- A: 你好嗎?
- How are you?
- B: 我很好, 你呢?
- I am fine, and you?
- A: 你忙嗎?
- Are you busy?
- B: 我不忙, 你呢?
- I am not busy, what about you?
Sometimes 很 is not really employed to mean "very" if it is modifying a monosyllabic adjective such as 好. It is simply because to say 我好 is a bit abrupt and hence awkward with only a monosyllabic adjective as the predicate of the sentence. Therefore people usually add 很 before 好 to make the sentence sound natural: 我很好 in this case does not necessarily mean "I am very well", it may simply convey the meaning of "I am fine".
The order of these words: If all three adverbs occur in the same sentence, their order is 也 -- 都 -- 很:
我很好.N.B. 都 (both/all) is only used to refer to the items to the left of it. Hence it is wrong to say 都他們很好 ("all of them are fine"). One should say 他們都很好.
- None of them is busy.
- Not all of them are busy.
- None of us is a doctor.
- Not all of us are doctors.
In the case of kinship or as a reference to people, however, the possessive marker 的 can be omitted. Otherwise it cannot.
e.g. 你弟弟 = 你的弟弟, 我爸爸 = 我的爸爸
Notice that in other types of sentences, however, verb 是 should still be retained:
- e.g. 他們很忙, 我們不忙
- They are very busy, we are not.
- He is my friend.
- I am not her elder brother.
To respond positively to a yes/no question, we often repeat the verb -- in the above case 是 and 忙 respectively -- as an equivalent to the English "yes" before making the statement itself. Note therefore that the response is not always 是.
- A: 你媽媽是大夫嗎?
- Is your mother a doctor?
- B: 是, 她是大夫.
- Yes, she is a doctor.
- A: 你媽媽忙嗎?
- Is your mother busy?
- B: 忙, 她很忙.
- Yes, she is very busy.
Unlike English which has to move such interrogative words as "what", "when", "who" etc to the beginning of the sentence to form a question, Chinese leaves the word order unchanged when forming questions using such interrogative words as 誰, 哪, 什麼, etc:
There are several ways of asking a person's name, depending on who that person is.
This is a very polite way of asking someone's name, literally "What is your honourable surname?". It is usually used to address one's elders or superiors, or someone of one's own age but to whom one wants to be polite. Notice, however, that the expression 貴姓 cannot be used when asking about a third person's name, or when referring to oneself.
- A: 您/你貴姓﹖
- What is your name?
- B: 我姓丁。
- My name is Ding.
This is a plain form of asking a person's name. It is usually used to address people of one's own age or younger, or one's inferiors. If one wants to be a bit polite, 請問 can be added to the question:
Unlike 貴姓, which is only used in the second person, 叫什麼 can be employed for all persons:
- May I ask, what's your name?
When asked 你姓什麼﹖you are supposed to give your last name first, and then as an option you can add your full name afterwards. But when asked 你叫什麼﹖you can give either your given name or your full name.
Both words mean "to study" or "to learn". Whereas 學習 can be used both transitively and intransitively, 學 is normally reserved for transitive use.
In the second sentence, the word 習 cannot be omitted.
- e.g. 我學(習)漢語﹐她學(習)法語。
- I study Chinese, she studies French.
- I study, my younger brother doesn't study.
To express the location or existence of something or somebody, use the following pattern:
S + 在 + place/location word or phraseIf the location or place is known or obvious, it can be omitted:
e.g. A: 你的地圖在哪兒﹖
- A: 古波在嗎﹖
- Is Gubo in [or: here]?
- B: 他不在﹐他在學生宿舍。
- He is not here. He is at the students' dormitory.
e.g. A: 地圖在哪兒﹖The choice of 這兒 and 那兒 depends on the distance between the object and the speaker. If it is close to the speaker, use 這兒; if not, use 那兒.
B: 在我這兒。(or 在我那兒)
Unlike English, Chinese place words start with the larger ones and proceed to the smaller ones. Hence the sentence "She lives in room 423, 4th floor at the student dorm at the college" will be 她住學院學生宿舍四層四二三號。 Notice the exactly reverse order here, which is applicable to the address used when writing letters as well.
