How to ask directions in Chinese

If you will make use of your Chinese on the home land of native Chinese populations. Such as China mainland, Taiwan, Singapore…. there’s one lesson that you really can’t miss:”How to ask directions in Chinese?” As long as you’re going to places, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get lost.

In this post, I’ll teach you how to ask and understand directions in Chinese. First of all, let’s get our first look at the four universally agreed directions. At the same time learn some new words as well.

dōng nán běi
[hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi]西[/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
east south west north

New words:

yán zhe tiáo jiē
[hanzi]沿着[/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
along  quantifier  street
xiàng dào
[hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
towards river road
shùn
[hanzi][/hanzi] [hanzi][/hanzi]
along road

 

Let’s put them on a compass now:

Directions

Imagine you got yourself lost after an enjoyable movie in the movie or theater (this is very likely to happen if you watched the movie on a foreign street 🙂 ). You fish out your name card with your name, position and home address on it and ask for directions to local people that can only understand Chinese.

In the response you got, you might hear something like this to start with:

“ yánzhe zhè tiáo jiē wǎng dōng zǒu, ……”

沿着这条街往东走, ……”

“Walk towards east along this street …”

The phrase in this sentence ”往东走 wǎng dōng zǒu” means “walk towards east”. Don’t forget the reverse word order in Chinese that I’ve taught so many times: where + verb. That’s why in Chinese, the phrase become this order:”towards east walk”.

The word “towards” can be translated by “往 wǎng”, “向 xiàng”, or ”顺 shùn”. It is OK to say: ”往东走wǎng dōng zǒu”, “向东走xiàng dōng zǒu” or “顺东走 shùn dōng zǒu”.

“沿着 yán zhe” means “along” in English.

“ 沿着这条街 yánzhe zhè tiáo jiē”=”along this street”

 

Now let’s have a mini practice to get your hands wet:

Please express the “walk along this road towards north” in Chinese:

First, change word order first: along this road + towards north + walk;

Second, fill in Chinese words like this: 沿着这条道 + 向北 + 走

街 jiē,  道 dào, and 路 lù can all be used to mean “the street”.

You might wonder now that what if it’s not right on the four directions. But instead in between of them. Such as south west, or north east etc.?

The answer is simple, put the two direction characters together. Such as: 西南, 东北 etc.

The only catch here is the order of the two characters in a compound word is reversed from that of English.

In Chinese, “south” and “north” are always the ending character. “west” and “east” are always the beginning character. Yet in English, it’s the opposite.

I’ve put them into a table for you to memorize easily:

South east South west
东南 dōng nán 西南 xī nán
North east North west
东北 dōng běi 西北 xī běi

 

Isn’t that easy?

Now let’s finish our lesson with some examples:

wǒ de jiā yánzhe zhè tiáo jiē wǎng dōngběi zǒu jiù néng kànjiàn.

我的家沿着这条街往东北走就能看见.

You’ll see my house if you walk along this street towards north east.

 

xuéxiào yánzhe zhè tiáo hé wǎng xīnán zǒu jiùshì.

学校沿着这条河往西南走就是.

To get to the school, you need to walk towards south west along this river.

Please practice using the direction words to ask for directions and answer for directions. It will come handy next time you got lost 🙂

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

How to use “Let …” sentence patterns in Chinese

“Let’s have a break!”

No, I’m just kidding. 🙂 Let’s finish today’s Learn Chinese Online lesson and then we can have a break.

If I ask you to repeat my opening sentence in Chinese, do you know how to say it? Before we answer that question, let’s learn some new Chinese words first.

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Mandarin Pinyin English Definition
休息 休息 xiu1 xi5 rest; to rest;
rang4 to let sb do sth; to have sb do sth;
一起 一起 yi1 qi3 together
照看 照看 zhao4 kan4 to look after; to attend to
解决 解決 jie3 jue2 to solve (problems, issues)
问题 問題 wen4 ti2 question; problem; issue

 

Are you done with the new words now. If yes, let me explain how the opening sentence is said in Chinese:

让 ràng (Let) 我们 wǒmen (us) 休息 xiūxi (have a break) 一下 yīxià (for a little while) 吧 ba (exclamation particle)!

