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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Chinese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Rui
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Chinese grammar.
Word Order
"Word order" refers to the order in which words are structured to form a sentence in a given language.
The basic word order for English is subject, verb, object, or SVO for short.
Let's break down the English sentence "I ate an apple." We can see that the subject "I" is presented first, followed by the verb "ate," and then finally the object "apple" is positioned last.
This is the basic word order for sentences in English.
Now let's compare that same sentence, "I ate an apple," in Chinese.
我吃了一个苹果。(Wǒ chī le yíge píngguǒ.)
If we break down this sentence, we will have 我 (wǒ), "I," which is a subject; 吃了 (chī le), which means "ate" or "have eaten," a verb. Next the object, 一个苹果 (yíge píngguǒ), "an apple." So the order is Subject + Verb + Object, or SVO for short.
This is exactly the same order as in English.
Let's try another basic sentence. "I like Chinese."
"I" is 我 (wǒ). "Like" is 喜欢 (xǐhuān). "Chinese" is 中文 (Zhōngwén).So we put the subject first, then the verb, and then the object. Altogether, we have: 我喜欢中文。(Wǒ xǐhuān Zhōngwén.)
How to Form Basic Sentences
Now you know the word order in Chinese. Let's try to add more components to basic words to make longer sentences.
Adding a time phrase in Chinese sentences is a little different than in English. In English, we put the "WHEN" phrase in the last part of the sentence.
For example, "I eat an apple every day."
In Chinese, we put the time phrase after the subject. So we need to put "every day" after "I." So we have 我 (wǒ) "I." 每天 (měi tiān) "everyday." 吃 (chī) "eat." 一个苹果 (yíge píngguǒ) "an apple." Subject + time phrase+ verb + object. 我每天吃一个苹果。(Wǒ měi tiān chī yíge píngguǒ.)
我的姐姐明天去美国。(Wǒ de jiějie míngtiān qù Měiguó.)
我的 (Wǒ de) “My,” 姐姐 (jiějie) “Older sister,” 明天 (míngtiān) “tomorrow,” 去 (qù) “go to,” 美国 (Měiguó) “The United States."
My older sister is going to the US tomorrow.
我的姐姐明天去美国。(Wǒ de jiějie míngtiān qù Měiguó.)
To add places, put them after the time phrases. For example, "I eat an apple every day at home." In Chinese, that's...
我每天在家吃一个苹果。在家 (zài jiā) means "at home." So it's "I everyday at home eat an apple." 我每天在家吃一个苹果。(Wǒ měi tiān zài jiā chī yíge píngguǒ.)
Let's try another one: "I was born in the U.S in 1990." Remember: subject, time, place, and then verb.
我 (Wǒ), 1990年 (yī jiǔ jiǔ líng nián), 在美国 (zài Měiguó), 出生 (chūshēng). 我1990年在美国出生。(Wǒ yī jiǔ jiǔ líng nián zài Měiguó chūshēng.)
How to Form Negative Sentences in Chinese
To form negative sentences, there are 2 ways for 2 circumstances.
You can use 不 (bù) or 没有 (méiyǒu).
We use 不 in present tense sentences, or when you don't want to do something.
我不喜欢中文 (Wǒ bù xǐhuān Zhōngwén.) "I don't like Chinese."
我不去 (Wǒ bú qù.) "I'm not going."
我不吃 (Wǒ bù chī.) "I don't want to eat."
We use 没有 (méiyǒu) in past tense, meaning didn't or haven't done something.
我没有吃苹果。(Wǒ méiyǒu chī píngguǒ.) "I didn't eat the apple."
我的姐姐昨天没有去美国。 (Wǒ dejiějie méiyǒu qù Měiguó.) "My older sister didn't go to the U.S. yesterday."
How to Form Questions in Chinese
To form yes-or-no questions in Chinese, it can't be easier.
Just add a question marker 吗 (ma) at the end of a statement.
"You like Chinese" is 你喜欢中文。(Nǐ xǐhuān Zhōngwén.) To make it "Do you like Chinese?" we simply put 吗 (ma) at the end. 你喜欢中文吗?(Nǐ xǐhuān Zhōngwén ma?)
Let's make 你每天在家吃一个苹果 (Nǐ měi tiān zài jiā chī yíge píngguǒ) a yes or no question. 你每天在家吃一个苹果吗?(Nǐ měi tiān zài jiā chī yíge píngguǒ ma?) "Do you eat an apple every day at home?"
Now you know how to ask questions with a yes-or-no answer. But how do you ask questions using question words, such as what, when, where, how, why, which?
Let's put the above questions words into two groups. We put what, which, and where after the verb. It's like replacing the object with the question word. So instead of SVO, we use SV+question word.
For example: "What do you like?"
你喜欢什么?(Nǐ xǐhuān shénme?) 你 (Nǐ), "you." 喜欢 (xǐhuān), "like." 什么 (shénme), "what."
"Which one do you like?"
你喜欢哪个?(Nǐ xǐhuān nǎge ?) 你 (Nǐ), "you." 喜欢 (xǐhuān), "like." 哪个 (nǎge), "which one."
"Where do you like?"
你喜欢哪里? (Nǐ xǐhuān nǎlǐ ?)你 (Nǐ), "you." 喜欢 (xǐhuān), "like." 哪里 (nǎlǐ), "where."
And for the rest of the question words, we put them before the verb. So it's S+question word+V+object. In some cases, you can omit the object to make the sentence concise.
"When are you going?"
你什么时候去?(Nǐ shénme shíhòu qù ?) 你 (Nǐ), "you." 什么时候 (shénme shíhòu), "when." 去 (qù) "go."
"Why are you going to the US?"
你为什么去美国?(Nǐ wèishénme qù Měiguó ?) 你 (Nǐ), "you." 为什么 (wèishénme), "why." 去 (qù), "go to." 美国 (Měiguó), "the United States."
"How are you going to go?"
你怎么去?(Nǐ zěnme qù ?) 你 (Nǐ), "you." 怎么 (zěnme), "how." 去 (qù), "go."
If we have a sentence with both a time phrase and question word, which should go first? Just remember, questions words are always stuck with verbs. So in this case, it would be subject, time phrase, question word, then verb.
你明天怎么去?(Nǐ míngtiān zěnme qù ?) 你 (Nǐ). 明天 míngtiān. 怎么 (zěnme), "how." 去 (qù), "go." “How are you going to go tomorrow?”
Basically, questions have the same order as SVO statements. Just remember to stick the right questions words in the right places. And don't forget the question mark.
Well done. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Chinese uses the exact same SVO word order as English. From this, you learned how to form affirmative and negative sentences. And finally, you learned how to convert an affirmative sentence into a question.
We've covered only the very basics of Chinese grammar. If you're interested in learning more, check out our "Chinese in 3 minutes" video series. In that course, we teach you useful phrases while covering the fundamentals of Chinese grammar, and each lesson is only 3 minutes long!
In the next lesson, we are going to introduce you to Chinese writing. See you in the next lesson!