “love” + “apples.”

2- What’s the difficult part of learning Chinese? 

To build a relationship that’s going to last, you’ll also need to be ready to face some hardships. What makes Chinese so hard to learn? To give you a heads-up, here are two major challenges you may encounter when learning Chinese:

i. Chinese Characters

At first glance, Chinese writing looks breathtaking. But get ready for this attraction to mellow down once you sit down and get serious about studying 汉字, or “Chinese characters.” Mastering these enchanting symbols will take commitment and time:

  • One, you need to memorize the pronunciation of a character. 
  • Two, you need to memorize the meanings of that character. 
  • Three, you need to match the pronunciation, the meaning, and how the character looks. 
  • And four, you need to know which stroke comes first when writing it. 

Many learners find Chinese characters hard to learn, and so they only learn Pinyin. You may get away with knowing only Pinyin in everyday conversations, which we’ll talk more about later in this article, but if your goal is to be able to read and write—and eventually work and live in China—you have to learn Chinese characters.

Snack on Shelves

Do you know what you’re getting at a grocery store in China?

Don’t get me wrong. Chinese characters are by no means impossible to learn. All I’m trying to do is get you mentally prepared. Hopefully, when the time comes, you’ll go: Hey, learning Chinese characters is not that hard after all!  

ii. Tones

Let’s move on to the speaking and listening part, which shouldn’t be underestimated either. 

A quick way to tell if someone is a native Chinese-speaker or not is to listen and find out if he or she hit the tones right. Even people who have lived in China and have studied Chinese for a while are vulnerable to making tonal mistakes

Some quick facts about Chinese tones:

Every Chinese word comes with tones. There are five tones in total:

  • The first tone is high and flat, like a robot talking in a high pitch. 
  • The second tone is a rising tone, as if you were asking a question. 
  • The third tone starts low, and dips down even lower before it goes up. 
  • The fourth tone drops sharply from a high pitch. 
  • The fifth tone is light and fast. 

Don’t worry, it’ll take some time to identify the five tones of various pitches, duration, and contour. And that’s not even taking into account the immersion and practice it’ll take to say every single word with accuracy in conversations.

The second “unfair” fact about Chinese tones is that one syllable often has multiple tones. With each tone, that syllable becomes a different word with totally different meanings.

For example:

    ➢ 吻 (wěn) with the third tone means “to kiss.”
    问 (wèn) with the fourth tone means “to ask.”

Make sure you say it with the fourth falling tone when you want to ask someone a question: 我可以问你一下吗?(Wǒ kěyǐ wèn nǐ yīxià ma?) Otherwise, you’d end up asking: “May I kiss you?” or 我可以吻你一下吗 (Wǒ kěyǐ wěn nǐ yīxià ma?

Here’s another:

    ➢ 熊猫 (xióngmāo) means “panda,” with the first syllable in the second tone. 
    胸毛 (xiōngmáo) means “chest hair,” with the first syllable in the first tone.

Make sure you say “Chinese pandas are cute” with the correct tones: 中国的熊猫很可爱。(Zhōngguó de xióngmāo hěn kěài.) This way, you won’t get a bunch of eye rolls from saying: “Chinese chest hair is cute.” or 中国的胸毛很可爱。(Zhōngguó de xiōngmáo hěn kěài.)

Guy Scratching Head Looking Baffled

You’d probably be like: “What did I say?”

2. Getting Serious: Start Off on the Right Foot

So glad you’re still reading! That means you’re serious about learning Chinese, which is the attitude we want. 

It’s important to look in the right places when you first start. Depending on how much time you have, start gathering the following learning materials and tools and go through them either simultaneously, or one at a time. 

A- Pinyin Chart ᠆ Your Secret Pronunciation Weapon

We briefly mentioned 拼音, or “Pinyin,” earlier in this article. Pinyin is the romanization system for Chinese characters. It literally means “spell sound.” Pinyin wasn’t developed until the 1950s, and was created to help learners identify Chinese characters and remember how to pronounce them. It’s primarily used by school-aged children in China and non-native language-learners. 

This is how Pinyin works in a nutshell: One Chinese character has one syllable. One syllable spelled by Pinyin is usually made of a consonant, a vowel, and a tone mark. 

Many of the consonant and vowel sounds in Pinyin are close to, or even the same as, the ones in English, but some are different. All Pinyin letters and sounds can be found in our Pinyin chart, which is a great learning tool that you’ll be using frequently, especially as a beginner. Getting familiar with the Pinyin chart is something you should do when you first start learning Chinese. 

B- Common Core Words – Your Daily Love Notes

You should also start building your vocabulary from Day 1. Start with the most common everyday words in Chinese, and memorize a few every day, or every week, at your own pace. 

Not sure where to find the common core words? Here’s a page on which you’ll find the most frequently used Chinese words.  

You should start with something easy, such as memorizing the numbers from 1 to 10. As your vocabulary expands, you may find yourself slowing down, only being able to learn five a day instead of ten. This is totally fine and normal. The number of words you learn every day doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know how to use them in context and in real-life situations. Luckily, all the words on the page we recommended above come with sample sentences, so you can better understand each word and how to use them properly. 

With these common words, you can create your own vocabulary lists, make flashcards, and learn at any time, anywhere. Don’t forget to review them periodically. 