Most often one uses 住 to indicate that one lives or stays at a certain place. There are several patterns for the use of 住. For example, to say "I live here", one can have the following:
S + 住 + place word (我住這兒)All three sentences have the same meaning.
S + 住在 + place word (我住在這兒)
S + 在 + place word + 住 (我在這兒住)
Unlike English, these sorts of Chinese numbers are read out digit by digit:
English: # 1452 (number fourteen fifty-two)
Chinese: # 1452 (一四五二號)
When using 還 to indicate "return", use the following pattern:
S + 還 + (sb.) + sth.This pattern is only used for simple objects, i.e. the object to be returned is not a complex one such as 她媽媽的日本車, etc. Notice in the second example above, sb. is omitted because it would be awkward to say 你還丁云丁云的車, although grammatically it is correct. We will later learn the ways to express something more complicated.
你還丁云的車。(Notice here sb. is omitted.)
In this phrase, 用 is a verb which can be used both transitively and intransitively (i.e. it can be used either with or without an object). 一下兒 is an adverbial of time indicating "a short while, a little while". If an object is to be used for 用 in the above phrase, it should be placed after 一下兒:
- Is it all right for me to use your book for a short while?
- They want to use your dad's car for a little while.
Time words in Chinese are normally placed in one of two positions in a sentence: before or after the subject.
- Now she is going to the college to return books.
- or 她現在去學院還書。
常 in the sense of "often" can often be reduplicated as 常常 without a change of meaning. Thus, 他常喝茶 = 他常常喝茶, 我們常去看書 = 我們常常去看書.
In making negative sentences, however, 常 is normally not reduplicated. Hence 他不常喝茶, 我們不常去看書.
An alternative way of forming a question is to juxtapose the affirmative and negative forms of the predicative verb or adjective:
- 她是中國人嗎﹖becomes 她是不是中國人﹖
- 你忙嗎﹖becomes 你忙不忙﹖
- 你認識他嗎﹖becomes 你認識不認識他﹖
- 忙不忙, 認識不認識, 介紹不介紹
Notice, however, that this rule applies only when those adverbs come before the predicative verbs or adjectives. Compare:
- but not 你們都去不去中國﹖
- but not 他常喝不喝咖啡﹖
他們歡迎我來嗎﹖ becomes 他們歡迎不歡迎我來﹖
In Chinese, 和 as a conjunction is normally used to connect two words or phrases, never two clauses or sentences:
but not 我弟弟是學生﹐和我哥哥也是學生。
The adverb 都 is placed between the subject and the predicative verb or adjective. It governs only the elements before it:
我們都去中國。 (All of us go to China: 都 modifies 我們.)
but not 都我們去中國。
This is also wrong:
我都學漢語和法語。because 都 modifies 我 and not 漢語和法語. If "both Chinese and French" is intended in the above sentence, the objects 漢語和法語 should be placed before 都:
The verb 有 in Chinese can mean both possession and existence, like the English "to have" and "there is" or "there are":
- She has a Chinese dictionary.
- There are a lot of foreign students in our college.
- I have an elder brother, but no elder sister.
- My friend does not have books, nor pens.
- There is no one in our dorm now.
Sometimes, if the object of 有 is not long, one can use the form "... 有 + object + 沒有 ?" as well, although this form is not as common as the previous one.
The object of 在 is often a place-word and the object of 給 is often the beneficiary of the action expressed by the predicative verb. In Chinese, a prepositional construction comes before the verb it modifies:
- She works in a bank.
- but not 她工作在銀行。
- Let me introduce you to one another.
- but not 我介紹一下兒給你們。
To form a negative sentence, 不 is placed before the prepositional construction:
- I am not going to introduce you.
Adverbs such as 常, 都, 也 are also placed before the prepositional construction:
- 我們都在 City Lit 學院學習漢語。
- We all study Chinese at the City Lit.
- Do you often write to your mother?