I’ll reprint it in clean text here:

让我们休息一下吧!

 

Basically you just need the following pattern to phrase your sentence for “Let’s …” sentence pattern:

 ràng (Let) 我们 wǒmen (us) + do something.

As a matter of fact, you can also take out the character “” to mean the same thing:

我们休息一下吧!

Then, is there any difference between the sentence with  and the sentence without ? Well, the difference is very subtle: using  sounds a bit more formal; not using  sounds more leisure. Well, generally speaking, they are same.

What if we’re not using “Let’s …” pattern, we just need to use “let” with other pronoun than “us”?

For example: “Let me take care of him!”

That’s no different from “Let’s …” sentence pattern. You can either start your sentence with or without . You’ll see this sentence in Chinese in the following examples. Please repeat with the recording to learn how to say them as well:

 

wǒmen yīqǐ xué Zhōngwén ba!

我们一起学中文吧!

Let’s study Chinese together!

 

ràng wǒmen yīqǐ xué Zhōngwén ba!

让我们一起学中文吧!

Let’s study Chinese together!

 

wǒ lái zhàokàn tā ba!

我来照看他吧!

Let me take care of him!

 

ràng wǒ lái zhàokàn tā ba!

让我来照看他吧!

Let me take care of him!

 

tā lái jiějué zhège wèntí ba!

她来解决这个问题吧!

Let her solve this problem!

 

ràng tā lái jiějué zhège wèntí ba!

让她来解决这个问题吧!

Let her solve this problem!

 

“Let” is also a favorite character in poems. A sentence like this has frequent appearance in Chinese poems or essays:

ràng chūn fēng chuī fǔ wǒ de chángfà.

让春风吹抚我的长发.

Let the spring breeze caress my long hair.

Are you clear on how to use “Let …” sentence pattern in Chinese now? If yes, let’s have a real break now. Before you go, tell me one “Let …” sentence in Chinese please.

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

Have yourself a wonderful weekend! See you next time!

 

How to describe “doing things at the same time” in Chinese?

In this busy world, don’t we all live in a multi-task life style? To describe things that are undertaken at the same time in Chinese might be a challenge to you if you don’t know what sentence pattern to use. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to.

Say you want to say: “He’s chatting with his friend while watching TV.”

For this type of sentences in Chinese, usually there are two sentence patterns you can choose from:

…( yī) biān…( yī) biān…

…()…()

 

… yòu… yòu…

Before we start on examples, please spend some time to learn new words first.

péng you liáo tiān
 (and) 朋友 (friend) 聊天 (chat)
kàn diànshì dǎgōng
  (look at)  电视 (TV)  打工 (do labor job, work)
shàng xué yùn dòng yīn yuè 
上学 (go to school) 运动 (exercise, sports)  音乐 (music)

 

Let’s look at “…(一)边…(一)边…” first. To use this pattern, the example sentence could be rewrite into the following Chinese sentence:

tā yībiān hé péngyou liáotiān, yībiān kàn diànshì.

一边和朋友聊天一边看电视.

You can keep the “ “, or get rid of it. It’s all up to you, without “ “, the sentence become shorter. Comma is not must-to-have in this case.

tā biān hé péngyou liáotiān biān kàn diànshì.

和朋友聊天, 看电视.

In this sentence pattern, the “who” only appears in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. Let me show how the sentence was constructed in more steps, then it’ll be clear to you.

First, you have two independent sentences with the same “who” doing different things:

First sentence:
tā hé péngyou liáotiān.

他和朋友聊天.

 

Second sentence:

tā kàn diànshì.

他看电视.

Now, you want to tell people he’s doing the two things at the same time. Place “一边 “ and “一边 “ into the right place. Get rid of the “who” in the second sentence. Add a comma in the middle. Then you’re done:

 一边 和朋友聊天一边 看电视.