C- Study Plans and Motivation – Show How Much You Care

Roses, Sweets in a Box and a Note

i. How to Make Study Plans

There’s a saying in Chinese that goes: 磨刀不误砍柴工 (módāo bú wù kǎncháigōng). It means that sharpening your axe before chopping wood will save you time and effort. Making study plans is like taking the time to sharpen your axe. 

When making study plans, take two factors into consideration: #1, how much time you would like to contribute to learning Chinese, and #2, what level you’d like to achieve. 

Once you’ve squared these two questions away, the next step is to make day-to-day plans. For instance, study for ten minutes every day on your commute, memorize words about colors by next week, find time over the weekend to chat with your Chinese friends or language partner in Chinese only. For your study to really work, it needs to be specific and tangible. 

ii. How to Keep Yourself Going

A goal without a plan is just a wish. A plan without motivation is doomed to fail. 

As another popular Chinese saying goes: 不忘初心,方得始终 (bú wàng chūxīn, fāng dé shǐzhōng). It means that one should not forget why they started. Their goals can only be met with this in mind.

When feeling frustrated or defeated, think about what brought you here. Do you still remember why you started learning Chinese? What motivated you in the first place? 

In the meantime, take a moment to review what you’ve achieved. Sometimes we’re so busy moving forward, and forget to look back. Think about why you started and how far you’ve come along. This will help you refresh your weary heart and pump up your motivation again.  

3. A Little Professional Help Goes a Long Way

Even with the easiest language in the world, studying it on your own is challenging. When you feel aimless and frustrated, all you need is a map, or someone who knows the way, to point you in the right direction.

Blind-folded Man Walking on an Imaginary Bridge

ChineseClass101.com has been designed to fulfill that guiding role. 

    ★ We have FREE lessons and resources in various forms: podcasts, videos, PDFs, flashcards, and more. You can pick the way to learn that works best for you.
    ★ Our lessons cover all levels, from absolute beginner to advanced. With weekly updated lessons, you’ll never run out of learning materials.
    ★ Whenever you have a question, post it in the comment section; our teachers will explain it until you understand, without judgement.
    ★ If you’re determined to reach a certain level of proficiency in a relatively short amount of time, try out a Premium PLUS account. You’ll have a learning path designed only for you, as well as your own personal tutor!

Have you started learning Chinese already, or already mastered another language? What tips would you offer brand-new learners of Chinese? 

All in all, falling in love with Chinese is easy. Maintaining this relationship requires effort, though. How far down the road you get really depends on you and how you learn. 

Whenever you feel like giving up, remind yourself that everything you do to learn Chinese will be worth it. One day, you’ll be able to chat with locals with ease. And one day, when people ask you if Chinese is hard to learn, you’ll tell them: “No, it’s not that hard. I did it. You can too!” 

Wedding Bouquet with a Couple in the Background

恭喜! (Gōngxǐ!) – “Congratulations!”

About the author: Influenced by her grandfather, Yinru has shown interest in languages and teaching since early childhood. After getting her degrees in English and Education, Yinru moved to the US and continued her career as a Mandarin teacher. 

Yinru enjoys travelling, photography, and introducing Chinese food to her non-Chinese friends.

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A Collection of Common Chinese Mistakes Made by Learners

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“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

Now every mistake in Chinese you’ve made is justified. They’re little trophies from taking on a challenge and trying something new: a new language (and a difficult one, at that)! 

In this article, we’ll cover all the trophies (a.k.a. mistakes), that you and other Chinese learners have made or may end up making. From the most common pronunciation mistakes to grammar mistakes that new learners need to watch out for, ChineseClass101.com will cover it all! We’ll also show you how to make good use of your mistakes.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Common Chinese Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Common Chinese Grammar Mistakes
  3. A Learner’s Regret
  4. Turn Mistakes into Tools
  5. Conclusion

1. Common Chinese Pronunciation Mistakes

If you’re new to the Chinese language, you’re bound to feel dismayed from time to time. The tiniest mistake in pronunciation will make Chinese native speakers go “I don’t know what you’re saying.” It’s not that Chinese people aren’t forgiving; it’s the whole pronunciation system that’s unforgiving. 

A- Don’t ignore the tones.

The common pronunciation mistakes that almost every Chinese learner makes have to do with tones, which are the “ups and downs” that come with the syllables.  

In Mandarin Chinese, there are four stressed tones and one unstressed tone. They all come in different pitches and durations, and every Chinese word has its own designated tone. In rare cases, one word can have two or three tones. 

Using the wrong tone means that you may be saying something you didn’t mean to say, most likely without even noticing. This could lead to embarrassing situations for yourself, and for the people around you.

In the following examples, each pair of words has the same pronunciation when the tones are out of the equation. However, tones are something you never want to ignore when speaking Chinese. In the examples below, you’ll see why you should avoid Chinese tone mistakes at all costs!

Red-haired Girl Putting Up Hands

Ignoring the tones in Chinese? Big no-no!

To give you a more visual explanation, we’ll use different colors for the five tones in our examples:

First tone (high and flat)

Second tone (rising)

Third tone (dipping low then going up)

Fourth tone (falling)

Neutral tone (unstressed) 

ul> ★ (bēizi) vs. (bèizi)

杯子 (bēizi): “cup” / “glass” / “mug”

被子 (bèizi): “blanket” / “quilt”

Imagine you’re wandering around a store looking for a cup, or 杯子 (bēizi), so you ask the sales associate where the cups are located. Somehow, you end up staring at a wall of fluffy blankets 被子 (bèizi). 

Woman Wrapped in a Blanket Holding a Cup

Buy one cup, get one blanket for free?

