Chinese Words and Phrases

BY CchattyArticleComprehensive Chinese
Release time:2019-01-05
Tag: Chinese Language
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One of the most distinctive features of Mandarin Chinese is its complex relation between the morpheme (the smallest language unit carrying meaning), character, word, and phrase.
part 1

Word Structures

Word groups

One of the most distinctive features of Mandarin Chinese is its complex relationship between the morpheme (the smallest language unit carrying meaning), character, word, and phrase. For one thing, a Chinese morpheme is usually represented in one character (or one syllable) which may be a word in itself or just a part of a word. This is to say: a word may consist of one, two, or more characters; and although a word can usually be decomposed into its components or basic elements, there are cases in which several characters are taken together as one morpheme that refuses analysis of its constructs. The special case of one morpheme in more than one characters is more often seen in such special terms as names of places and persons, loaned words from other languages, and colloquial words that have come into use in the standard Mandarin Putonghua.

Except for the above special cases, most Chinese morphemes are single syllables that correspond to characters in number. In terms of word formation, Modern Chinese has much more disyllabic words (or words made up of two characters) than Classic Chinese, so much so that the old conception of Chinese as a "monosyllabic language" is now regarded as mistaken. For this reason, it is important to know that there is a difference between Chinese character or morpheme (zi4字) and word (ci2词),with the possibility that a certain number of characters or morphemes may well represent a different number of words. The great number of Chinese words that are composed of two, three, four or even more characters may make the language seemingly formidable to a beginner, because all words, regardless of how many characters are contained in each, are not separated by spaces in the written text! However, one should not be intimidated by this. The fact is: if only you have learned the most basic characters, which will not exceed a few hundred, it would be fairly easy to tell which characters can be considered as words, because the limited number of basic words or characters are used at an extremely high frequency and can function as markers of division.

There are certainly different perspectives in the analysis of Chinese words, as well as standards for classifying them. In terms of the form and structure, we can largely classify them into five categories: 1) single-morpheme words of one character, 2) single-morpheme words of two or more characters, 3) words of repeated characters, 4) affixed words, and 5) compound words. And according to their differences in part of speech or grammatical functions, they can be classified into much more detailed categories, with partial similarities to those in English and some distinctive features of their own.

1. Single-Morpheme Words of One Character

Compared with disyllabic (or two-character) words, single-morpheme words of one character have only a small number in Modem Chinese. However, some of these words play an essential role in the structure of the language and should be learned at the very outset of the course. The following is a list of such examples.

是 shi4

an affirmative function word used between the subject and its complement of a sentence. The basic meaning is "yes", " right". It's related with the English copula BE but different in that it is not indispensable as the English link verb unless when making an assertion, carrying a strong affirmative meaning or making an emphasis.

是我。shi3 wo3  It is me.

我是老师。wo3 shi4 lao3shi1  I'm a teacher.

我是在这儿。wo3 shi4 zai4 zher4  I am here.

Compare: 我在这儿。I am here.


an adverb used for negation, meaning "not" or "no".

不是 bu2shi4, No; It's not right; It's not that.

不是我 bu2shi4wo3, It's not me.

(Note: In “bu2shi4”, the second tone of “bu” is an affected change from the original fourth tone)


在 zai4

a Chinese function word like the English prepositions "in", "at", "on", etc., used for designating time, place or a scope. It may also be used as a verb, meaning "exist (in)", "alive", '"be located (in, at, on)" etc. Besides, it can also serve as function word making the continuous tense, eg.

 你在哪儿? ni3 zai4 nar3?  Where are you?

我在家。wo3 zai4 jia1  I'm in my home.

我在办公室。wo3 zai4 ban4gong1shi4  I'm in the office.

你在干什么? ni3 zai4 gan4 shen2me?  What are you doing?

我在吃饭。wo3 zai4 chi1fan4  I am eating.


有 you3

the Chinese possessive and existential verb that is equivalent to the English "have" and "there is", but without changes in form.

我有个女儿。wo3 you3 ge4 nv3er2   I have a daughter.

楼里有洗手间。lou2li3 you3 xi2shou3jian1   There is a washroom in the building.


的 de (in the light tone)

called the possessive de, a functional particle serving several functions: 1) as a possessive link word as the English "of", but unlike English, it is placed before the possessed. 2) as a suffix that marks the proceeding word as a modifier. 3) for emphasis or affirmation.

这个手机是我的。zhe4ge4 shou3ji1 shi4 wo3 de   This cell phone is mine.

我的手机是新的。wo3de shou3ji1 shi4 xin1 de   My cell phone is new.

我会来的。wo3 hui4 lai2de  I will come.

Special Notes: this same word may also be pronounced as "di4", meaning "target" or "goal". This usage is mainly found in classic Chinese or idiomatical expressions that come from classical texts. For example, "目的 (mu4di4)", literally the "eye target", means the purpose or intention of something.

你的目的是什么? (ni3 de mu4di4 shi4 shen2me)  What's your purpose/intention? (What are you up to?)


地 de (in the light tone)

called "the adverbial de", a functional particle used after an adjective to make it function as an adverbial before the verb or verbal phrase, as the English "ly" that changes the adjective into an adverbial.

他默默地走了。ta1 mo4mo4de zou3le   He silently left.

他生气地说。ta1 sheng1qi4 de shuo1   He said angrily.

Special Notes: this same character may also be pronounced as "di4", and if so it will have several meanings, such as "earth", "land" or "ground". For instance,地主 (di4zhu3, landowner, landlord), 房地产 (fang2di4chan3, real estate), 地价 (di4jia4, the price of land).


得 de (in the light tone)

called "the complement de”, a functional particle used before an adjective word or phrase to make it serve as a compliment.

我起床很早。wo2 qi3chuang2 hen3 zao3   I get up very early.

学生把地板拖得很干净。Xue2sheng1 ba3 di4ban3 tuo1de hen3 gan1jing4  

The students mopped the floor very clean.

你汉语讲得很好。ni3 han4yu3 jiang3de hen2hao3   You speak Chinese very well.

Special Notes: this same character may also be pronounced in the second tone (de2)", and if so it will mean "get", "obtain" or "acquire". For instance,得到 (de2dao4, obtain), 取得 (qu3de2, achieve, get), 贏得 (ying2de2, win)



a connective used to link two nouns or nominal phrases, of which a more formal written alternative is “与" (yu3)

我和他是同事。wo3 he2 ta1 shi4 tong2shi4.  He and I are colleagues.

你有笔和纸吗?ni3 you2 bi3 he2 zhi3 ma?  Do you have a pen and paper?


啥 sha2

a pronoun functioning as the English "what" but used more informally, especially in spoken Chinese in contrast to the formal two-character word "什么" (shen2me).

你干啥? ni3 gan4 sha2  What do you (want to) do?/What are you up to?

这是捨? zhe4 shi4 sha2   What is this?



a pronoun mainly functioning as the English "how" but can also mean "why", used informally in colloquial spoken Chinese as an alternative to the formal words "如何"(ru2he2), “怎么" (zen3me) or “怎(么)样” (zen3 (me) yang4).

咋办? za3 ban4   How should it be done?

他咋没来? ta1 za3 mei2lai2   Why hasn't he come?


为 wei4

a proposition similar in effect to the English "for.. "for the purpose (/ reason) …", "for the sake of..." or "(in order) to...". It is often used with the auxiliary "了” following it.