- My dad also often writes to me.
The word 想 in Chinese carries various meanings:
- Ding Yun misses her family very much.
- I miss my parents very much.
- Don't you miss your boyfriend?
- Do you miss her?
- A: 你想去商店嗎﹖
- Do you want to go to the shop?
- B: 我不想去。
- I don't want to go.
- A: 你想不想學法語﹖
- Do you want to study French?
- B: 我也想學法語。
- I also want to study French.
N.B. to negate a sentence with 想 in this capacity, put the negative adverb in the subordinate clause, not in the main clause as in English:
- I think she is Chinese.
- I think her parents are both doctors.
- I don't think she is Chinese.
- but not 我不想她是中國人。
N.B. 想 as a verb can use the affirmative-negative question form only in senses 1 and 2 above, not in 3.
告訴 means "to tell". In English, the verb "tell" can mean to tell somebody something, or to tell somebody to do something. The Chinese verb 告訴 can only be applied to the first of these patterns.
- e.g. 她告訴我她的工作。
- She told me her work.
- I'll tell mother you are a good friend of mine.
- but not 我告訴他給我寫信。
- I told him to write to me.
Notice the element following the indirect object (i.e. 我, 媽媽) of 告訴 in the first and second sentences is either a noun, a noun-phrase or a clause, but never a verb-phrase. The last sentence is wrong because it uses the pattern "to tell somebody to do something" and hence uses a verb-phrase for its direct object. In this case, we should use 叫 or 請 in place of 告訴 to make a correct sentence:
- I asked him to write to me.
For Arabic numerals 0 to 10, the Chinese equivalents are:
○ (or 零), 一, 二, 三, 四, 五, 六, 七, 八, 九, 十Further on, they are:
十一 = 11, 十二 = 12, 十九 = 19
二十 = 20, 二十一 = 21, 二十八 = 28
三十 = 30, 四十 = 40, 九十 = 90, 九十九 = 99
一百 = 100
一百零一 = 101, 一百十 = 110, 一百十一 = 111
三百二十七 = 327, 九百零九 = 909
一千 = 1000
一千零一 = 1001, 五千零四十 = 5040, 八千七百二十五 = 8725
一萬 = 10,000
四萬零八百零一 = 40,801
一億 = 100,000,000
If there are two or more zeroes in succession between two non-zero digits, as in 1001, only one is pronounced: 一千零一. However, if the two or more zeroes are separate and also sandwiched, as in 40,801, each is read as normal: 四萬零八百零一.
In Chinese, when a noun is modified by numerals, demonstrative pronouns such as 這 or 那, or interrogative pronouns such as 哪 or 幾, a specific measure word should be placed between the noun and its modifier(s):
三本書, 十五個學生, 那個老師, 哪個圖書館, 幾本詞典
Both of these can be used to mean "how many" or "how much". Whereas 幾 should be used with a measure word, 多少 can be used either with or without a measure word for the noun it modifies.
The measure word 本 is a must for the first sentence, but only optional in the second.
Also, when 幾 is used, the expected answer is usually under 10, whereas 多少 can be used whether one expects a large or small answer.
As in English, some verbs in Chinese can take two objects: direct object (usually a thing) and indirect object (usually a person).
王老師教我們語法。In this sentence, 教 is a verb that takes 我們 as the indirect object and 法語 as the direct object. Generally the indirect goes before the direct object. Some other verbs that work the same way include 還, 告訴 and 問.
Not all Chinese verbs can take two objects: it would be wrong to say 他買我一本書 (He bought me a book), or 她寫我一封信 (She wrote me a letter). The correct way of saying these would be to use 給, as in 他給我買一本書 and 她給我寫一封信.
When an adjective modifies a noun, it is placed directly before the noun as in English:
However, when the adjective modifier is made up of two or more syllables, the particle 的 is usually inserted between the modifier and the noun it modifies:
- new book
- good friend
- very new book
- very good friend
Under certain circumstances, 也 and 還 are interchangeable, but with different emphasis:
- e.g. 你有一個問題﹐我也有一個問題。
- You have a question; I also have a question. The two are parallel here.