    (xióngmāo) vs. (xiōngmáo)

熊猫 (xióngmāo): “panda”

胸毛 (xiōngmáo): “chest hair”

During a coffee break, you’re telling your Chinese coworkers, in your cutest voice, that you love pandas: 我爱熊猫. (Wǒ ài xióngmāo.) But what your Chinese coworkers heard was: 我爱胸毛 (Wǒ ài xiōngmáo), or “I love chest hair.” 

Panda Cub

Panda will be like: “Do you like me or my chest hair?”

    (wèn) vs. (wěn)

问 (wèn): “to ask”

吻 (wěn): “to kiss”

I know, I know. What you meant to say was: 老师,我想问你…… (Lǎoshī , Wǒ xiǎng wèn nǐ …), or “Teacher, I’d like to ask you…”

What you really said was: 老师,我想吻你…… (Lǎoshī , Wǒ xiǎng wěn nǐ …), or “Teacher, I’d like to kiss you…”

Two Men Laughing Hard

Talk about embarrassing mistakes…

B- Don’t take Pinyin for granted.

Chinese is not an alphabetic language. However, a romanization system using the alphabet was invented to make learning Chinese easier. What a wonderful invention. 

Even though most sounds in Pinyin are close to those in English, be careful not to take it for granted that you can sound out Pinyin the way you sound out English words. Below are some easily mistaken sounds in Pinyin.

DIFFICULT VOWELS (FINALS)DIFFICULT CONSONANTS (INITIALS)
Single Finals Compound Finals
eas in the “e” in “her” without the “r”ieas in the “ye” in “yes”cas in the “ts” in “pants”
üsay the “ee” sound with very rounded lipsiuas in the “ew” in “few”ja flatter “j” as in “jeep”
üesay “ü” (see left column) first, then quickly slide to the “ie” soundqa flatter “ch” as in “cheese”
ünsay “ü” (see left column) first, then add an “n” soundxa flatter “sh” as in “sheep”

2. Common Chinese Grammar Mistakes

Compared to the pronunciation system, Chinese grammar can be considered an easier aspect of Chinese learning. But there are still some “traps” you need to watch out for.  

A- Don’t stay in the back, adverbial phrases

The basic Chinese word order is the same as that in English: Subject + Verb + Object. 



However, a lot of English-speakers tend to make mistakes when there are adverbial phrases involved, such as time, place, manner, and instrument phrases. Instead of putting these adverbial phrases before verbs, learners mistakenly put them at the end of the sentence, like in English. 

Here are some examples.

SENTENCE STEM中文。(Wǒ xué Zhōngwén.) I learn Chinese.”Subject: 我Verb: 学Object: 中文
w/ TIME我在学中文现在x现在在学中文。
xiànzài zài xué Zhōngwén.lit.
“I’m now learning Chinese.”
w/ PLACE我学中文在家x在家学中文。
zài jiā xué Zhōngwén.lit.
“I’m at home learning Chinese.”
w/ MANNER我学中文开心地x我开心地学中文。
kāixīn de xué Zhōngwén.lit.
“I happily learn Chinese.”
w/ INSTRUMENT我学中文用手机x用手机学中文。
yòng shǒujī xué Zhōngwén.lit.
“I use my phone to learn Chinese.”

B- Are you using these words and grammar points correctly?

In addition to word order mistakes, we’ve also collected some other common Chinese grammar mistakes made by English-speaking Chinese learners. 

        ❏ Subject + 是 (shì) + Adjective x 

       Subject + Adverb + Adjective

To describe something or someone with adjectives, no “be” verb (i.e. “am,” “is,” “are,” “were,” etc.) is needed. Instead, an adverb is often used in place of a “be” verb. 

For example, to say “She is pretty” in Chinese, we don’t say: 

  • 她是漂亮。(Tā shì piàoliang.)
    lit. “She is pretty.”

Instead, we often say:

  • 她很漂亮. (Tā hěn piàoliang.)
    lit. “She very pretty.”

Don’t worry about changing the meaning of your sentence with adverbs. There’s a wide variety of adverbs of degree that you can choose to use before your adjectives. 

    → To learn more adverbs of degree, check out section 7 in this blog article.

       ❏ 没 (méi) + V + 了 (le) x 

      没 (méi) + V

To negate a past action—in other words, to say that something didn’t happen or hasn’t happened—there’s no need to use the past event marker 了 (le), as you would for affirmative past actions. 

For example, to say “I didn’t go” in Chinese, we don’t say:

  • 我没去了。(Wǒ méi qù le.)

Instead, we say:

  • 我没去。(Wǒ méi qù.)

❏        或者 (huòzhě) vs. 还是 (háishì)

Both words mean “or.” But 还是 (háishì) is used in questions, or in question-like clauses with “whether/if.” 或者 (huòzhě) is used in sentences or statements.

For example:

  • 你买的苹果是红色的还是绿色的?
    Nǐ mǎi de píngguǒ shì hóngsè de háishì lǜsè de?
    “Are the apples you bought red or green?”
  • 红色的或者绿色的苹果都好吃。
    Hóngsè de píngguǒ huòzhě lǜsè de píngguǒ dōu hǎo chī.
    “Both red or green apples are tasty.”

❏        又 (yòu) vs. 再 (zài)

Both words mean “again.” But 又 (yòu) implies a stronger sense of being impatient, and it’s used when something has happened and is happening again. 再 (zài) is used mostly in imperatives, such as having someone do something one more time. 