他为学汉语来中国。(ta1 wei4 xue2 han4yu4 lai2 zhong1 guo2)      He comes to China for learning Chinese.

为了你,她放弃了工作。(wei4le ni3, ta1 fang4qi4 le gong1zuo4)     For your sake, she has given up her job.


要 yao4

a basic verb or modal verb with quite a few possible meanings, including "will, want, need, demand, ask (to do), be asked to..., have to.?  etc., depending on the specific context.

我要工作。(wo3 yao4 gong1zuo4)      I want to work.

老板要我会后留下。(lao3ban3 yao4 wo3 hui4 hou4 liu2xia4)      The boss asks me to stay after the meeting.

经理要出国。(jing1li3 yao4 chu1guo2)   The manager will go abroad.


用 yong4

a basic word serving both the functions of a verb and preposition, meaning "use", "by means of".", "with ...(as a tool)"

我能用筷子吃饭。(wo3 nen2 yong4 kuai4zi chi1fan4)     I can use chopsticks to eat. (I can eat with chopsticks)

请用汉语说。(qing3 yong4 han4yu3 shuo1)   Please speak in Chinese.


中 zhong1

a spatial-temporal word meaning "middle' "center"', "in the middle/ center ", "inside", or "in between". It is often used in a location with "在" to form up the structure of "在…中"? When it is used before a word that suggests an action or process, it serves a continuous tense mark.

鱼在水中游。(yu2 zai4 shui3zhong1 you2)  Fish swim in water.

营业中,欢迎。(ying2ye4 zhong1, huan1ying2)  In Business. Welcome.


2. Single-Morpheme Words of More than One Characters

The single-morpheme words of more than one characters all have fixed meanings that can not be analyzed in terms of the relation between their component characters. These words have three major origins: 1) colloquialism or dialect, 2) loan words from foreign or ethnic languages; 3) proper names. The following are some examples.

Group I: Words of colloquialism or dialects 

什么 shen2me (interrogative word) "what"

仿佛 fang3fu2, (adverb) "(looks) as if", "seem", "appear (to be)

犹豫 you3yu4, (verb) hesitate

荒唐 huang1tang2, (adjective) absurd, unreasonable

啰嗦 luo1suo, Circumlocution or unnecessary repetition in one’s speech

疙瘩 ge1da, a knot, a lump (especially grown on the skin)


Group II: Loanwords from foreign or ethnic languages

巧克力 qiao3ke1li4, chocolate

肯德基 ken3de2ji1, KFC

麦当劳 mai4dang1lao2, McDonald

可口可乐 ke3kou3ke3le4 (changed to ke2kou3ke3le4), coke cola

雪碧 xue2bi4, Sprite (drink)

咖啡 ka1fei1, coffee

葡萄 pu2tao, grape


Group III: Proper names

奥巴马 ao4ba1ma3, Obama

克林顿 ke4lin2dun4, Clinton

西雅图 xi1ya3tu2, Seattle

纽约 niu3yue1, New York

乌鲁木齐 wu1lu3mu4qi2, Urumqi

香格里拉 xiang1ge2li3la1, Shangri-La


3. Words of Character Repetition

A. Nouns

哥哥 ge1ge, elder brother

个个 ge4ge4, each one, everybody

人人 ren2ren2, every person

一一 yi1yi1,each one, one by one

家家 jia1jia1, every family

家家户户 jia1jia1hu4hu4, every household

山山水水 shan1shan1shui2shui3, every mountain/hill and river/lake, the landscape of mountains and waters


B. Adjectives

红红 honh2ong2, reddish, pinkish, rather red or pink

花花绿绿 hua1hua1lv4lv4, colourful, of various colours

高高 gao1gao1, fairly high, rather tall

髙高低低 gao1gao1di1di1, high or low, of various height

大大小小 da4da4xiao2xiao3, of various sizes, big and small

长长短短 chuang2chuang2duan3duan3, of various lengths, long and short

高高兴兴 gao1gao1xing4xing4, very happy, very delightful

漂漂亮亮 piao4piaoliang4liang, very pretty or beautiful

干干净净 gan1gan1jing4jing4, very clear

清清楚楚 qing1qing1chu2chu3, very clear, transparent, very obvious


C. Verbs

来来往往 lai2lai2wang2wang3, come and go very frequently or incessantly

进进出出 jin4jin4chu1chu1, come in and go out frequently or incessantly

吃吃喝喝 chi1chi1he1he1, indulge in eating and drinking, carouse

打打闹闹 da2da3nao4nao4, fight in jest or for fun; boisterous;

考虑考虑 kao3lv4kao3lv4, (take time to) consider, give some thought to

研究研究 yan2jiu1yan2jiu1, (take time to) study, give some thought to

学习学习 xue2xixue2xi, (take time to) study or learn

休息休息xiu1xixiu1xi (take some time to) have a rest


D. Adverbs

常常 chang2chang2, often, time and time

日日夜夜 ri4ri4ye4ye4, every day and night

刚刚 gang1gang1 (a temporal adverb) just (have done or begin to do something)

渐渐 jian4jian4, gradually, bit by bit

慢慢man4man4, slowly, gradually

稳稳 wen3wen3, firmly, steadily

深深 shen1shen1, deeply

牢牢 lao2lao2, tightly or fastly

认认真真 ren4ren4zhen1zhen1, very seriously or carefully

上上下下 shang4shang4xia4xia4, upside and downside, high and low


4. Affixed Words

Suffixed Words

我们 wo3men, we/us

儿子 er2zi, son

胖子 pang4zi, a fat person

接子 kuai4zi, chopsticks

帽子 mao4zi, hat, cap

鞋子 xie2zi, shoe(s)

狮子 shi1zi, lion

木头 mu4tou, a chunk of wood

Prefixed Words

阿哥 a1ge1 (elder) brother (especially used for endearment)

阿妹 a1mei4, (younger) sister (especially used for endearment)

老大 lao3da4 the eldest child (usually boy), the head of a group, boss

老二 lao3er4, the second child (usually boy), the second boss

老爷 lao3ye2, lord, master, patron of a group

老王 lao3wang2, (literally) Old Wang, in which Wang is a surname and Lao is used for showing respect for the senior

小李 xiao3li2, (literally) Little Li, in which Li is a surname and Xiao is used for showing affection to the young

第一 di4yi1, the first, primary


5. Compound Words

In comparison with other kinds of words, compound words probably comprise the largest part of Chinese vocabulary and also contain the longest words in the language. However, they are not so difficult to learn as may be expected because their meanings can often be deducted from their component characters. A very apparent problem with the Chinese compound words is that the division line between them as separate words is often hard to draw. Though Chinese grammarians have set up some standards for separating words from word groups, lexicographers nevertheless often list them together as word entries in dictionaries. What should be known to a learner of Chinese is the different ways of making up a compound word, such as A) coordination, B) subordination, C) Structuring, and E) Abbreviation. These are exemplified in the following.