- I have already had some questions, but I still have one more. This is in addition to the previous ones.
Although both sentences can be roughly translated as "Professor Wang teaches us Chinese characters and grammar; he also teaches us conversation", their emphasis is different: the first sentence stresses the fact that Wang teaches conversation in addition to the other subjects he teaches, whereas the second simply enumerates the three subjects he teaches without prioritization.
A modifier (normally either a noun, a pronoun, a verb or an adjective) with the word 的 can function as a noun or noun-phrase in a sentence, and can stand by itself if the context is clear:
These constructions normally involve the verb 是 (or 不是).
- This skirt is my sister's. Noun + 的)
- Which dictionary is yours? Pronoun + 的
- Is your father's car a white one? Adjective + 的
- What sort of tea do you drink? Verb + 的
從 + place word + 去 = to go from; 從 + place word + 來 = to come from.
- e.g. 你從哪兒來﹖
- Where did you come from?
- I came from the library.
- We are going from my home to the theatre tonight.
When a noun or pronoun is added to 這兒 or 那兒, they function as a place word or expression. Since one cannot say 我去她 (I went to her), one can say instead 我去她那兒 (I went to her place), because 她那兒 is now regarded as a place expression. Similarly one cannot say 你的裙子在我 (Your skirt is with me), but one can say 你的裙子在我這兒 (Your skirt is with me). More examples:
As is obvious, if the place or the person is away from the speaker, use 那兒; if the place is near the speaker or refers to the speaker himself or herself, use 這兒.
- Your book is at his place.
- We all went to my sister's place.
- The teacher is coming to my place to look for her.
This pattern is often used for emphatic purposes. An adjective is used between 太 and 了:
- Too busy!
- Too big!
The expression 太好了﹗, however, has a positive meaning, expressing satisfaction or admiration.
These both mean "two", and are used as follows.
兩個人, 兩本書, 增加了兩倍, 去了兩次
二十二, 一百零二次, 十二個人, 五千八百六十二元There are some more restrictions, though:
二十, 二百二十五, 二百五十元 or 兩百五十元
兩千元 (also 二千元), 兩萬三千八, 兩億人口
四億二千萬, 三萬二千人, 五千二百元
The following are ways of telling the time in Chinese:
A: 現在幾點﹖Some notes:
兩點 2:00 十點半 (or 十點三十分) 10:30 三點一刻 (or 三點十五分) 3:15 十二點三刻 (or 十二點四十五分) 12:45 兩點差五分 (or 差五分兩點) 1:55 五點二十分 5:20 六點零五分 6:05 七點三十五分 7:35
七點十五 or 七點十五分
A time-word or -expression is normally placed either after the subject or at the beginning of a sentence:
- but not 我在三點下課
- She came in the evening.
- or 晚上她來
- but not 她來晚上
- at 8 o'clock this evening
- When and where are you going to have your class tomorrow?
- A: 你想看幾點的電影﹖
- What show do you want to see? literally What time's film do you want to see?
- B: 我想看中午十二點半的(電影)。
- I want to see the film at 12:30 at noon.
- A: 這是今天的報嗎﹖
- Is this today's paper?
- B: 不是今天的報﹐是昨天的。
- It isn't today's paper, it's yesterday's.
- I was a student before; now I am a teacher.
- Where did you work before?
- I did not live in a dormitory before, but now I do.
When used together with a time-word or verb phrase, 以前 means "before..." and 以後 means "after...":
- I won't go home before 10.
- I read books in the reading-room before I go home.
- He has been working here after he came to America.
- What do you do in your dorm after 10:30?
N.B. When 以前 or 以後 is used together with a time-word or verb phrase to mean "before" or "after", the word order is exactly the opposite of the English equivalent:
- before 4 o'clock
- before the class is over
- after tomorrow evening (or night)
- after returning to the dormitory
跟 as a preposition means "with", and 一起 means "together". This pattern is used to indicate that A and B do something together. Here 跟 can be replaced with 和 without changing the meaning; and the phrase 一起 is optional.