For example:

  • 你怎么又给她打电话?
    Nǐ zěnme yòu gěi tā dǎ diànhuà?
    “How come you called her again?”
  • 不要再给她打电话了。
    Búyào zài gěi tā dǎ diànhuà le.
    “Don’t call her again.”


3. A Learner’s Regret

One of our users shared with us on Instagram that his biggest regret when starting to learn Chinese is that he only studied Pinyin, the romanization of Chinese, without the Chinese characters, or 汉字 (Hànzì). 

As we mentioned earlier, Pinyin is a tool to help students acquire proper pronunciation. The Chinese you actually see on newspapers, road signs, menus, and online chat rooms is only represented by Chinese characters.

Alcohol Bottle with a Shot Glass

Do you know the Chinese characters for Erguotou?

That is to say, knowing Pinyin will only help with oral communication. You may be able to carry out conversations with accurate pronunciation, but you won’t be able to read or write. 

Knowing Chinese characters, on the other hand, will help you communicate in every possible way. When you study a Chinese character, you’re learning its pronunciation, meaning, stroke order, and more. 

Admittedly, learning the Chinese writing system is twice as much work, or even more, as learning Pinyin alone. But if your goal is to live in Chinese-speaking countries, not learning 汉字 (Hànzì) will be a huge mistake. 

A secret bonus, for those who are still reading, is that knowing Chinese characters will also come in handy when you visit other countries which have used, or are still using, Chinese characters (like Japan). 

4. Turn Mistakes into Tools

Don’t let your mistakes in Chinese shame you, but rather let them empower you. 

We learn, we make mistakes, then we learn from our mistakes. So why not turn your mistakes into learning tools?

Here’s how:

1. Get a designated notebook. Name it “My Mistakes Book” or “My Hidden Treasures” or whatever you like.

2. Every time you realize you’ve made a mistake, record it in your designated notebook right away.

3. After you’ve collected enough mistakes, put them into categories, such as wrong tones, incorrect choice of character, misused grammar, etc. 

4. Periodically—once a month is recommended—go through your notebook of mistakes. This will warn your mind not to make these Chinese mistakes again. 

5. Many years later, dig out your notebook of mistakes, have a good laugh, and see how far you’ve come. (optional)

One Man on Steps, One Man on Ladder

Mistakes are the witnesses of progress.

5. Conclusion

All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes. -Winston Churchill 

We hope this article has at least helped you get into the right state of mind: to not be afraid of making mistakes. 

If you’re learning Chinese on your own, we understand how hard it is, especially when it comes to having someone there to correct your mistakes. Here’s the good news: with a “Premium PLUS” subscription on ChineseClass101.com, you’ll get professional tutoring from our certified Chinese teachers. They’ll answer your questions, assess your assignments, correct your mistakes, and make personal study plans just for you! Sign up here and say goodbye to your mistakes today! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments how many of these Chinese mistakes you’ve made before, and which ones are most difficult for you. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Master the Essential Chinese Questions and Answers

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As a language-learner, it’s important to ask yourself: “Why am I even learning this language?”

Many people learn a new language to interact with people from a different cultural background, in hopes of having a meaningful conversation. And questions are a fantastic tool for learning more about someone and their culture! 

“Question” in Chinese is 问题 (wèn tí). Remember that you should never be afraid to ask a 问题 (wèn tí), even if you can’t ask it perfectly. Not being able to speak your mother tongue may be tough, but as long as you try your best to keep a conversation flowing with genuine questions and a smile on your face, most people will be friendly enough to lend you their ears and open their hearts to talk with you. 

All in all, being able to ask questions is a huge help when you run out of words. It gives others the opportunity to talk about themselves, and it shows them that you’re curious and want to know more about them.

In this article, we’ll be providing you with the most essential phrases for daily life and up-to-date ways of both asking and answering questions in Chinese. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be on your way to becoming a professional conversation-starter!

Without further ado, our list of the most common Chinese questions and answers.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Do you speak Chinese?
  4. How long have you been studying Chinese?
  5. Have you been to China?
  6. How is ___?
  7. Do you like [the country’s] food?
  8. What are you doing?
  9. What’s wrong?
  10. How much is it?
  11. Conclusion

1. What’s your name?

First Encounter

There are two ways to form this question. The first one is the general way of speaking, and the second one is more polite and appropriate when speaking to an elder. In China, significant respect should be shown in your conversations with elders.

Question #1

In Chinese: 你叫什么名字?
Pinyin: Nǐ jiào shén me míng zi?
In English: “What is your name called?”
Additional Notes: Sometimes, people shorten it to 你叫什么 (Nǐ jiào shén me), meaning “What are you called?”

Question #2

In Chinese: 怎么称呼您?
Pinyin: Zěn me chēng hū nín?
In English: “How should I address you?”

Answer Pattern #1

In Chinese: 我的名字是[杰克]。
Pinyin: Wǒ de míng zì shì [Jié kè].
In English: “My name is [Jack].”

Answer Pattern #2

In Chinese: 我叫[贝拉]。
Pinyin: Wǒ jiào [Bèi lā].
In English: “I am called [Bella].”

2. Where are you from?

A Woman Holding a Globe

Wherever your hometown is, we are all from the same big Earth!

The Question

In Chinese: 你从哪里来? 
Pinyin: Nǐ cóng nǎ lǐ lái?
In English: “Where are you from?”