A)      Coordination

A word with two characters that have similar or related meanings, they are considered to be formed through coordinated combination. And there are three kinds of such combination:


Synonym Coordination:

Verbs of Synonym Coordination

开始 kai1shi3, start, begin

休息 xiu1xi, (take) a rest

喜欢 xi3huan1, be fund of, like, prefer

想要 xiang3yao4, want, desire

打算 da3suan4, intend, plan

计算 ji4suan4, calculate

计划 ji4hua4, make a plan

制造 zhi1zao4, manufacture, make


Nouns of Synonym Coordination

意义 yi4yi4, significance, meaning

声音 sheng1yin1、voice, sound

历史 li4shi3, history

群众 qun2zhong4, the common people, the masses

人民 ren2min2, the people (of a country)


Adjectives of Synonym Coordination

根本 gen1ben3, the essential, root

新鲜 xin1xian1, new and fresh

完整 wan2zheng3, wholely, complete

重要 zhong4yao4, important

健康 jian4kang1, health, healthy

奇怪 qi2guai4, bizarre, strange, odd

缓慢 huan3man4, slow and gradual


Adverbs of Synonym Coordination

立即 li4ji4, immediately, at once

迅速 xun4su4, very quickly

私自 zi4si1, in private, without permission of the boss or leader

比较 bi3jiao4, comparatively

稍微 shao1wei1, slightly, a little


Antonym Coordination:

大小 da4xiao3, size,

多少 duo1shao3, number, amount

开关 kafguan1, switch

东西 dong1xi, anything that may be bought, sold or used. However, if the second character is pronounced in the original first tone instead of the light tone, it literally means "east and west".

矛盾 mao2dun4, contradiction or dilemma (deduced from the literal meaning of "spear and shield".

是非 shi4fei1, a matter of right or wrong, something in dispute or gossip.

买卖 mai3mai4, buy and sell, trade, commercial business, business transaction

反正 fan3zheng4, upside or downside, after all, anyway

左右 zuo3you4, left and right, approximately, about,

前后 qian2hou4 before and after, about (the time of)

早晚 zao3wan3, morning and evening, sooner / earlier or later


Parallel Coordination:

千万 qian1wan4, an adverb that

刚才 gang1cai2, a short time ago, just now

高大 gao1da4, high and great, towering, (of a person) tall

安静 an1jing4, peaceful and quiet, silent

热闹 re4nao4, lively and bustling, full of activities

简易 jian3yi4, simple and easy

可能 ke3neng2, perhaps, maybe, possibly

音乐 yin1yue4, music

老大难 lao2da4nan2, old big and difficult (problem)


B)      Subordination

When the word has one character holding the central meaning while another or more are attached to make it more specific, concrete or exact, the word is made up by subordination. Long or short, the words in this category have either a one-to-one relationship or multiple relations. Although it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear-cut line between words and word groups, it is obvious that a great part of Chinese words are composed by two and three characters, while most words of four characters or more are called phrases or word groups.


One-To-One Subordination

Very a great many Chinese words are formed with two characters with one subordinated in meaning to the other.

手机 shou3ji1, mobile phone, cell phone

火车 huo3che1, locomotive train

白酒 bai2jiu3, strong spirit, high-alcohol drink

食物 shi1wu4, food, edibles

新房 xin1fang2, new house (/apartment)

鲜红 xian1hong3, bright red, scarlet red

最初 zui4chu, initial (ly), at the very beginning

最后 zui4hou4, ultimately, at last, in the end


Multiple-Character subordination

Since most Chinese characters can also stand as words, the distinction between words and word groups are often not clear-cut. However, regardless of this fuzziness of distinction, the rules of composition are the same. For instance, in three-character words, the first word of one or two characters is usually subordinate to the second "central "word or character. In the following subordinate relations, the organization is either of 1 plus 2 characters or 2 plus 1 character.

One plus two characters:

新中国 xin1zhong1guo2, New China (usually referring to PRC)

大家庭 da4jia1ting2, big family

老教授 lao3jiao4shou4, old (senior) professor

三居室 san3ju1shi4, three-room apartment/suite

红房子 hong2fang2zi, red house

小姑娘 xiao3gu1niang, little girl, a young girl


Two plus one characters:

会议室 hui4yi4shi4, conference room

接待室 jie1dai4shi4, reception room

询问处 xun2wen4chu4, information room, the place for inquiry

火车站 huo3che1zhan4, train station

图书馆 tu2shu1guan3, library

红绿灯 hong2lv4deng1, traffic lights

中文书 zhong1wen2shu1, the Chinese book

计算机 ji1suan4ji1, computer


C)      Structuring

When the component characters in the word are grammatically structured as in a sentence, it is formed by way of structuring. That is to say, the grammatical relations in the structure are similar with those in sentences and may be classified into four kinds in accordance, namely the subject-predicate, verb- object, verb-complement, and ad verb-verb / adjective.


Subject-Predicate Structuring

In this group, the first component character is a noun and what follows may be a verb or adjective. And there may be three-character words in the structure of Subject + Verb + Object or that of Subject + Verb + Complement. Some of these words can stand as sentences when used independently.

人造 ren2zao4, man-made, artificial

天然 tianran2, natural, naturally formed

地震 di4zheng4, earthquake

光照 guang1zhao4, light

日晒 ri4shai4, sun-tan(ned)

年轻 nian2qing1, young

头痛 tou2tong2, headache

胆小 dan3xiao3, timid indisposition


Verb-Object Structuring

In Chinese, a verb and its object may also be taken together as a word.

吃饭 chi1fan4, eat the meal,

喝茶 he1cha2, drinking tea, a tea gathering

读书du2shu1, read

写字 xie3zi4, write

说话 shuo1hua4, speak, talk

弹琴 tan2qin2, playing a stringed instrument like the piano, etc.

打字 da3zi4, typing

上班 shang4ban1, go to work

下课 xia4ke4, dismiss class, call a class over

见面 jian4mian4, meet (a person)

Verb-Complement Structuring

The complement of a verb adds to it additional meaning such as the result or effect, orientation/direction, tense etc. This kind of structure can usually be taken in whole as a verb.


站住 zhan4zhu4, stand still

进来 jin4lai2, come in

出去 chu1qu4, go out

收到 shou1dao4, have received

发出 fa1chu1, send out, have sent out

穿过 chuan1guo4, go through, piece through

飞起 fei1qi3, fly up

离开 li2kai1, go away, leave

坐下 zuo4xia4, sit down, be seated

学会 xue2hui4, learn (well), become capable of 听懂 ting1dong3, hear and understand SS

想起 xiang2qi3, think of, recollect, remember

提高 ti2gao1, raise up, heighten, improve


Adverb-Verb/Adjective Structuring

When there is a verb or adjective character modified by another character, the structure can be considered as belonging to this category. The modifying character in front is then used to function as an adverb regardless of its original part of speech. This kind of structuring can also be considered as a subordination in another perspective (see above).


前进 qian2jin4, advance/ charge forward

快来 kuai4lai2, come quickly

远走 yuan3zou3,going out on a long journey, go far away

高飞 gao1fei1, fly high up

深人 shen1ru4, deep into, explore the inner part of

实行 shi2xing2, put in practice, bring into effect

非常 fei1chang2, extraordinarily, extremely

最高 zui4gao3, highest, of ultimate height

极大 ji2da4, extremely great (/large)

不良 bu4liang2, not good, bad

较少jiao4shao3, comparatively few, fewer


D)      Abbreviation

Direct Shortcutting

清华——清华大学 qing1hua2da4xue2, Tsinghua University

复旦——复旦大学fu4dan4da4xue2, Fudan University

肯德基——肯德基炸鸡ken3de2ji1zha2ji1, KFC

别克——别克牌汽车 bie2ke4pai2qi4che1, Buick (brand of automobile)


Acronym Making

中共——中国共产党 zhong1guo2gong4chan2dang3, The Communist Party of China

北大——北京大学 bei3jing1da4xue2, Peking/Beijing University

外文系——外国语言文学系 wai4guo2yu3yan2wen2xue2xi4, Foreign Language Department

科技——科学技术 ke1xue2ji4shu4, science and technology

文教——文化教育 wen2hua4jiao4yu4, culture and education

part 2

Content Words and Function Words

Content words and function words

As in other languages, there are content words and function words in Chinese, respectively referring to those words that have actual references and meanings by themselves and those only play a complementary or structural role but don't carry any substantial and concrete meaning. The former includes all nouns and pronouns, verbs, adjectives, numerals, and words denoting to time and space, while the latter can refer to prepositions, connectives auxiliaries, and some adverbs. 