(the second “ 他“ is gone. ) Get it?

Alternative “…又…又…” can be used the same way, with or without comma.

So the example can be translated into the following too:

tā yòu hé péngyou liáotiān yòu kàn diànshì.

和朋友聊天看电视.

These two sentence patterns can also be used when the two things don’t happen strictly at the same time:

tā yībiān dǎgōng, yībiān shàngxué.

一边打工一边上学.

She’s working part time while studying in the university.

Another example:

tā yòu ài yùndòng, yòu ài yīnyuè. 

爱运动爱音乐.

He not only loves sports, but also music.

Have you learned something new today? If you do, try to translate the following sentences into Chinese:

“I was dancing while singing.”

“My brother not only loves watching TV, but also playing games.”

You can use google translator or any dictionary you like to look up the words that you don’t know. Then use the two sentence patterns to translate the above sentences. Feel free to show your translation in the comment area.

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

How to describe the beginning of a period of time in Chinese?

This Learn Chinese Online lesson will help you understand how to describe the beginning of a time span in Chinese. For example:

Since he was seven years old, he started to go to school on his own.

Before we look at the Chinese way of saying it, please review the following new words first.

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Mandarin Pinyin English Definition
自从 自從 zi4 cong2 since (a time); ever since;
七岁 七歲 qi1 sui4 seven years old
开始 開始 kai1 shi3 to begin; to start
da2 hit; since
再也 再也 zai4 ye3 (not) any more
出现 出現 chu1 xian4 to appear; to show up
真的 真的 zhen1 really; indeed
以后 以後 yi3 hou4 afterwards; later on
ma4 to scold; to abuse

 

Now, we can start by using the direct translation of the word “since” in Chinese: “自从”. Then the whole sentence can be translated into this:

自从他七岁,开始自己上学了。

zìcóng tā qī suì, kāishǐ zìjǐ shàngxué le。

The above sentence can be understood by Chinese. However, the word flow is not quite comfortable. It will be more smooth if we convert the above sentence into the following sentence pattern :

自从。。。开始, 就 。。。

zìcóng。。。 kāishǐ, jiù 。。。

 

Like this:

 

自从他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

zìcóng tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

 

Now the sentence is getting smoother and much more comfortable. “自从 can also be shortened to “” or ““. Therefore, the following two sentences are good too:

 

自他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

zì tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

从他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

cóng tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

 

You can also use another sentence pattern to express “since”, this one is mostly used in spoken mandarin:

 

打。。。开始, 就 。。。

dǎ。。。 kāishǐ, jiù 。。。

 

Let’s fit our example into this pattern:

 

打他七岁开始,就自己上学了。

dǎ tā qī suì kāishǐ, jiù zìjǐ shàngxué le。

The function of “” here is as a conjunction to connect the two clauses. It can be replaced by other words as long as the other words could connect the two clauses similarly as “. For example,

打他七岁开始,已经自己上学了。

dǎ tā qī suì kāishǐ, yǐjīng zìjǐ shàngxué le。

 

“打。。。开始,。。。” and “自从。。。开始。。。” can also be written like this:

打。。。起,。。。   dǎ。。。 qǐ,。。。

自打。。。起,。。。  zìdǎ。。。 qǐ,。。。

 

If you just want to say “since then….“, then there are a few phrases you can choose from to express just that:

 

从那以后。。。  cóng nà yǐhòu。。。

自那以后。。。  zì nà yǐhòu。。。

打那以后。。。  dǎ nà yǐhòu。。。

 

Are you clear now? Before we finish, let’s look at three examples that express “since then …“:

 

从那以后, 她再也没有出现。

cóng nà yǐhòu, tā zàiyě méiyǒu chūxiàn。

Since then, she had never appeared.

 

自那以后, 他就真的爱上了她。

zì nà yǐhòu, tā jiù zhēn de àishàng le tā。

Since then, he had fallen in love with her.