Answer Pattern #1

In Chinese: 我来自[北京]。
Pinyin: Wǒ lái zì [Běi jīng].
In English: “I come from China.”

Answer Pattern #2

In Chinese: 我从[上海]来。
Pinyin: Wǒ cóng [Shàng hǎi] lái.
In English: “I am from [Shanghai].”

Answer Pattern #3

In Chinese: 我是[加州人]。
Pinyin: Wǒ shì [Jiā zhōu rén].
In English: “I am a [Californian].”

3. Do you speak Chinese?

The leLter Q in a Speech Bubble

Most people enjoy answering questions because almost everyone enjoys expressing themselves!

The Question:

In Chinese: 你会说[中文]吗? 
Pinyin: Nǐ huì shuō [Zhōng wén] ma?
In English: “Do you speak [Chinese]?”

Typical Answer #1

In Chinese: 我会说一点。
Pinyin: Wǒ huì shuō yī diǎn.
In English: “I can speak a little bit.”

Typical Answer #2

In Chinese: 我的中文说得还不错。
Pinyin: Wǒ de Zhōng wén shuō de bú cuò.
In English: “I can speak Chinese pretty well.”

Typical Answer #3

In Chinese: 我不怎么会说。
Pinyin: Wǒ bù zěn me huì shuō.
In English: “I can barely speak it.”

4. How long have you been studying Chinese?

A Man Studying Hard in a Library

To master something truly requires you to pour your heart into it.

The Question

In Chinese: 你学习[中文]有多久了? 
Pinyin: Nǐ xué xí [Zhōng wén] yǒu duō jiǔ le?
In English: “How long have you been studying [Chinese]?”

The Typical Answer Pattern

In Chinese: 学了有[三](个)月 / 年 / 周 / 天了。
Pinyin: Xué le yǒu [sān] (gè) yuè / nián / zhōu / tiān le.
In English: “It’s been [three] months / years / weeks / days.”
Additional Notes: 个 () is a quantifier for “months” in this case. Without it, the sentence would sound weird in Chinese. There’s an abundance of quantifiers that play a huge role in the Chinese language. 

The Typical Answer

In Chinese: 我刚刚开始学习。
Pinyin: Wǒ gāng gāng kāi shǐ xué xí.
In English: “I just got started.”

Introducing Yourself

5. Have you been to China?

The Question

In Chinese: 你去过[中国]吗?
Pinyin: Nǐ qù guò [Zhōng guó] ma?
In English: “Have you been to [China]?”

Typical Answer #1

In Chinese: 我去[中国]旅游过。
Pinyin: Wǒ qù [Zhōng guó] lǚ yóu guò.
In English: “I went to [China] on a trip.”

Typical Answer #2

In Chinese: 我曾在[美国]留过学。
Pinyin: Wǒ céng zài [Měi guó] liú guò xué.
In English: “I once studied in [the United States] for a while.”

Typical Answer #3

In Chinese: 我在那里呆过一阵。
Pinyin: Wǒ zài nà lǐ dāi guò yī zhèn.
In English: “I visited there for a while.”

6. How is ___?

Two People with Smiley Cardboard Boxes on Their Heads Giving the Thumbs-up Sign

If you enjoy something, you’d better give it a big thumbs-up!

You can create several simple Chinese questions and answers using the patterns below. Learning this versatile phrase is a good idea! 

The Question

In Chinese: [中国]怎么样? 
Pinyin: [Zhōng guó] zěn me yàng?
In English: “How is [China]?”

Typical Answer #1

In Chinese: 特别好。
Pinyin: Tè bié hǎo.
In English: “Very good.”

Typical Answer #2

In Chinese: 还不错。
Pinyin: Hái bú cuò.
In English: “Not bad.”

Typical Answer #3

In Chinese: 不怎么样。 
Pinyin: Bù zěn me yàng.
In English: “Not that great.”

7. Do you like [the country’s] food?

The Question

In Chinese: 你喜欢[中国]菜吗? 
Pinyin: Nǐ xǐ huān [Zhōng guó] cài ma?
In English: “Do you like [Chinese] food?”

Typical Answer #1

In Chinese: 我特别爱吃[中国]菜。 
Pinyin: Wǒ tè bié ài chī [Zhōng guó] cài.
In English: “I love [Chinese] food very much.”

Typical Answer #2

In Chinese: 我不是很喜欢[中国]菜。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú shì hěn xǐ huān [Zhōng guó] cài.
In English: “I don’t enjoy [Chinese] food all that much.”

Typical Answer #3

In Chinese: 还好。
Pinyin: Hái hǎo.
In English: “It’s not bad.”

8. What are you doing?

These basic questions and answers in Chinese can be very useful, especially if you’ve made a new friend and want to know what they’re up to. 

Question #1

In Chinese: 你在干嘛呢? 
Pinyin: Nǐ zài gàn ma ne?
In English: “What are you doing?”

Question #2

In Chinese: 你在忙些什么呢?
Pinyin: Nǐ zài máng xiē shén me ne?
In English: “What are you busy with?”

The Typical Answer Pattern

In Chinese: 我(最近)在(忙)……
Pinyin: Wǒ (zuì jìn) zài (máng) …
In English: “(Recently,) I am (busy with)…”
Additional Notes: The words in parentheses can be omitted depending on the situation.

9. What’s wrong?

A Little Kid Holding Pencils and Pouting

Do you wonder what’s wrong with this adorable kid? Learn how to ask in Chinese!