- e.g. 我跟 (or 和) 她去看電影。
- I go to see a film with her.
- She and I go to see a film together.)
- With whom are you going to the theatre tonight?
- A: 晚上你有事兒嗎﹖跟我一起去看京劇﹐好嗎﹖
- Do you have anything to do tonight? Come with me to the Beijing opera!
- B: 我不想跟你去﹐我想跟我男朋友一起去。
- I don't want to go with you, I want to go with my boyfriend.
N.B. This pattern of A 跟 B (一起) is always placed before the main verb in the sentence. Hence the following sentence, with English word order, is wrong:
- I want to go together with my boyfriend.
In Chinese, an alternative question is formed by using 還是 to connect two choices, which can be nouns, noun phrases, verbs, verb phrases, or clauses:
這本書是你的還是她的﹖ (noun phrases)
你要聽古典音樂還是聽現代音樂﹖ (verb phrases)
In Chinese a sentence can contain several verbs. A pivotal sentence is one in which the object of the first verb is at the same time the subject of the following verb. This object therefore functions as a pivot, connecting the two verb clauses in the sentence.
The first verb in a pivotal sentence is often a causative verb (to cause something to happen) such as 請, 讓 or 叫. All three carry the meaning of asking somebody to do something. Of the three, 請 is the most polite; 讓 is less so, and 叫 is the least polite. So watch out for the occasions when these verbs can be used appropriately. Observe:
- The students asked Professor Wang to introduce Chinese music.
- The teacher asked students to write Chinese characters every day.
- Dad asked his child to study Chinese.
Notice that although the English equivalents all employ "to ask", the Chinese sentences use different words to indicate various degrees of politeness.
- We invited him to dinner.
- Do you want to invite him to a movie tonight?
- My doctor doesn't let me drink alcohol.
- They did not invite me to go to the pictures.
(你) 別 (or 不要) 告訴他﹗
Neither of these can be used to indicate negation in declarative sentences. It is wrong to say 爸爸別請他走. One can say instead 爸爸不請他走.
Use 日 or 號 for a specific date. Usually 日 is used in written and formal language and 號 is used in conversation. The word 天 should be used in counting the number of days:
- the May of this year (whether it has passed or not)
- the August of last year
- the February of next year
- 這 (個) 星期五
- the Friday of this week (whether it has passed or not)
- 上 (個) 星期一
- the Monday of last week
- 下 (個) 星期四
- the Thursday of next week
Note the English phrase "last Monday" may therefore be rendered as 這個星期一, if Monday has already passed and the phrase is therefore referring to Monday of this week. The same applies for future days, and for months.
Two points need to be observed when using a verb or verb-phrase as a modified to form a relative clause:
- The film I saw this afternoon was very interesting.
- The person who opened the door for you was my younger sister.
- The girl who danced with him was my classmate.
The verb 是 is not normally used in the predicate for a sentence where the main element of the predicate is an adjective:
In an affirmative sentence of this type, if the adjective is not preceded by adverbs such as 真, 太, 非常 or 更, it is usually qualified by the adverb 很. In such cases, 很 does not really mean "very"; 他很忙 and 他忙 mean virtually the same.
Also, adverbs such as 很, 常, 也, 非常, 太 or 更 cannot be used in affirmative-negative sentences of this type:
你高興不高興﹖ but not 你很高興不很高興﹖
她年輕不年輕﹖ but not 她非常高興不非常高興﹖
你去不去﹖ but not 你也去不去﹖
In general, 祝你 is used to extend well-wishes in advance whereas 祝賀你 is used to congratulate someone on something already accomplished:
祝你生日好﹗ (One can say this on the day, or in advance.)
祝賀你﹗ (Say this only when something has already been accomplished.)