 

打那以后, 妈妈没有再骂过他。

dǎ nà yǐhòu, māma méiyǒu zài mà guò tā。

Since then, his Mom never scolded him anymore.

 

Now it’s time for a good rest! Good night, my friends! 🙂

 

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

How to ask questions in Chinese (2)

If you’ve followed my lessons to this far, the previous topic “How to ask questions in Chinese? (1)” might leave you wonder what if I want to ask questions that don’t have enough known information to structure as a statement first. Such as “W” questions in English. For example, questions as below:

What is your name?

Where is your baby sister?

When did you go home?

Which one is Beijing University?

How did your presentation go?

… …

Well, the strategy to structure the above questions in Chinese is still the same as it was in the previous lesson.

Turn the sentence into a statement, fill the unknown information with corresponding “W” or “H” words: what, where, when, which, how etc..

I’ll show you the way to do it in the following examples:

1) What is your name?

The process to form the sentence in Chinese is:

Your name is what. ==> Your name is what?

nǐ de míng zi shì shén me

你的名字是什么 ==> 你的名字是什么?

Isn’t it straight forward enough? OK then, let’s learn a few new words first before we move on:

shén me nǎlǐ, nǎr shén me shí hòu
什么 (what) 哪里哪儿 (where) 什么时候 (when)
nǎ yī ge zěn me yàng míng zi
哪一个( which) 怎么样 (how) 名字 (name)
mèi mei zài Běi jīng
妹妹(younger sister)  (at) 北京(Beijing)
dà xué bào gào
大学 (university) 报告 (presentation)

Once you’ve passed the “new words” phrase, please go on with the rest of the examples (each uses one “W” or “H” word). Pay attention to the top sentence that is written in English, but in Chinese word order.

2) Where is your baby sister?

Your baby sister is where. ==> Your baby sister is where?

nǐ de mèimei zài nǎlǐ

你的妹妹在哪里. ==> 你的妹妹在哪里?

 

3) When did you go home?

You when went home. ==> You when went home?

nǐ shén me shí hou huí de jiā

什么时候回的家. ==> 什么时候回的家?

 

4) Which one is Beijing University?

Which one is Beijing University. ==> Which one is Beijing University?

nǎ yī ge shì Běi jīng Dà xué

哪一个是北京大学. ==> 哪一个是北京大学?

 

5) How did your presentation go?

Your presentation went how. ==> Your presentation went how?

nǐ de bào gào zěn me yàng

你的报告怎么样. ==> 你的报告怎么样?

In brief, for “W” questions in Chinese, just simply replace the unknown word with “W” or “H” word and add a question mark to the end of the sentence.

I’ll show you how many “W” or “H” words in Chinese you need to know to form these type of questions. Again, they are only a few, I’d suggest you to memorize the following basic mapping list, so they’ll become handy when your smart brain cells need to reach them.

What – 什么
where – 哪里哪儿
when – 什么时候
which – 哪一个
how – 怎么样

 

Enough of questions. Hope you’re not overwhelmed so far. Now let’s have some take-away for today’s lesson. Please use google or any search engine you like to search for the above “W” or “H” words in Chinese. See whether you can figure out what is being asked. You can use an online dictionary to help you translate the Chinese words in the question.

Again, repeat with the recording for as many times as you could. See if you can create some “W” questions in Chinese with the help of online dictionary. You’re welcomed to paste the questions you created in your comment too!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

 

How to ask questions in Chinese (1)

Asking questions might have become your basic needs when you’re learning a new language or culture. To meet your basic need at this stage, I compiled all the commonly used Chinese question sentence patterns for you in two lessons. You’ll happily notice that question sentence patterns in Chinese are actually very easy and straight forward. You don’t need to change orders of words, or forms of words at all.

For questions asking for confirmation, all you need to do is churning out your question as a statement, and then add certain exclamatory particle, such as (ma), in the end and a question mark. Done.