The Question

In Chinese: 有什么不对吗?  
Pinyin: Yǒu shén me bú duì ma?
In English: “What’s wrong?”

Typical Answer #1

In Chinese: 没什么大不了的。
Pinyin: Méi shén me dà bù liǎo de.
In English: “Nothing important.”

Typical Answer #2

In Chinese: 我心情不太好。 
Pinyin: Wǒ xīn qíng bú tài hǎo.
In English: “I am not in a good mood.”

10. How much is it?

Stacks of Coins with Different Symbols on Top

Always think twice: is the stuff you’re going to buy worth it?

The Question

In Chinese: 这个多少钱?
Pinyin: Zhè gè duō shǎo qián?
In English: “How much is it?”

In Chinese: 这个怎么卖?
Pinyin: Zhè gè zěn me mài?
In English: “How do you sell this?”

The Typical Answer

In Chinese: 三十五元一个。 
Pinyin: Sān shí wǔ yuán yī gè.
In English: “35 yuan each.”
Additional Notes: The answer to this question is usually the direct number of the cost.

11. Conclusion

After studying these useful formulas and sets of Chinese questions and answers, you must be starting to get the hang of both asking and answering questions in Chinese. Of course, there’s no fixed recipe for any language as it’s more of an expressive artform. Try to customize your own answers based on the sentence structures we provided you. We also recommend that you practice in front of the mirror.

Before you go, why not start practicing what you’ve learned today in the comments section? Write out and answer a few of the questions from this article, or let us know if there are any questions and answers in Chinese you still want to know! We look forward to hearing from you.

Devote some time and effort to practicing conversations about these topics. Effective communication not only requires proper content and decent sentence structures, but also the right facial expressions, tones, emotions, and so much more. A well-developed conversation can go so much deeper than you think! 

Now, have some unshakable faith in yourself, just as much as we do: you can become a master of Chinese conversation! We have tons of free resources in Chinese for you, no matter your current level. Explore our website to make the most of your Chinese studies. 

Let’s spread our wings and soar together at ChineseClass101.com, your happiest language-learning paradise!

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The 10 Most Useful Chinese Sentence Patterns

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Language is an art, and learning one can become frustrating due to their complicated and flexible nature. We totally understand your pain as a new Chinese language learner!

How about simplifying it a little bit, and applying some formulas like we do in math? 

We’ve prepared these ten most basic and useful Chinese sentence patterns for you. Once you master them, you’ll be able to generate hundreds of natural sentences and converse with ease and confidence in any situation. 

Now let’s get to the fun!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Linking Two Nouns
  2. Using Adjectives to Describe Nouns
  3. Expressing “Want”
  4. Expressing “Need”
  5. Expressing “Like”
  6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something
  7. Expressing Something in the Past Tense
  8. Asking for Information About Something
  9. Asking About Time
  10. Asking About Location or Position
  11. Conclusion

1. Linking Two Nouns

Some of the simplest and most common Chinese phrases are those used to connect to nouns. Let’s see how it’s done.

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: [主语] 是 [宾语]。

Pinyin: [Zhǔ yǔ] shì  [bīn yǔ].

In English: “[Subject] is [object].”

Example 1

In Chinese: 约翰是我的哥哥。

Pinyin: Yuē hàn shì wǒ de gē ge. 

In English: “John is my older brother.”

Example 2

In Chinese: 我的妈妈是一个十分善良的人。

Pinyin: Wǒ de mā ma shì yī gè shí fēn shàn liáng de rén. 

In English: “My mom is a very kind person.”

Example 3

In Chinese: 这只手表是爸爸送给我的毕业礼物。

Pinyin: Zhè zhī shǒu biǎo shì bà ba sòng gěi wǒ de bì yè lǐ wù. 

In English: “This watch is a present from my dad for my graduation.”

Example 4

In Chinese: 她是一名老师。

Pinyin: Tā shì yī míng lǎo shī. 

In English: “She is a teacher.”

Example 5

In Chinese: 狗是我最喜欢的动物。 

Pinyin: Gǒu shì wǒ zuì xǐ huān de dòng wù. 

In English: “Dogs are my favorite animal.”

2. Using Adjectives to Describe Nouns

A Woman in a Yellow Shirt Thinking about Something

Let’s think about how to describe this…

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: [主语] (是) 非常/很/太/真 [形容词]。

Pinyin: [Zhǔ yǔ] (shì) fēi cháng/hěn/tài/zhēn  [xíng róng cí].

In English: “[Subject] (is) very/so [adjective].”

Additional notes: In Chinese, when we use adjectives to describe things, “is” is omitted most of the time.

Example 1

In Chinese: 你真美。 

Pinyin: Nǐ zhēn měi. 

In English: “You are so beautiful.”

Example 2

In Chinese: 我们昨晚看的电影实在是太恐怖了。

Pinyin: Wǒ men zuó wǎn kàn de diàn yǐng shí zài shì tài kǒng bù le. 

In English: “The movie we watched last night was so scary.”

Example 3

In Chinese: 这道甜点真好吃。

Pinyin: Zhè dào tián diǎn zhēn hǎo chī. 

In English: “This dessert is so delicious.”

Example 4

In Chinese: 他可真是个聪明人。

Pinyin: Tā kě zhēn shì gè cōng míng rén. 

In English: “He is such a wise person.”

Example 5

In Chinese: 这本书真是太感人了,我看的时候都忍不住哭了。

Pinyin: Zhè běn shū zhēn shì tài gǎn rén le, wǒ kàn de shí hòu dōu rěn bú zhù kū le. 