However, the fact that Chinese does not have morphological inflexion as in Indo-European languages makes it difficult to classify the parts of speech of words by their forms. Then what is more reasonable is to understand them according to their distinctive structural functions and fields of meaning. All content words are classified into two broad categories, namely substantive words and predicate words, of which the latter is further divided into different groups. The accepted classification is given in the following table.

part 3

Substantive Words

Substantive Words

Substantive words in Chinese may also be called nominal words because of they all point at something material or conceptual, and not some process, action or change. In this sense, they resemble English nouns or noun phrases in nature and are determined by their structural function as the subject or object of a sentence. And under this general term of substantive words, there are various subcategories adopted by different grammarians, resulted from different points of view. Here, we would like to make the matter simple and more readily understandable to learners by classifying substantive words into 5 kinds, which are 1) Common Nouns; 2) Locatives (or Locative Nouns); 3) Spatial-Temporal Addictives; 4) Number-Measure Words; and 5) Pronouns. In the following, we will provide some examples for each of subcategories.


1. Common Nouns

Common nouns refer to materials, animals, plants, people or things as well as concepts.

人   ren2, man, person, people, the human being

茶叶 cha2ye4, tea leaves

白菜 bai2cai4, Chinese cabbage

事情 shi4qing, business; a piece of work; an event, a thing to do or done or have happened.

商品 shang1pin3, commodities, things for sale

土豆 tu3dou4, potato

公园 gong1yuan2, a public park (/garden)

工人 gong1ren, worker

笔记本 bi3ji4ben3, notebook, laptop (computer)

Common nouns in Chinese are very similar to their English counterparts. They can be countable or uncountable, collective or abstract. They also include proper nouns. The distinctive feature in terms of their grammatical functions is that they can not only serve as the subject and object of the sentence but also all other functions. They can usually be qualified by a number plus a measure word in front.


2. Locative Nouns

The Chinese names of places are considered as a special kind of nouns because they can perform a different kind of grammatical functions.

北京 bei3jing1 Beijing (Former Peking)

西安 xi1an1, Xi'an

九寨沟     jiu3zhai4gou1, Jiuzhai Valley

人民路  Ren2min2lu4, Renmin Road

中关村  zhong1guan1cun1, Zhong Guan Cun

天安门广场 tian3an1men2guang3chang3, Tiananmen Square

郑州火车站 zheng4zhou1huo3che1zhan4, railway station of Zhengzhou


What deserves special attention is that locative nouns may also be “borrowed” from other nouns which function as a place in the context. In this case, we call them temporary or functional locatives. The most distinctive feature of locative nouns is not merely the capitalized initial letter in the place name, but the possibility of their collocations with certain words that make it dear they are referring to places. In particular, these locative nouns can be replaced by "这里(zhe4li)" or "那里(na4Ii)" in declarative sentences and by "哪里(na3li)" in interrogative sentences (referring respectively to "here", "there" and "where".

And they can also be preceded by place-related prepositions like "在(zai4)", "到(dao4)", "往(wang3)". So, in the following examples, the underlined common nouns are considered as locatives in terms of their functions.

Examples of Temporary Locative Nouns

你在哪里? Ni3zzai4nali,  Where are you?

我在邮局。 wo3zai4you2ju2,  I'm in the post office.

他去哪里? ta1qu4nali?  Where is he going?

他去公司。 ta1qu4gong1 si1. He is going to the company.

我在公交车上。wo3zai4gong1jiao1che1shang4,  I'm on the bus.

公交车去哪里? gong1jiao1che1zai4nali? Where is the bug going?

去火车站。 qu4huo3che1zhan4,  To the railway station.

洗丰间在哪里?       xi3shou3jian1zai4nali? Where is the washroom?

在那里。zai4nali. Over there.


3. Spatial-Temporal Nouns: Examples

饭后 fan4hou4, after the meal

房前 fang4qian2, in the front of the house, in front of the house

桌上 zhuo1shang4, on the desk, on the table

室内 shi4nei4, in the room

门外 men2wai4, outside of the door

城南 cheng2nan2, the southern part of the town

市北 shi4bei2, the northern part of the city

中间 zhong1jian1, the middle or central part


4. Number-Measure Words

As in many other languages, Chinese numbers can be used directly before a noun as its quantitative modifier. However, it is perhaps more frequently seen that following the number and preceding the noun is a word that functions as the noun's unit of measure, called the measure word. And the number and the measure word as a set is called number-measure word.

As for measure words, they are applied to nouns that denote objects, persons, and actions or processes, or in other words, to "measure" or count them. According to their origins of formation, these words can be classified largely into three types: the standard, custom and temporary.


Standard Measure Words

The measure words under this caption refer to units of measure that are established as the national or international standard. The most frequently used are

元   yuan2, basic Unit of RMB

角   jiao3, a 10th of元

尺   chi3, the Chinese measure for length, 1/3 of a meter

寸   cun4, a 10th of尺

丈   zhang4, a unit of length (31 / 3 meters)

米   mi3, meter

厘米 li2mi3, centimetre

里   li3, the Chinese mile (half of a kilometre)

公里 gong1li3, kilometre

亩   mu3, a unit of area (0.0667 hectares)

公顷 gong1qing3, hectares

公斤 gong1jin1, kilogram

分   fen1, minute

秒   miao3, second


There are also occasions when two standard measure words are used together to form up a compound measure word for measuring something that contains two correlated factors, such as the following:

人次 ren2ci4, persons each time

架次 jia4ci4, aircrafts each time

字次 zi4ci4, times of using Chinese characters

辆次 liang4ci3, times of vehicles passing or being used

频次 pin2ci4, the frequency of occurrence

秒米 miao3mi3, meters per second

立方秒米 li4fang1miao3mi3, cubic meters per second


Custom Measure Words

Custom measure words for are generally related to the shapes or some characteristics of the objects, persons or actions to which they are applied, but on the whole, they are to a great extent arbitrary and conventionally set, without too much rationale.

The frequently seen measure words of this kind are listed in the following, with their illustrative usages.


A. For Persons

个ge4, the most frequently used measure word for both persons and things considered as individuals.

一个人 yi2ge4ren2, one person

三个姑娘 san1ge4gu1niang, three girls


名ming2, for counting persons in formal situations such as meetings or classes

一名同学 yi4ming2tong2xue2, one classmate


位 wei4 for counting persons in formal situations as "名”,but showing more respect.

五位领导 wu3wei4 ling2dao3/ five leaders


"名" and "位" are used for persons only, with the latter more respectful. Special Notes: While "位” and "名" can be used only for titles or professions and not directly before "人", the word "个” is mainly for "人”.


