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Lesson Transcript

Hēi, dàjiā hǎo, wǒ jiào Mǎ Yànrú. Hi everybody! I’m Mǎ Yànrú.
Welcome to ChineseClass101.com’s “Sān fēnzhōng Hànyǔ”. The fastest, easiest, and most fun way to learn Chinese.
In the last lesson, we learned how to use the verb lái.
In this lesson, we will jump into our lessons dedicated to interrogative words in Chinese. Our first one will be the one that is most commonly used to ask a question, but also one of the most difficult in Chinese, and that is the one used to say "What." You’ll see that there are many ways to translate it in Chinese.
So imagine you want to ask your friend "What is he doing?" How will you do it?
You will ask- Tā zài zuò shénme ?
[slowly] Tā zài zuò shénme ?
So let’s break down this answer-
Tā is word for "he"
zuò means “to do” and zài means the sentence is in present progressive tense, which we have already studied.
Finally, we have the word shénme which is "What" in Chinese.
So, all together it is Tā zài zuò shénme?
“What is he doing?”
As you can see, in Chinese, "What" is mainly translated as shénme. “What color” is shénme yánsè, “what language” is shénme yǔyán, and so on. Let’s make some sentences here.
“What color do you like?” could be Nǐ xǐhuān shénme yánsè?
“What language do you speak?” could be Nǐ jiǎng shénme yǔyán ?
The rule of the structure of the sentence is simple- subject + verb + what + question or subject + verb + what + noun + question.
Let’s see some more examples.
"What do you want?" will be Nǐ xiǎng yào shénme?
We can change the verb “want” to “eat”. So it will be - Nǐ chī shénme?
Before nouns, "What" in Chinese stays the same. Let’s review the sentences above.
Nǐ xǐhuān shénme yánsè?
Nǐ jiǎng shénme yǔyán?
Now it’s time for Yanru’s tips.
When the answer for the “what” question sentence can be answered with numbers, you can use another word, jǐ, instead of shénme. As in "What number are you?" In this case, you should say Nǐ shì jǐ hào?
In this lesson, we learned how to translate "What" based on its basic meaning.
I know it is not always simple but I am sure you will remember these short rules!
Next lesson, we will talk about the Chinese for the interrogative word "Where".
Do you know it already? I can promise it’s easier than "what"!
I’ll be waiting for you in the next “Sān fēnzhōng Hànyǔ” lesson.
zàijiàn !