Let’s have a look at the right thinking process to form a question in Chinese first:

nǐ shì Zhōng wén lǎo shī ma

你是中文老师吗?

Are you a Chinese teacher?

1) Structure your question as a positive statement first:

“你是中文老师.”

“You are a Chinese teacher.”

2) Then add exclamatory particle to the end of the sentence. And a question mark to finish it.

“你是中文老师吗?“

“You are a Chinese teacher ma?”

Another example:

wǎnshang nǐ lái ma?

晚上你来吗?

Will you come tonight?

I’ll show you again how did the question got formed. Please be aware that you need to put “when” before verb in Chinese. We’ll come to this topic in next few lessons.

1) Structure your question as a positive statement first:

“晚上你来.”

“You will come tonight.”

2) Then add exclamatory particle to the end of the sentence. And a question mark to finish it.

“晚上你来吗?“

“You will come tonight ma?”

Easy, right? As long as you can work out the basic sentence, you’ll be able to turn it into a question. You know what? For a non-English, non-Chinese speaker, to grasp question sentence patterns in English should take longer than that in Chinese. You say Chinese is hard, you really don’t know how hard English is for many Chinese students. 🙂

Now you might wonder exactly how many exclamatory particles you can use to form a question in Chinese. Hmn… not many though, in fact, only a few. The following is all I can think of:

ma la le
le ma de
了吗  (possessive particle: “of”)

Please be aware that they are all with fifth tone (pronounced flatly, softer than first tone).

Also four new words we’ll learn in our examples:

gē ge jiě jie rèn shi
哥哥 (elder brother) 姐姐 (elder sister) 认识 (know)
huíjiā
回家

Well of course, just as in English, you can turn a Chinese sentence into a question by simply adding a question mark in the end. When you say it, raise the tone of the last character or word a bit to imply it’s a question, not a statement. Let’s listen to some examples, with or without exclamatory particles:

statement:

nǐ shì Mike de gē ge

你是Mike的哥哥.

You’re Mike’s elder brother.

statement + ?

nǐ shì Mike de gē ge ma

你是Mike的哥哥吗?

Are you Mike’s elder brother?

statement + ?

nǐ shì Mike de gē ge

你是Mike的哥哥?

You’re Mike’s elder brother?

Another example:

statement:

nǐ rèn shi tā de jiě jie

你认识她的姐姐.

You know her elder sister.

statement + ?

nǐ rèn shi tā de jiě jie

你认识她的姐姐吗?

Do you know her elder sister?

statement + ?

nǐ rèn shi tā de jiě jie

你认识她的姐姐?

You know her elder sister?

“了” and “啦” are used to question whether it has completed or not:

statement +  (or ) ?

tā huí jiā le

她回家了?

 

tā huí jiā la

她回家啦?

Has she gone home? (She’s already at home now?)

 

OK, now, let’s have a break … are you drinking tea, or coffee? Since it’s a vacation day morning for me, I’d like to have some snack now.

Enjoy your tea, or coffee, or whatever refreshment you’re taking… stay healthy and see you in next lesson!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

 

How to express “used to do …” in Chinese?

In English, we often use “used to do …” to describe a habit,  behavior or facts that happened in the past and stopped already. It is not possible to find an equivalent expression by just translating “used to do …” into Chinese verbatim. In this Learn Chinese Online grammar lesson, we’ll find out what are options out there that we can use to express “used to do …” in Chinese.

First of all, let’s go over new vocabulary list and then we’ll start with an example. Please use the estroke tool under the new word table to help you with your writing practice.

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Mandarin Pinyin English Definition
曾经 曾經 ceng2 jing1 previously; ever
以前 以前 yi3 qian2 before; previous; ago;
原来 原來 yuan2 lai2 former; originally; at first
本来 本來 ben3 lai2 original; originally
dian4 shop; store
mai3 to buy
常常 常常 chang2 chang2 often;
公园 公園 gong1 yuan2 park (for public recreation)
wan4 play; have fun

 

If we want to say, “I used to live here.” That means, “I do not live here anymore. But I lived here in the past.” To turn that sentence into Chinese, you can use a word called “曾经 céngjīng“:

我曾经住在这里.

wǒ céngjīng zhù zài zhèlǐ.