B. For objects

件 jian4 o objects or business, like the English "piece"

—件礼物 yi2jian4li3wu4, one gift

一件事 yi1jian4shi4, a piece of work, a thing (to do or tell)


座 zuo4 for things standing high or sitting still

一座山 yi2zuo4shan1, one mountain

—座楼房 yi2zuo4lou2fang2, one storey building


台 tai4 Things to be mounted or installed, or with a stage

一台电视 yi4tai2dian4shi4, one TV set

—台戏   yi4tai2xi4, an opera (being or to be staged)


把 ba3, for counting something with a handle or easily taken by hand

一把刀 yi4ba3dao1, a knife

一把扇子 yi4ba3shan4zi, a hand fan


条 tiao2, for something long in shape

—条裤子 yi4tiao2ku4zi, a pair of trousers


本 ben3, for a copy of book

一本书 yi4ben3shu1, a book

一本杂志 yi4ben3za2zhi4, a magazine


张 zhang1 for something thin and can be spread out

一张纸 yi4zhang1zhi3, a sheet/piece of paper

一张照片 yi4zhang2zhao4pian1, a (photographic) picture


片 pian4, for something that can be seen as spread out on a surface

一片水 yi1pian4shui3, a spread of water

一片树叶 yi1pian4shu1ye1, a leaf


篇 pian1 for something that can be seen as a piece of texture

一篇文章 yi1pian1wen2zhang1


根 gen1 for something thin and long

一根赌烛 yi4gen1la4zhu2, a candle

一根铁丝 yi4gen1tie3si1, a length of iron wire


架 jia1 for something that has a frame or can been seen as such, especially an aircraft

一架飞 yi2jia4fei1ji1, an aircraft


只 zhi1 for a small animal, especially birds

两只鸟 liang3zhi1niao3, two birds

一只狗 yi4zhi1gou3, a dog


支 zhi1 for something thin and long

一支笔 yi4zhi1bi3, a pen or writing brush 一支香烟 yi4zhi1xiang1yan1, a cigarette


头 tou1 for some animals or beasts

一头猪 yi4tou2zhu1, a pig

一头牛 yi4tou2niu2, an ox or cow

一头老虎 yi4tou2lao3hu3, a tiger


棵 ke2 for a tree or other plant

一棵果树 yi4ke1guo3shu4, an apple tree

一棵草 yi4ke1cao3, a grass


颗 ke1 for a small piece of solid thing

一颗糖 yi4ke1tang2, a piece of candy or cubic sugar

一颗花生 yi4ke1hua1sheng1, a peanut


粒 li4 for a small grain

一粒米饭 yi2Ii4mi3fan4, a grain of rice


块 kuai4 for a cubic, solid piece or a quarter of something

一块蛋糕 yi1kuai4dan4gao1, a piece of cake


朵 duo3 for flowers or something comparable to flowers

一朵花 yi4duo3hua1, a flower


盡 zhan3 for lamps and lights

一盖灯 yi4zhan3deng1, a lamp, an oil lamp


C. For actions or processes

The custom measure words listed above all apply to objects or persons, but there is another kind that is related to actions or processes, such as the following.

次 ci4, for counting times of an action

做一、两次 zuo4yi2, liang3ci4, do something once or twice


遍 bian4, for counting an action that may take some time to go through

读一遍 du2yi2bian4, read through once


下 xia4 for a short or instant action

看一下 kan4yi1xia4, have a loo

打一下 da3yi1xia4, strike (/hit) once


回 hui2 for action or process that can have rounds

打一回球 da3yi1hui2qiu2, play a round of ball game


场 chang3 for an action that takes a site

一场比赛 yi4chang3bi3sai4, a round of competition or race

看一场电影 kan4yi1chang3dian4ying3, see a movie


趟 tang4 for a walk, trip, visit etc.

一趟旅游 yi1tang4lv3you2, a tour or travel

去两趟 qu4liang3tang4, go (to a place) twice


番 fan1 for an action taking a little time

三番五次 san1fan1wu3ci4, quite a few times


阵 zhen4 for a process that goes for periods or spells

一阵锣鼓 yi1zhen4luo2gu3, a spell of gongs and drums

一阵笑声 yi1zhen4xiao4sheng1, a spell of laughter


Measure words are of particular importance in Chinese, for although there are cases when they may be omitted, the more regular practice is to use them along with number words and the nouns in the following general structure:

Number + measure word + the measured object

For instance, 一个人(yi2ge4ren2, one/ a person) is more often used than simply一人. As for some things, the use of measure word is indispensable, such as in "一块蛋糕” and "一瓶酒” Measure words in Chinese have three large groups, individual, collective, and category measure words.

According to the way of "measuring", individual measure words can be classified into three categories: 1) container measure words; 2) standard measure words, and 3) featured measure words. The last category featured measure words, can have two basic kinds, one for objects or persons, and the other for actions or processes.

Individual Measure Word: Classification

Individual measure word classification

Temporary Measure Words

Temporary measure words refer to ordinary nouns that are expediently used as measure words according to the way in which the "measured" objects or things exist or their distinctive features. These words may originally refer to containers or spots of place, or give some point to the features of the referred noun. We can simply group them into two different subcategories: container-spot measure words and featured measure words.

1) container-spot measure words

This type of measure words is temporarily "borrowed" from nouns that refer to containers containing the objects or the spots where they exist.


一杯茶 yi1bei1cha2, a cup of tea

—壶水 yi1hu2shui3, a bottle/kettle of water

一锅饭 yi1guo1fan4, a (cooking) pot of meal

一瓶酒 yi1ping2jiu3, a bottle of wine

—包烟 yi1bao1yan1, a package of cigarettes

一碗汤 y1wan3tang1, a bowl of soup

一车货 yi1che1huo4, a car or truck of goods

一箱衣服 yi1xiang1yi1fu, a box of clothes

一房间客人 yi1fang2jian1ke4ren2, a room of guests

—床被褥 yi1chuang2bei4ru3, a bed of cushion and quilt

一地板书 yi1di4ban3shu1, a floor of books

一处好风景 yi1chu4hao3feng1jing3, a place of good sights (landscape)


2) Featured measure words

   Featured measure words are grouped as an independent kind of temporary measure words according to the prominent features in the relation between the original nouns used as a measure words and the objects or things being measured.


一手技术 yi1shou3ji4shu4, (a hand of techniques) good skills

一脸灰尘 yi1lian3hui1chen2, (a face of dust) a face covered by dust

一头白发 yi1tou2bai2fa4, (ahead of white hair) ahead with all hairs white

一脚好球 yi1jiao3hao3qiu2, (a foot of good ball) a good kick of the football

一口普通话 yi1kou3pu3tong1hua4, (a mouth of Putonghua) speaking Putonghua well

一身制服 yi1shen1zhi4fu2, (a body of uniform) in uniform

一身功夫 yi1shen1gong1fu, (a body of Kungfu) full of Kungfu

一肚子委屈  yi1du4ziwei3qu1, (a belly of wrong suffering/grievance) full of grievance, bearing a deep grudge

一笔好书法 yi1bi1hao3shu1fa3, (a writing brush of good calligraphy) very skilful in calligraphy


Collective and Category Measure Words

Apart from measure words that apply to things that exist as individuals, there are other two kinds of measure words that are used for things or persons that exist in collectives or understood as standing for a kind or a category, respectively called collective measure words and category measure words.