To indicate that an action is only of a short duration or to soften the tone of a sentence in order to make it less formal, a verb can be repeated:
我給你們介紹介紹。 (Notice the pattern is ABAB, not AABB.)In the case of a monosyllabic verb, the character 一 can be inserted:
讓我想一想。Repeating a verb has the same effect as using the adverb 一下兒 after the verb:
用一下兒 = 用用 = 用一用
看一下兒 = 看看 = 看一看
介紹一下兒 = 介紹介紹
Words such as 上邊, 左邊, 前邊, 中間, 對面 are position words. Some of the basic syllables are:
|上 - up|
|左 - left||中 - middle||右 - right|
|下 - down|
|前 - front||裡 - in|
|後 - back||外 - out|
Usually, add 邊 to make "on the left", "above", "outside" etc.
Position words can be used in two ways. Compare:
- outside the car
- behind the house
- opposite the table
- the car outside (i.e. the car which is outside)
- the house behind (the house which is behind)
- the opposite table (the table which is opposite / across the way)
- inside the house
- on the table
- outside the classroom
- She studies Chinese in Beijing.
- but not 她在北京裡邊學習漢語。
- There are many universities in America.
- but not 美國裡邊有很多大學。
- I work in a bank.
- but not 我在銀行裡邊工作。
- They are reading books in the reading-room.
- but not 他們在閱覽室裡邊看書。
There are three ways to indicate the location of something, using 在, 有 and 是 respectively and with different meanings:
Position word + 有 + indefinite noun:
- What is behind?
- There is a garage behind.
- Across from our home, there is a park.
Definite noun + 在 + position word:
- Where is the garden?
- The garden is behind our house.
- 花園在車房 (的) 右邊。
- The garden is to the right of the garage.
Position word + 是 + definite/indefinite noun:
- What's behind your house?
- Behind our house is a garden.
- In front of their house is the college library.
To show an action which is, was or will be going on, use one of the following patterns:
- She is resting.
- She is resting now. present progressive
- When I went there, she was resting. past progressive
- When I go to see her tomorrow, she will surely be resting. future progressive
- 她在休息嗎﹖沒有﹐她在看報。(or simply 沒有)
- but not 她正在在房間里休息。
An entire subject-predicate construction (a sentence or clause) such as 我給她打電話, 他今天買, 我們去北京參觀 can be used as a modifier for a noun. When used this way, there must be a 的 inserted between the construction and the noun it modifies:
- When I called her, she was eating.
- The flowers he bought today are very pretty.
- Please take a look at the pictures we took while visiting Beijing.
- Who wrote this letter to you?
The subject-predicate construction always goes immediately before the 的, which goes immediately before the noun to be modified.
Both terms can be translated as "to visit" in English. However, while 參觀 implies 觀 (to see), 訪問 stresses 問 (to ask). Hence 參觀 really implies observation while visiting and 訪問 means to visit people with specific purpose such as interviews. 參觀 can be followed by places but not people; whereas 訪問 can take either, but most commonly people.
些 is a measure word showing indefinite quantity. It is usually used after demonstrative pronouns such as 這, 那, 哪 and after the numeral 一:
- which (plural)
Don't attempt to mix 些 with definite measures. It is wrong to say 這些三本詞典 (these three dictionaries); one can only say 這三本詞典.
Earlier we saw the construction with simple nouns, pronouns or adjectives:
But the 是 . . . 的 construction can also be used with prepositional phrases and even whole verbal constructions:
- 這本書是中文的。= 這本書中文的書。
- 那條裙子是妹妹的。= 那條裙子是妹妹的裙子。
- 姐姐的大衣是黑的。= 姐姐的大衣是黑的大衣。
- 那些點心是給丁雲的。= 那些點心是丁雲的點心。
- Those pastries are for Ding Yun.
- 這束花兒是我給她買的。= 這束花兒我給她買的花兒。
- This bunch of flowers is the one I bought for her.
- 這本書是我在大學的圖書館借的。= 這本書是我在大學的圖書館借的書。
- This book is the one I borrowed from the university library.
A complement is a word or phrase attached after a verb to explain or complete the meaning of the action. Complements are used to show duration, extent, quantity, degree, result, direction or possibility of an action. Complements always appear after the verbs they modify.