That’s the best translation I can think of. However, the following alternatives are also acceptable:

我以前住在这里.

wǒ yǐqián zhù zài zhèlǐ.

 

我原来住在这里.

wǒ yuánlái zhù zài zhèlǐ.

 

我本来住在这里.

wǒ běnlái zhù zài zhèlǐ.

 

以前 yǐqián means “before; in the past”. “原来 yuánlái” and “本来 běnlái” means “originally”.

Please be aware that “曾经  céngjīng” can be shortened as a single character “  céng“. “  céng” and “曾经 céngjīng” share the same meaning.

Let’s look at another example:

I used to buy books in this store.

A good translation for this sentence could be:

我以前常常在这个店买书.

wǒ yǐqián chángcháng zài zhège diàn mǎi shū.

I used to buy books in this store.

以前常常 yǐqián chángcháng” describes a habbit that went again and again in the past. Do you see the difference? The first few examples demonstrated a verb that lasts for a long duration. The last example used a verb of instant behavior. “以前常常 yǐqián chángcháng” emphasizes the repeat occurrence of the behavior.

Let’s finish this lesson with two more examples then:

他以前常常来这个公园玩.

tā yǐqián chángcháng lái zhège gōngyuán wán.

He used to spend his leisure time in this park.

 

他曾经学过中文.

tā céngjīng xué guò Zhōngwén.

He used to learn Chinese.

 

Now, for practice purpose, could you translate the following two sentences into Chinese please?

  1. She used to be a teacher.
  2. She used to have lunch at school.

You can leave your answers in the comment area, thanks!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

How to express “why on earth did this happen? ” kind of questions in Chinese

I don’t know whether it just happens in English or any other languages, the sentence pattern that I gonna talk about today seems very very important due to the high demands of its usage:

“Why on earth did this happen?”

Even a toddler that survives a full day daycare program in Canada would always pop out the follow phrase 🙂 :

“What the … ?!”

So I figure for my Learn Mandarin online friends, we can’t miss out on this importance pattern. No matter you come from English background, or any other language background, this Chinese sentence pattern will come handy for you in your Chinese conversation for sure.

The new words we gonna learn in this lesson are only two of them:

jiū jìng dào dǐ 
[hanzi]究竟[/hanzi]   [hanzi]到底 [/hanzi]
What on earth … What on earth …

Let’s get started by translating the title sentence pattern into Chinese:

“Why on earth did this happen?”

jiūjìng wèishénme huì fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì?

究竟为什么会发生这种事?

究竟 jiū jìng is one main keyword that you can use for this purpose. You can also reorder the sentence by placing 究竟 jiū jìng in a difference position too. Let’s reorder it like this :

fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì jiūjìng shì wèishénme?

发生这种事究竟是为什么?

究竟 jiū jìng can be replaced by 到底 dào dǐ as well. So the above two sentences can be reworded like this :

dàodǐ wèishénme huì fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì? 

到底为什么会发生这种事?

 

fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì dàodǐ shì wèishénme?

发生这种事到底是为什么?

Now let’s do a little practice using these two keywords:

 

[ Practice 1:  What on earth is this? ]

First, let’s get rid of the “on earth” and turn the question into a simple W question:

What is this?

In Chinese, we say:

zhè shì shénme?

这是什么?

Then we place 究竟 jiū jìng or 到底 dào dǐ in the proper position of the sentence to turn it into the sentence pattern we learned today:

zhè jiūjìng shì shénme?

究竟是什么?

or

zhè dàodǐ shì shénme?

到底是什么?

Do you get a feel of it now? Let’s look at another question :

 

[ Practice 2:  What exactly did you do yesterday? ]

The Chinese translation of this type of question is same as the previous example, you can say:

nǐ zuótiān dàodǐ zuò le shénme?