Collective Measure Words

对 dui4, pair, couple

一对双胞胎 yi2dui4shuang1bao1tai1, a couple of twins


双 shuang1 pair, couple, it is used for things

一双鞋 yi4shuang1xie2, a pair of shoes


副 fu4, a flat thing that can be spread out and hung up

一副对联 yi2fu4dui4lian2, a couplet of writing


组 zu3, a group, set

五人一组 wu5ren2yi1zu5, a group of five, five in a group


群 qun2, for things or people that are gathered in a group or cluster

一群人 yi4qun2ren2 a crowd of people, a gathering of people


套 tao4, set, suit

一套衣服 yi1tao4yi1fu2, a suit of dress


批 pi1 batch, lot (of products)

一批羊毛 yi4pi1yang2mao2, a lot of wool


打 da3, Dozen

一打鸡蛋 yi4da3ji1dan4, a dozen of eggs


窝 wo1, brood

一窝鸡仔 yi4wo1ji1zai3, a brood of chicks


帮 bang1, gang, band

一帮土匪 yi4bang2tu3fei3, a band of gangsters


系列 xi4lie4, series

一系列书 yi2xi4lie4shu1, a series of books


Category Measure Words

种 zhong3, used for things that can have kinds, species, etc.

一种人 yi1zhong3ren1, a kind of people


类 lei4, types

一类产品 yi1lei4chan3pin3, a kind/type of products


样 Yang4 style, kind (but also can be an alternative to individual measure word “件", especially in informal speech)

两样礼品 liang2yang4li3pin3, two kinds of gifts (two gifts of different kinds)


5. Pronouns

There are largely three kinds of pronouns in Chinese: 1) the personal, 2) the demonstrative and 3) the interrogative pronouns. The first includes all variations of the first, second and third person pronouns; the second contains a larger group of pronouns that indicate people, things, time, place and actions; the third has all the words that are used as the English question pronouns (what, when, where, why, which and how)


Personal Pronouns

Although there are quite a few Chinese personal pronouns, a little more than those in English, but they are mostly based on three morphemes, wo3, ni3, and ta1 which respectively indicate the singular first, second and third persons. There are no differences in the grammatical case, and the plural form is formed with the suffix morpheme men (which is usually pronounced in the light tone). Other variations such as in gender are seen only in writing, and a few additional alternative changes occur only in the first person and are far less frequently used in formal situations.


Special Notes:

1. Reflexive Pronouns are formed by adding to the above the reflexive suffix "自己zi4ji3" (self)

2. Possessive Pronouns are formed by adding to the above the possessive suffix "的de"

3. The first person singular also have a very informal word "俺an3”

4. Variations in gender may also be found in traditional writing, such as "牠" for the animal in the third person and "妳” for the second person feminine, but they have gone out of use in simplified writing.


Demonstrative Pronouns

Chinese demonstrative pronouns function as deictic words as the English "this/these" and "that/those". There are only two basic such words frequently used in Modern Chinese, namely “这zhe4" and "那na4", though other words like "彼", "此”, "其" are also seen in classic or formal texts. Both "这zhe4" and "那na4"' can take the suffix "些 xie1” and become plural, and both can be used to serve the function as the English determiner "the”.

Nominal Demonstrative Pronouns


Special Notes:

1) Suffix "些" can be attached to "这” or "那" in all the above except when followed by "会儿",which is mainly used in informal speech.

2) When followed by number word "一yi1“,the pronunciations of "这" and "那" may change into "zhei4” and “nei1”, with "yi1” either pronounced or omitted.


Non-Nominal Pronouns

Non-nominal pronouns are used to substitute for the verbal, adjective or adverbial constructs of a sentence or clause. 


Interrogative Pronouns


Special Notes: Although "么" in "什么" can be pronounced in the light tone, it is often changed in the second tone (rising tone as in English) for reinforcing the interrogative.

part 4

Predicate Words

Predicate Words

Predicate words are used in contrast relation with the substantive words. They include all adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, and are normally used to give the quality, changes, actions or processes of the substantive words.

1. Adjectives

As in English, adjectives of Chinese form up the part of speech that is used to modify a noun or other substantive, as by describing qualities of the entity denoted, stating its limits or feature, or distinguishing it from others in nature.

Functionally, Chinese adjectives have basically the following uses:

1) They are positioned before a noun to modify it (with "的de" or not );

2) They may directly follow the subject or object as its complement (and with the subject they make up a complete sentence);

3) They can be modified by an adverb of degree or negation (such as "很” and "不", which respectively mean "very" and "not”)

4) They can form the question structure of "…不…", such as "好不好”, "贵不贵", "对不对” (respectively meaning "good or not", "expensive or not", "right or not"').


Adjectives as noun modifiers

Adjectives in Chinese can be one-character words or multi-character words. In actual use, they may directly take the functional suffix word "的" just as other words like nouns and verbs do. However, whether to take it or not is often a matter of convention, highly dependent on the number of characters.


One-Character Adjectives

One-character adjectives modifying one-character nouns are usually used without the possessive function word "的”,for they tend to be considered together with the modified single-character nouns as one word of nominal nature. And for the same reason, they neither take an adverb of a degree in front.

大事 da4shi4, an important event

小狗 xiao2gou3, puppy/doggie

高个 gao1ge4, people who are tall

低分 di1fen1, low marks/grade

好人 hao3ren2, nice man

新书 xin1shu1, the new book

短裙 duan3qun2, skirt

长袜 chang2wa4, stocking

且纸 bai2zhi3, paper

红茶 hong2cha2, black tea

旧报纸  jiu4bao4zhi3, old newspaper articles


Special Notes: When the adjective is modified by an adverb of degree like”很” (hen3, meaning "very"), it is necessary to use “的", thus making up the structure of "很 + Adjective + 的 + Noun", which is now considered as a word group rather than a word. For instance, you can say “很大的事",but not “很大事”? This is because in this case "很大的" is taken as a more closely connected construct.


Two-Character Adjectives

Adjectives of two characters may or may not take "的" and can be modified by an adverb of degree. Just as with the two-character adjectives, "的" is indispensable when there is an adverb of degree. In whatever cases the structure is customarily considered as a noun phrase and not a word.


重要的事清 zhong4yao4 de shi4qing, important thing

美好的生活 mei3hao3 de sheng1huo3, nice life

知心的朋友 zhi1xin1 de peng2you3, bosom friend

优秀的学生 you2xiu4 de xue2sheng1, excellent student

便宜的东西 pian2yi4 de dong1xi1, cheap thing

美丽的姑娘 mei3li4 de gu1niang, beautiful girl

漂亮的衣服 piao4liang4 de yi1fu, nice clothes

英俊的小伙 ying1jun4 de xiao3huo3, handsome boy

正确的答案 zheng4que4 de da2an4, correct answer


Special Notes: All the underlined adjectives can be modified by an adverb of degree, and in that case the function word "的" becomes indispensable.