In English: “This book is so touching, I couldn’t help crying when I was reading it.”

3. Expressing “Want” 

This Chinese sentence structure is very useful for day-to-day interactions. Let’s take a look:

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: 我想……

Pinyin: Wǒ xiǎng…

In English: “I want (to)…”

Example 1

In Chinese: 我想吃东西了。

Pinyin: Wǒ xiǎng chī dōng xi le. 

In English: “I want to eat some food.”

A Businessman Eating Fast Food

Don’t we all crave food all the time?

Example 2

In Chinese: 在国外留学了三年之后,我想回家。

Pinyin: Zài guó wài liú xué le sān nián zhī hòu, wǒ xiǎng huí jiā. 

In English: “After studying abroad for three years, I want to go back to my hometown.”

Example 3

In Chinese: 今天复习了一天的考试,现在我只想睡觉。

Pinyin: Jīn tiān fù xí le yī tiān de kǎo shì, xiàn zài wǒ zhǐ xiǎng shuì jiào. 

In English: “Today, I studied the whole time, and now I only want to go to sleep.”

Example 4

In Chinese: 我想成为一个更好的人。

Pinyin: Wǒ xiǎng chéng wéi yī gè gèng hǎo de rén. 

In English: “I want to become a better person.”

Example 5

In Chinese: 夏天是让人想吃西瓜的季节。

Pinyin: Xià tiān shì ràng rén xiǎng chī xī guā de jì jié. 

In English: “Summer is a season that makes people want to eat watermelons.”

4. Expressing “Need”

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: 我需要…… / 我得……

Pinyin: Wǒ xū yào… / Wǒ děi…

In English: “I need (to)…” / “I have to…” 

Example 1

In Chinese: 抱歉,现在我必须要走了。

Pinyin: Bào qiàn, xiàn zài wǒ bì xū yào zǒu le. 

In English: “I am sorry, I need to go right now.”

Example 2

In Chinese: 打扰一下,我需要用一下卫生间。

Pinyin: Dǎ rǎo yī xià, wǒ xū yào yòng yī xià wèi shēng jiān. 

In English: “Excuse me, I need to use the bathroom.”

Example 3

In Chinese: 我需要冷静下来,好好想想接下来应该怎么办。

Pinyin: Wǒ xū yào lěng jìng xià lái, hǎo hao xiǎng xiang jiē xià lái yīng gāi zěn me bàn.

In English: “I need to calm down and think about what I can do next.”

Example 4

In Chinese: 狗狗是人类最好的朋友,他们需要我们的陪伴与关爱。

Pinyin: Gǒu gou shì rén lèi zuì hǎo de péng you, tā men xū yào wǒ men de péi bàn yǔ guān ài.

In English: “Dogs are man’s best friend; they need our companionship and love.”

A Woman Astounded at a Surprise Party for Her Birthday

Gotta have some fun if it’s your birthday!

Example 5

In Chinese: 明天是我的生日,我得穿件漂亮的衣服。

Pinyin: Míng tiān shì wǒ de shēng rì, wǒ děi chuān jiàn piāo liang de yī fu. 

In English: “Tomorrow is my birthday; I will have to wear something nice.”

5. Expressing “Like”

This is one of the most important Chinese sentence structures for beginners who want to hold basic conversations with native speakers. Let’s see how it works.

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: 我喜欢……

Pinyin: Wǒ xǐ huan… 

In English: “I like (to)…”

Example 1

In Chinese: 我非常喜欢下厨。

Pinyin: Wǒ fēi cháng xǐ huan xià chú. 

In English: “I like to cook very much.”

Example 2

In Chinese: 我喜欢在海边看日落。

Pinyin: Wǒ xǐ huan zài hǎi biān kàn rì luò. 

In English: “I like to watch the sunset at the beach.”

Example 3

In Chinese: 爸爸喜欢每天早上八点准时叫我起床。

Pinyin: Bà ba xǐ huan měi tiān zǎo shàng bā diǎn zhǔn shí jiào wǒ qǐ chuáng. 

In English: “My dad likes to wake me up exactly at 8:00 a.m. every day.”

Example 4

In Chinese: 孩子们都很喜欢万圣节,因为他们可以得到很多糖果。

Pinyin: Hái zi men dōu hěn xǐ huan wàn shèng jié, yīn wèi tā men kě yǐ dé dào hěn duō táng guǒ. 

In English: “Children all like Halloween because they can get lots of candy.”

Example 5

A Group of People Reaching for French Fries

Tell me the truth: isn’t fast food a guilty pleasure of yours sometimes?

In Chinese: 他很喜欢吃快餐。

Pinyin: Tā hěn xǐ huan chī kuài cān.

In English: “He likes to eat fast food a lot.”

6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: 请……

Pinyin: Qǐng… 

In English: “Please…”

Example 1

A Couple being Seated at a Nice Restaurant

Let’s try to be polite when it’s needed and use the word “please.”

In Chinese: 请问我可以进来吗?

Pinyin: Qǐng wèn wǒ kě yǐ jìn lái ma? 

In English: “Can I come in, please?”

Example 2

In Chinese: 请不要在我家里穿鞋,谢谢。

Pinyin: Qǐng bú yào zài wǒ jiā lǐ chuān xié, xiè xiè. 

In English: “Please don’t wear shoes at my house, thank you.”

Example 3

In Chinese: 能不能请您稍微挪一下位置?

