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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 "When" questions in Chinese.
This time, we are going to ask questions with the interrogative word "Who?"
Imagine you want to ask your friend who the attractive girl just behind him is.
Here, the question you can ask is Nǐ hòumian de nǚhái shì shéi?
[slowly] Nǐ hòumian de nǚhái shì shéi?
This means Who is the girl behind you?
So let’s break down this answer.
First we had-
nǐ, meaning “you”, and then hòumian de which is "behind."
nǚhái means "the girl."
shì is the Chinese for “to be” verbs such as "is", “am” and “are”.
And finally shéi, which is the basic translation of "Who" in Chinese.
Altogether, it is Nǐ hòumian de nǚhái shì shéi?
So in Chinese, "Who" is mainly translated into shéi to ask about someone's identity.
For example, if you want to ask "Who are these people?" You will say Zhèxiē rén shì shéi? when talking about a group of unknown persons.
Shéi only works for people, so you can't use it to ask information about things or places. As an interrogative word, shéi can also be used to ask who did something, for example.
If you are in a museum for instance, you can ask Shéi huà de zhè fú huà? This means "Who painted this painting?"
Another interrogative formula with shéi that is used a lot is shéi de? In this case, the meaning is different as it can be translated to "Whose."
So if you want to ask "Whose pencil is this?" you will have to say Zhè shì shéi de qiānbǐ? If we break down this question, it is-
zhè shì which is "this is", then shéi de which is ‘’whose’’
and finally, qiānbǐ which means "pencil."
The word shéi can also be translated to “whom”. And you don’t need to make any changes to it. For example, “With whom are you coming?” in Chinese would be Nǐ hé shéi yīqǐ lái? Hé......yīqǐ means “be with”. And we can see that shéi stays the same.
Now it’s time for Yanru’s Insights.
If someone that you didn't expect is knocking at your door in China, the common question you can ask is Shéi a? before opening the door.
This literally means "Who is it?" in a very natural way.
It can be used in all kinds of situations, but be careful with your tone. You could sound anywhere from cheerful to rude, depending on your tone.
Before ending this lesson, Let’s go back and look at all the ways to translate "Who" in Chinese:
- Shéi is the basic translation for "Who" as in “Who is the girl behind you?” Nǐ hòumian de nǚhái shì shéi? or “whom” as in “With whom are you coming?” - Nǐ hé shéi yīqǐ lái?
- Shéi de is insisting on the ownership - it is the equivalent of "Whose", as in "Whose pencil is it?" which is Zhè shì shéi de qiānbǐ?
In this lesson, we learned how to correctly use the interrogative word for "Who" in Chinese, shéi, but also its variations.
Now you can easily know who is whom!
The next lesson will be our last of this absolute beginner series.
We will deal with the last but not least common interrogative word wèishénme, which means “Why”.
I’ll be waiting for you in the next “Sān fēnzhōng Hànyǔ” lesson.