Multiple-Character Adjectives

Adjectives of more than two characters will most probably contain a character repetition, and always with "的” as a function word. However, adverbs are no longer used, because the repetition itself already indicates a high degree (functioning as "very")

红通通的太阳 hong2tong1tong2 de tai4yang, red sun

白茫茫的雪 bai2mang2mang2 de xue3, white snow

兴沖沖的孩子 xing4chong1chong1 de hai2zi, excited child

热平平的饭 re4hu1hu1 de fan4, hot meal

冷冰冰的水leng3bing1bing1 de shui3, chilly water

酸溜溜的菜 suan1liu1liu1 de cai4, sour dish

干巴巴的话 gan1ba1ba1 de hua4, dry words

安安静静的地方 an1an1jing4jing4 de di4fang, quite place

认认真真的老师 ren4ren4zhen1zhen1 de lao3shi1, serious teacher


Adjectives used as complement

When adjectives are used after subject as a complement, a sentence is in fact made, even if it may only have two characters. This is because Chinese sentences in Subject Complement structure don’t necessarily need a link verb as in English. Determiners of subject nouns are usually dispensable, for the references are dependent on the context in Chinese. The adjective word in the following are underlined and serve as complements


你好! ni1 hao3 (you good), Hello! How do you do!

我忙。 wo3 mang2 (I busy), I am busy.

人度 ren1 duo1 (people many), There are many people.

路远 lu4 yuan3 (Road/journey far), The road/journey is long.

力大 li4 da4 (Strength big), The strength is great.

月圆 yue4 yuan2, The moon is round (full).

花红 hua1 hong2, The flower is red.



1) Since there is no need in Chinese to use a link verb as in English between the subject and the adjective complement to make a sentence, the words in fact can also be considered as the shortest sentences.

2) When "是” is used after the subject character, the adjective must be followed by "的" and the structure is certainly a sentence of an affirmative judgment.

3) Deictic determiners like “这” (this) and "那" (that) is not always necessary before the subject noun, for the reference of a noun phrase in Chinese are to be understood in the context.

4) All the adjectives can be modified by an adverb of degree, such as "很"?


Adjectives modified by adverbs

When an adverb is used to modify an adjective, the two are usually taken as a single unit, and then the function character "的” is used before the modified noun. The most frequently used adverbs of degree are "很", "极" (or "极其”) "十分" and "非常”.

非常红的花 fei1chang2hong2de hua1, very red flowers

很好的人 hen3hao3 de ren2, very nice person

很新的书 hen3xin1 de shu1, very new book which

极绿的叶 ji2lv4 de ye4, very green leaves

极其重大的事件 ji2qi2zhong4da4 de shi4jian4, extremely important event

十分满意的结果 shi2fen1man3yi4 de jie2guo3, satisfying outcome/results

十分新鮮的菜 shi2fen1xin1xian1 de cai4, very fresh vegetables


2. Verbs

Chinese verbs can be divided into two groups, the static verbs and motive verbs, according to whether they involve an action or change or go through a process. The static verbs only give a state of existence or relation between the subject and the predicate and does not result in a change, while the motive verbs will make a change, go through a process.


2.1 Static Verbs

Although the number of words that belong to static words and judgment verbs are limited in number, they are used so frequently that every learner of Chinese is supposed to learn them from the very outset in any course. The uses of this group of words are shown in the following.


Uses of Static Verbs —— 是 shi4

It is used as the English link verb "be” but has a strong sense of "Yes" or "Right" Since link verbs are not indispensable between Chinese subject and its complement, it is called Judgment Verb and not Link Verb. Therefore, it should not be understood as an exact equivalent of “be".


这/那是什么 Zhe4/na4shi4 shen2me? What is this/ that?

那是古琴。Na4shi4gu3qin2, that's the ancient Chinese zither.

我是(一个)老师。wo3shi4 (yi1ge4) lao3shi, I'm a teacher.

你是教汉语的吗? ni3shi4jiao1han4yu3de ma1? Are you a teacher of Chinese?

是。shi4, Yes.

不是,我是教英文的。bu2shi4, wo3shi4jiao1ying1yu1de. No, I'm a teacher of English.

这本书是你的吗? zhe4ben3shu1shi4ni3de ma1? Is this book yours?

是。shi4, Yes.


有 you3

It can mean both "have" and "exist" (see below). When used to begin a phrase or sentence, the meaning may be understood as empty in the perspective of English, as in examples 1 and 2 in the following.

有一天              you3yi1tian1. One day

有—个人         you3yi1ge4ren2. There is one person.

这里有人吗? zhe4li3you3ren2ma? Is there anybody here?

我有几个朋友。wo3you3ji3ge4peng2you3. I have a few friends.

我家有五口人。wo3jia1you3wu3kou3ren2. There are five people in my family.

那里有一座房子。na4li3you3yi2zuo4fang2zi. There is a house in that place.

网上有很多资料。wang3shang4you3hen3duo1zi1liao4. There are a lot of references on the net.

哪里有洗手间?na3li3you3xi3shou3jian1? Where is the washroom?

你有时间吗? ni3you3shi2jian1ma? Do you have time?


在 zai4

Exist or occur in a place, time, process, or in doing something. It can also function simply as a preposition before a word denoting time or place.

你在哪儿?我在公司。ni3zai3na3r? wo3zai4gong1si1.

Where are you?  I'm in the company.

他在做什么?他在学习。ta1zai4zuo4shen2me? Ta1zai4xue2xi2.

What is he doing?  He is studying.


在那里学什么?他在学校学英语。zai4na3li3xue2shen2me? ta1zai4xue2xiao4xue2ying1yu3.

What do you learn there?  He is studying English at school.


你什么时候在线?晚上。ni3shen2me shi2hou zai4xian4? wan3shang4.

When are you online? In the evening.


你在哪里上网?在办公室。ni3zai4na3li3shang4wang3? zai4ban4gongs1shi4.

Where do you get on the net? In the office.


存在 cun2 zai4

It means exist or there is. However, this word does not denote a possessive relation as "有"?

存在决定意识。cun2zai4 jue2ding4 yi4shi.

Existence determines consciousness.


鬼不存在。gui3 bu4 cun2 zai4.

Ghost does not exist.


这里不存在问题。zhe4li3bu4 cun2zai4 wen4ti2.

There is no problem in here.


Special Notes: This static verb may be ambiguous to beginning learners because it may also be a phrase of two characters in the form of "verb (存)+ preposition (在)" in which 存 means "keep (or be kept)" and 在 is a proposition giving the place. For instance: 钱存在银行 means "money is kept (deposited) in the bank".


像 xiang4 resemble, be similar to, comparable to.

女儿像妈妈。 nv3er2 xiang4 ma1ma, The daughter looks like her mother.

儿子和父亲很像。 er2zi he2 fu4qin hen3 xiang4, the son very much takes after his father.

我要像你那样优秀。wo3 yao4 xiang4 ni3 na4yang4 you1xiu4, I want to be as excellent as you.

要像我这样做。Yao4 xiang4 wo3 zhe4yang4 zuo4, do it as I do.

像要下雨了。xiang4 yao4 xia4yu5 le, it looks rain.


厲于 shu3yu2 Belong to, be in the class, the category of kind of.

这些财产属于我。zhe4xie cai2chan3 shu3yu2 wo3, these properties belong to me.

胜利属于我们。sheng4li4 shu3yu2 wo3men2, victory belongs to us.

这个岛属于中国。zhe3ge4 dao3 shu3yu2 zhong1guo2, this island belongs to China.

他属于“另类"。ta1 shu3yu2 “ling4lei4”, he belongs to "the other type".