你昨天到底做了什么?

 

nǐ zuótiān jiūjìng zuò le shénme?

你昨天究竟做了什么?

As for the toddler’s phrase:”What the … ?!”, usually it can be directly translated into “怎么回事 zěn me huí shì?!” in Chinese. The complete sentence could be “到底怎么回事 dào dǐ zěn me huí shì?!

Do you get it now? Feel free to share any other ways you know to express “What on earth …”, “What exactly …” kind of sentence patterns in Chinese.

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

 

How to say “I can”, “I’m able to” in Chinese

Before you go too far into a general conversation in Chinese on a plan, a project, a whatever topic that’ll demand actions, you’ll realize that you need to express “I can …”, ” I’m able to …” in Chinese frequently.

The equivalent words in English are only a few: can, could, be able to etc…. In Chinese, they are not many either.

OK, let’s go through some new words first. There are only three of them:

kěyǐ jiè bǐjì
[hanzi]可以[/hanzi](could, be able to)  [hanzi][/hanzi](borrow) [hanzi]笔记[/hanzi] (notes)

Let’s get started…

I can do this.

wǒ néng zuò zhège.

做这个.

 

Or,

wǒ huì zuò zhège.

我会做这个.

 

I’m able to do this.

wǒ kěyǐ zuò zhège.

我可以做这个.

 

Focus on following three keywords:

néng,   huì,   kěyǐ

,        ,      可以

Basically, you just put one of the above keywords right before the verb. If those keywords are used in question or answer pattern, do it this way:

If you wanna say:

[Can you do this?

Yes, I can.

No, I can’t.]

 

You can use either one of the following patterns:

<Pattern 1>

nǐ néngbùnéng zuò zhège?

你能不能做这个?

wǒ néng.       néng.

我能.    Or simply .

wǒ bùnéng.     bùnéng.

我不能Or simply 不能.

 

<Pattern 2>

nǐ huìbùhuì zuò zhège?

你会不会做这个?

wǒ huì.       huì.

我会.    Or simply .

wǒ bùhuì.     bùhuì.

我不会Or simply 不会.

 

<Pattern 3>

nǐ kě bùkěyǐ zuò zhège?

你可不可以做这个?

wǒ kěyǐ.              kěyǐ.

我可以     Or simply 可以.

wǒ bùkěyǐ.             bùkěyǐ.

我不可以    Or simply 不可以.

 

You might have noticed that when you answer such type of questions, you really don’t need to say “Yes” first as you do in English. Just jump directly to “I can.” or “I can not.” Or simply “Can.” or “Can’t.”.

Aside from  and 可以, you can also use “ (xíng)“. But remember, this word can NOT be followed by any other words. Using it as the meaning of “can”, you can only use it simply as below:

 

nǐ xíng bùxíng?

你行不行?

xíng.

.

 

Hope I’ve explained it clear to you on how to say “I can …” and “I’m able to …” sentence pattern in Chinese. Now let’s have a look at the following examples to reinforce what you’ve learned from this lesson:

Can you go to the company today?

nǐ jīntiān néngbùnéng qù gōngsī?

你今天能不能去公司?

néng.

.

 

Another way of asking the same question is:

nǐ jīntiān néng qù gōngsī ma?

 今天去公司?

néng.

.

 

When you answer such type of questions, you really don’t have to use the exact keywords that has been used in the question. You can use anyone of the following in your answer:

néng.

.

 

huì

.

 

kěyǐ.

可以.

 

xíng.

.

 

Now you need to give yourself a chance to practice as well. Try to translate the following sentences into Chinese first by yourself, then look at the answer below:

  1. Can I have lunch at school?

Yes, you can.

 

Answer:

wǒ jīntiān néng zài xuéxiào chīfàn ma?

我今天能在学校吃饭吗?

néng.

.

 

  1. May I borrow your notes to read?

Yes, no problem.

 

Answer:

nǐ néng jiè wǒ kàn yīxià nǐ de bǐjì ma?