We know that in Chinese modifiers are generally placed before the words they modify; so why do complements appear after? It's because Chinese word order often observes the time sequence in which an action occurs. Notice, for example:
Since one has to leave the bookshop before going to the cinema, the Chinese sentence follows this time sequence. Similarly, since a verbal action has to take place first, before one can see its extent or result, the complement placed after the verb observes this time sequence.
- Yesterday evening we went to the cinema from the bookshop.
This is used to show the extent or degree of an action. Normally adjectives are used for the complement, and the structural particle 得 is used to connect the verb and its complement:
The basic patterns for the complement of degree are as follows:
- How is he studying?
- He's studying very well.
- 她歌唱得不好﹐ 舞也跳得不好。
Either term can be used to soften the tone when placed at the end of a question. However, they differ in usage.
呢 is primarily used to indicate a mood of enquiry. It may appear in questions with interrogative words such as 什麼 or 哪兒; affirmative-negative questions such as 有沒有呢﹖好吃不好吃呢﹖; or alternative questions with 還是, such as 吃面包還是火腿呢﹖
吧, on the other hand, is employed at the end of a question to indicate a mood of uncertainty or speculation on the part of the speaker: 在這兒停車吧﹖ 你不知道吧﹖
呢 in this case is used to indicate the progressive aspect of an action (e.g. 她學中文呢), or to affirm some fact, sometimes with exaggeration (e.g. 晚上電影九點才開始呢。 從這兒去要走三天呢。)
吧 is often added at the end of an imperative sentence to soften the tone, as in 我們走吧。 你再想想吧。
- Do I have to come tomorrow?
- We have to go.
- You don't have to come tomorrow.
- 你不能 (or 不可以) 在這兒停車。
- 你不可以 (or 不能) 在這兒吸煙。
- but not 你會唱不唱中國民歌﹖
Compare the following sentences:
- They came as early as 3 o'clock, but you came as late as now.
- We are old friends, and we came to know each other as early as ten years ago.
- She is not a classmate of mine. I just got to know her a week ago.
As shown in the above sentences, when there is a time-word in a sentence, 就 and 才 should be placed after it; when there is an optative verb, on the other hand, 就 and 才 should be placed before it. Here is the pattern:
- (The speaker indicates their eagerness in going to China as soon as this year.)
- (The speaker indicates that, although going to China this year, they should have gone earlier.)
- Time-word + 就/才 + optative verb + main verb
還是, on the other hand, is more often than not reserved for alternative questions:
It can also be used in subordinate clauses with verbs such as 知道, 告訴 etc:
In dialogue 1, A asks an alternative question which anticipates a choice from the answer. The two terms with 還是 are mutually exclusive. In dialogue 2, the question is a general one using 嗎 at the end. It does not anticipate a strict choice from the answer, so B can give a general answer: 我想去 -- yes, I do -- and then add his more specific thought: 我兩個地方都想去. The two items with 或者 in the question are therefore not mutually exclusive.
- A: 你想去中國還是日本﹖
- A: 你想去中國或者日本嗎﹖
Sometimes, however, 還是 can also be used in a non-interrogative sentence. For instance:
Notice in the sentence the tone is still somehow interrogative, compelling 他 to make a choice. In contrast, 或者 in this case can only convey a sort of explanatory note:
- 你去﹐還是她來﹐你明天一定要作決定。 (interrogative)
- 或者你去﹐或者她來﹐沒有其他選擇。 (explanatory)
The meanings of the four terms here overlap.
Both 了解 and 知道 can mean "to know". However, 了解 implies some level of understanding and comprehension of what one knows. Therefore 了解 can be understood as a deeper or better knowing than 知道. Compare:
- 你了解 (or 知道) 這個學校嗎﹖
- 我不知道他是誰的孩子。(Here one can not use 了解.)
認識 is used to indicate that one can recognise this as this and not others. It can also involve the process of acquiring such an ability.
- A: 哦﹐我認識她﹗
- Oh, I know her!