Pinyin: Néng bu néng qǐng nín shāo wēi nuó yī xià wèi zhì.

In English: “Can you please move a little bit?”

Example 4

In Chinese: 请坐。 

Pinyin: Qǐng zuò. 

In English: “Please sit down.”

Example 5

In Chinese: 请你注意自己的言行。

Pinyin: Qǐng nǐ zhù yì zì jǐ de yán xíng. 

In English: “Please mind your own manners.”

7. Expressing Something in the Past Tense

Next on our Chinese sentence patterns list is how to express things that happened in the past. Take a look:

Sentence pattern: 

In Chinese: 我(已经)……了。 

Pinyin: Wǒ (yǐ jīng)…le. 

In English: “I (already)…”

Example 1

In Chinese: 我已经吃过饭了。

Pinyin: Wǒ yǐ jīng chī guò fàn le. 

In English: “I already ate.”

Example 2

In Chinese: 我已经把作业做完了。 

Pinyin: Wǒ yǐ jīng bǎ zuò yè zuò wán le. 

In English: “I already finished my homework.”

Example 3

In Chinese: 我已经放弃了。

Pinyin: Wǒ yǐ jīng fàng qì le. 

In English: “I already gave up.”

Example 4

In Chinese: 我之前已经去过这里了。

Pinyin: Wǒ zhī qián yǐ jīng qù guò zhè lǐ le. 

In English: “I already went there before.”

Example 5

In Chinese: 我已经把文件传给你了。

Pinyin: Wǒ yǐ jīng bǎ wén jiàn chuán gěi nǐ le. 

In English: “I already sent the files to you.”

8. Asking for Information About Something

Sentence Patterns

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: [主语] 是什么?

Pinyin: [Zhǔ yǔ] shì shén me? 

In English: “What is [subject]?”

Example 1

In Chinese: 这个是什么?

Pinyin: Zhè gè shì shén me? 

In English: “What is this?”

Example 2

In Chinese: 我们上次去的餐厅是哪一家?

Pinyin: Wǒ men shàng cì qù de cān tīng shì nǎ yī jiā? 

In English: “What was the restaurant we went to last time?”

Example 3

In Chinese: 你的名字是什么?

Pinyin: Nǐ de míng zì shì shén me? 

In English: “What is your name?”

Example 4

In Chinese: 你学的是什么专业?

Pinyin: Nǐ xué de shì shén me zhuān yè? 

In English: “What is your major?”

Example 5

In Chinese: 你的爱好是什么?

Pinyin: Nǐ de ài hào shì shén me? 

In English: “What is your hobby?”

9. Asking About Time

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: [事件]是什么时候?

Pinyin: [Shì jiàn] shì shén me shí hou? 

In English: “When is [event]?”

Example 1

In Chinese: 会议是什么时候?

Pinyin: Huì yì shì shén me shí hou? 

In English: “When is the meeting?”

Example 2

In Chinese: 你的生日是什么时候?

Pinyin: Nǐ de shēng rì shì shén me shí hou?

In English: “When is your birthday?”

Example 3

In Chinese: 你的航班是什么时候到达机场?

Pinyin: Nǐ de háng bān shì shén me shí hou dào dá jī chǎng? 

In English: “When is the arrival time for your flight?”

Example 4

In Chinese: 你想要什么时候去露营?

Pinyin: Nǐ xiǎng yào shén me shí hou qù lù yíng? 

In English: “When do you want to go camping?”

Example 5

In Chinese: 我们第一次见面是什么时候?

Pinyin: Wǒ men dì yī cì jiàn miàn shì shén me shí hou? 

In English: “When did we meet for the first time?”

10. Asking About Location or Position

Sentence Components

The final Chinese language sentence structure we’ll cover today is how to ask for location or position. 

Sentence pattern:

In Chinese: [地方]在哪里? 

Pinyin: [Dì fang] zài nǎ lǐ? 

In English: “Where is [place]?”

Example 1

In Chinese: 请问卫生间在哪里?

Pinyin: Qǐng wèn wèi shēng jiān zài nǎ lǐ?

In English: “Where is the restroom?”

Example 2

In Chinese: 你的家乡在哪里?

Pinyin: Nǐ de jiā xiāng zài nǎ lǐ? 

In English: “Where is your hometown?”

Example 3

In Chinese: 请问电梯在哪里?

Pinyin: Qǐng wèn diàn tī zài nǎ lǐ? 

In English: “Where is the elevator?”

Example 4

In Chinese: 你们是在哪里举办的婚礼?

Pinyin: Nǐ men shì zài nǎ lǐ jǔ bàn de hūn lǐ? 

In English: “Where did you have your wedding?”

Example 5

In Chinese: 你们是在哪里遇见的? 

Pinyin: nǐ men shì zài nǎ lǐ yù jiàn de?

In English: “Where did you guys meet?”

11. Conclusion

Weren’t those some incredibly convenient Chinese sentence patterns? Now that you know the “formulas,” I’m sure that soon enough you’ll be able to apply them and create sentences of your own for any situation! Of course, only knowing the basic Chinese grammar and sentence patterns isn’t enough to grasp the complex and artistic Chinese language. 

I’m sure your ambition as a language-learner goes beyond this, right? If you’re ready to expand your horizon in Chinese, just visit ChineseClass101.com for the most professional, unlimited Chinese resources. You can start learning Chinese in the next thirty seconds with a free lifetime account; we promise that you won’t regret it!

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