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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 ask "Where" questions in Chinese.
This time, we’re going to ask "When" questions.
Let’s go!
You want to ask when your roommate is coming back home. You can ask him Nǐ shénme shíhòu huí jiā?
Let's break it down:
nǐ is "you".
shénme shíhòu is the basic translation of "When" in Chinese. Here shénme, as we learned, means "What", and shíhòu means “time”, so literally you're asking "What time?"
Huí is a verb meaning "to come back",
And finally jiā is "home."
So, altogether it is Nǐ shénme shíhòu huí jiā?"
"When will you come back home?"
[slowly] Nǐ shénme shíhòu huí jiā?
In Chinese, "When" can be translated many ways. Take the last question for instance - we could also ask Nǐ jǐ diǎn huí jiā? Here jǐ diǎn is another phrase which means "what time," but unlike shénme shíhòu, this is specifically asking for the time. Here, I'll show you what I mean:
As a response to Nǐ shénme shíhòu huí jiā? The answer could be either Wǒ xiàwǔ huí jiā, “I will come back home in the afternoon” or Wǒ wǎnshang qī diǎn huí jiā, “I will come back home at 7 p.m.”
But as a response to nǐ jǐ diǎn huí jiā? there is only one answer you can give - Wǒ wǎnshang qī diǎn huí jiā. It's like the difference between being asked "When are you coming home?" and "What time are you coming home?" in English. For the second question, you have to answer with the time.
Let’s see another example. If you want to ask "When were you born?" you could say Nǐ shénme shíhòu chūshēng de?
But you might get ‘Wǒ shì zǎoshang wǔ diǎn chūshēng de’ as a response. This means “I was born at 5 a.m.”
You were probably wondering about the year, so to avoid being ambiguous you’ll need to make your question more specific. To do this, you could ask nǐ shì nǎ yī nián chūshēng de? Here nǎ yī nián means “which year”. Now you're asking "Which year were you born?" and you'll get the answer you expect: ‘Wǒ shì yī jiǔ bā liù nián chūshēng de’, which means “I was born in 1986.”
Did you notice that there is a little word, de, at the end of the last few sentences? It’s a word that shows the sentence is in past tense.
Now it’s time for Chen Tips.
We know “when” can be translated in many ways. But the basic translation shénme shíhòu is very important. It’s a very useful phrase that can be used in all the situations we have talked about. Although it may cause misunderstandings sometimes, if you’re careful with it, you should be able to get the answer you want.
In this lesson, we learned how to ask "When" questions in Chinese
Next lesson we’ll learn about asking "Who" questions.
I’ll be waiting for you in the next “Sān fēnzhōng Hànyǔ” lesson.