- B: 你是在哪兒認識她的﹖
- Where did you get to know her?
懂, on the other hand, is a direct equivalent of "to understand". Its definition is not as broad as that of 了解 (to know and understand) and is different from that of 知道 (to know).
Of these, sentence 3 wants to know more detailed information about him than sentence 2, and sentence 2 wants more detailed information than sentence 1.
- 1. 你懂他說的漢語嗎﹖
- 2. 你知道他叫甚麼名字嗎﹖
- 3. 你了解他嗎﹖
The aspect particle 了 is added to the end of a verb to indicate the completion of an action. In general, Chinese perfect aspect is equivalent to perfect tenses (present perfect, past perfect or future perfect) in English. So, the completion of an action can take place in the past or in the future. For instance:
On the other hand, a past action is not always followed by the aspect particle 了, if it is a simple statement or a habitual action and there is no need to emphasise its completion:
- A: 你下了課去哪兒﹖
- B: 我下了課去圖書館。
- Subject + verb + 了 (+ object)
- e.g. 電影開始了。 我買了兩本書。
- Subject + 沒(有) + verb (+ object)
- or subject + 還沒(有) + verb (+ 呢)
- e.g. 我沒有買書。 電影還沒開始呢。
- Subject + verb + 了 (+ object) + 沒有﹖
- or Subject + verb + 了嗎﹖
- or Subject + verb + 沒 + verb (+ object)﹖ (here the verb is usually monosyllabic)
- e.g. 你今天買了詞典沒有﹖ 她來了嗎﹖ 你們談沒談這個問題﹖
- but not simply 我買了書。
In sentence a, "write" is related to "use" because the letter is written by using Chinese; in sentence b, similarly, "buy" is related to "enter the city" because the purpose of entering the city is to buy the dictionaries. Compare the above sentences with the following, with a different structure:
- a. 我用中文給媽媽寫了一封信。
- b. 他們昨天進城買了一些中文詞典。
Here "class is over" (下課) and "go to the library" are unrelated. They are contained in the sentence simply to indicate their sequence. Hence it is wrong to say
All three of these adverbs indicate the repetition of an action, like the English "again". They differ in usage, however:
Whereas 又 indicates a repetition of an action that has already taken place, 再 implies a repetition of an action in the future. Also, 再 is only used in declarative sentences, plus questions ending in 好嗎:
Also, 又 can be used for the repetition of a periodic action or occurrence, even though it has not yet taken place:
- (repetition in the past)
- (repetition in the future)
還, on the other hand, usually expresses a future repetition:
It can also be used in an interrogative or declarative sentence with an optative verb. In this situation, it is placed before the optative verb and an optional 再 can be placed after:
- A: 你明年還能(再)教我們嗎﹖
- B: 我明年還可以(再)教你們。
The modal particle 了 is placed at the end of a sentence to indicate that the event referred to took place in the past. The difference between 了 as modal particle and 了 to indicate perfect aspect is that the latter only shows the completion of the verb, whereas the former shows the completion of the whole sentence or event, implying some change of situation.
The first 了 in the sentence above indicates only the completion of the action of 買書, whereas the second 了 marks some change of situation on the part of 他 as a result of the completion of the book-buying process: originally he did not have the book, but now he has.
(Please compare against the patterns for the perfect aspect in the previous section.)
- Subject + verb (+ object) + 了
- e.g. 他們看足球賽了。
- Subject + 沒 (有) + verb (+ object)
- e.g. 他們沒看足球賽。
- Subject + verb + object + 了沒有﹖
- or Subject + verb + object + 了嗎﹖
- or Subject + verb + 沒 + verb + object﹖ (here the verb is usually monosyllabic)
- e.g. 他們看足球賽了沒有﹖
- 她來了。 我們懂了。
The above pattern can be used for future actions as well. To indicate that both actions took place in the past, the particle 了 has to be inserted at the end of the sentence:
- Subject + verb + 了 (以後) 就 + verb ...
- e.g. 我們辦了簽証(以後)就回家。