你能借我看一下你的笔记吗?

xíng, méiwèntí.

没问题.

 

  1. Could my sister stay here tonight?

Yes, go ahead!

 

Answer:

wǒ mèimei jīnwǎn néng zhù zhèr ma?

我妹妹今晚能住这儿吗?

kěyǐ, zhù ba!

可以住吧!

 

  1. Can you write Chinese?

Yes, I do.

 

Answer:

nǐ huì xiě Zhōngwén ma?

你会写中文吗?

huì.

.

 

Have you enjoyed your lesson … 🙂 Learning Chinese definitely requires hard work. However, as long as you work in a balanced pace, mix your study with fun together, you’ll be amazed at your progress one day soon…

Feel free to leave your comment before you go … see you next time, my good friend!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂

 

How to understand and use Chinese sentence pattern “…把…”

If you’ve tried to read some Chinese articles, you should have a good chance to come across character “(bǎ)”. It’s a character that can be used both as noun and a help character with other verb. As a help character, it is the keyword to form a certain sentence pattern.

As noun, it can be used as the following two meanings (as explained in Wiktionary):

  1. measure word for anything that can be held in one’s hand (sān bǎ dāo) 三把刀: three knives
  2. handle (normally used with other characters to combine into new word), such as:
    (bǎ wò) 把握: grasp

This is straight forward. The difficult part for this character lays in its usage with verb. Let’s move on with new words of this lesson first:

dēng guān
 (helping verb)  (light)  (turn off)
qián diū zuàn jiè
 (money)  (lose) 钻戒 (diamond ring)
rēng xiàng dà hǎi fàng dào
扔向 (throw to) 大海 (sea)  放到 (put down, place on)
zhuō shàng
桌上 (on the table)

According to Wiktionary, as helping verb,  is “a special type of helping verb which, when placed in front of the object of a sentence, allows for the object of the sentence to be placed before the verb. This allows for greater flexibility in complex sentence construction.

It’s a good summary of its usage, however, I don’t think you can really understand how to use it by just reading its usage. There’s no easy counterpart in English that can be used the same way. I hope I can help you to understand the usage of this character in this post. (Yes, it needs a whole post to explain!)

Let me pull out two sentences that have “把” with verb in it first:

Example 1:

wǒ bǎ dēng guān le.

我把灯关了.

 

Example 2:

tā bǎ qián diū le.

他把钱丢了.

 

The sentence pattern in the above examples are like this:

who +  + what + verb

They are similar to the English pattern as “have something + past tense verb”. In this case, the above can be translated as:

Example 1: I had the light turned off.

and …

Example 2: He had the money lost.

Do you want to see some more examples? Please continue …

tā bǎ zuànjiè rēng xiàng le dàhǎi.

她把钻戒扔向了大海.

 

lǎoshī bǎ shū fàng dàoliǎo zhuō shàng.

老师把书放到了桌上.

Honestly, you can equivalently translate the above two sentences into “have something + ad verb” pattern to English. It’s not a graceful translation in English though. Only so it’s easier for you to understand how the pattern was used:

straight translation: She had her diamond ring thrown into the sea.

graceful translation: She threw her diamond ring into the sea.

straight translation: The teacher had the book to be put on the table.

graceful translation: The teacher put her book on the table.

In my opinion, the need to use pattern “…把…” is to emphasize on the verb part. To lead the audience to focus on the consequence of the verb, to move their attention to things that could happen as a consequence if the verb being executed. If you turn pattern “…把…” sentence back into ordinary word order, the consequence that the verb might cause is not emphasized:

 

我把灯关了. (I have the light turned off.)

As compared to:

我关了灯. (I turned the light off.)

 

他把钱丢了. (He had the money lost.)

As compared to:

他丢了钱. (He lost his money.)

After this lesson, could you make some “把” pattern Chinese sentences by yourself? Don’t be shy to put them down in your comment.

Hope you’re having a wonderful day today!

See you soon!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