2.2 Motive Verbs

All motive verbs are associated in meaning with an action or process of change, physical or mental. In Chinese, they can be divided not only into the two categories of transitive and intransitive groups but also into two groups which we respectively call Closed Verbs and Open Verbs. If a verb can not be followed directly by another verb or verbal phrases, it is called a Closed Verb; and when it can, it is called an Open Verb. In analysis, it is seen that closed verbs are "closed" because of two reasons: 1) they usually already contain a V+O or V+C structure in the characters used (and thus also understood as constructs), and 2) they will need specifically defined objects or complements to form up a V+O or V+C structure. In contrast, open verbs do not have a given object character or complement character, and what may follow is thus an "open choice" that may include both nouns and verbs. This distinction is in fact more important than that between the conventional intransitive and transitive verbs, and calls for special attention from learners.


Closed Verbs

A dosed verb is very often a two-character structure containing a verb character and an object or complement character. There are two types of internal relations in the characters making up this kind of verbs, that is, V+O and V+C, as introduced in section on "compound words" in the first part of this chapter. In terms of collocation, closed verbs all have or need object words with specific meanings of a limited semantic field.


It should be noted that the two-character verbs of this type are often considered as structures, especially in closer analysis or in analysis of classic Chinese.


Verb Character + Object Character

吃饭 chi1fan4, eat (a meal)

睡觉 shui4jiao4, sleep

唱歌 chang4ge1, sing (songs)

跳舞 tiao4wu3, dance

打字 da4zi4, type

理发 li3fa4, have a haircut

踢球 ti1qiu2, play football

抽烟 chou1yan1, smoke cigarettes

喝酒 he1jiu3, drink wine

炒菜 chao3cai4, cook dish (dishes)


Verb Character + Complement Character

吃饱 chi1bao3, eat enough

洗清 xi3qing1, wash clean

看重 kan4zhong4, regard highly

选出 xuan3chu1, pick out

认清 ren4qing1, recognize clearly

打败 da3bai4, defeat, win over

得到 de2dao4, abtain, get

拿出 na2chu1, take out, produce


Open Verbs

This group of verbs generally have a wide choice of objects, including both nouns or noun phrases and verbs or verbal phrases. They include all the verbs that are traditionally regarded as "modal verbs" or/and "auxiliary verbs", as well as some more verbs that can directly take verbs and verbal phrases as objects. With this capacity, they can all begin a series of verbal phrases which we call "verbal chain". The words or phrases serving as objects of this type of verbs may be single verbs or verbal phrases. In the following, the open verbs are underlined.

去买东西 qu4mai3dong1xi, go shopping

要去买东西 yao4qu4mai3dong1xi, need (have to) go shopping

来上课 lai2shang4ke4, come for class

开始学习 kai1shi3xue2xi, begin study

继续工作 ji4xu4gong1zuo4, continue work

结束讨论 jie2shu4tao3lun4, finish discussion

应该学习 ying1gai1xue2xi, should learn

能说汉语 neng2shuo1han4yu3, can (be able to) speak Chinese

会写汉字 hui4xie3han4zi4, can (be able to) write Chinese characters

敢干 gan3gan4, dare to do (it)

想找工作 xiang3zhao3gong1zuo4, want to find a job

值得考虑 zhi2de2kao3lv4, be worth consideration

可以接受 ke3yi3jie1shou4, may accept, be acceptable

喜欢交朋友 xi3huan1jiao1peng2you3, like to make friends

过厌说假话 tao3yan4shuo1jia3hua4, hate telling lies

同竟参加比赛 tong2yi4can1jia1bi3sai4, agree to participate in the competition

反对讲行试验 fan3dui4jin4xing2shi4yan4, be opposed to conducting the test

专持参加 zhi1chi2, support participating

打算旅游 da3suan4lv3you2, plan a travel


3. Adverbs

Adverbs are normally used before a verb as its modifier, adding various aspects of meaning to it or changing the meaning. There are basically 5 kinds of adverbs in Chinese, classified in terms of their fields of meaning. They include those related to the negative, degree, time and frequency, scope, manner and mood.


Negative Adverbs

不 bu4, no, not

没 mei2, not (have), not (existent)

没有 mei2you3, not (have), not (existent)

不必 bu2bi4, not necessarily or compulsory

不一定 bu4yi2ding4, not certain

未 wei4, formal or classic not (have), not (existent)

不妨 bu4fang2, not unwillingly

Adverbs of Degree

很 hen3, very, quite

极(其) ji2(qi2), extremely

十分 shi2fen1, very

非常 fei1chang2, extraordinarily, very

特别 te4bie2, especially

尤其 you2qi2, especially, particularly

更(加)  geng4(jia1), increasingly, more

越 yue4, more/ even more

越来越 yue4lai2yue4, more and more, increasingly

太 tai4, too, too much

怪 guai4, rather too, fairly

挺 ting3, fairly, rather

真 zhen1, very, truly

多么 duo1me, how (exclamation)

这么 zhe4me, so much, so

(比)较 (bi3)jiao4, comparatively

稍微 shao1wei1, slightly

过于 guo4yu2, too much


Adverbs of lime and Frequency

刚(刚)  gang1(gang), just now

刚才 gang1cai2, just now

才   cai2, just only

已(经)  yi3(jing1), already

曾(经)  ceng2(jing1), once (have)

马上 ma3shang4, soon, in a short time

立刻 li4ke4, immediately

又  you4, again, once more

再(次)  zai4 (ci4), once more, repeatedly

还  hai2, still more

重(新)  chong2 (xin1), once again

随时 sui2shi2, at any time

忽然 hu1ran2, suddenly

偶然 ou3ran2, seldom

偶尔 ou3er3, seldom

老   lao3, always, habitually

总   zong3, always, ever

—直 yi4zhi2, all along, always

仍旧 reng2jiu4, still as in the past

Adverbs of Scope

全/全部 quan2/quan2bu4, all, altogether, entirely

完全   wan2quan2, completely, entirely

都/全都 dou1/quan2dou1, all, altogether, entirely

总/总共   zong3/zong3gong4, altogether, in sum

共/一共 gong4/yi2gong4, in sum, altogether

仅/仅仅 jin3/jin3jin3, only, merely

光   guang1, only, merely, alone

单 dan1, only, solely

净 jing4, in net, all

才 cai2, only, merely

统统 tong3tong3, all together, all in all

大约 da4yue1, approximately, about

大概 da4gai4, approximately, roughly

大致 da4zhi4, largely, basically, about

基本 ji1ben3, fundamentally, basically


Adverbs of Mood and Mode

亲自 qin1zi4, personally, in person 互相 hu4xiang1, mutually, to each other

直接 zhi2jie1, directly, immediately

间接 jian4jie,indirectly

相继 xiang1ji4, succeedingly, one after another

赶紧 gan3jin3, ergently, quickly

恰恰 qia4qia4, just right

恰巧 qia4qiao3, just right

幸亏 xing4kui1, luckily (especially out of expectation)

果然 guo3ran2, sure enough, as expected

究竟 jiu1jing4, actually, after all

简直 jian3zhi2, simply, virtually, hardly

反正 fan3zheng4, after all, any (either) way

或许 huo4xu3, perhaps, possibly

也许 ye3xu3, perhaps, possibly

绝对 jue2dui4, absolutely

part 5

Function Words

Function Words

Function words in Chinese do not have substantial meaning by themselves but play such important roles as linking words in phrases or word groups, indicating the relation between them, marking grammatical structures or giving exclamations.

1. Connectives

Connective words serve as links between words, phrases and sentences.

Besides, they can also give indications of logical relations between the components thus connected. There are basically three kinds of connectives in Chinese, classified in terms of their different functions, that is, Coordinating, Subordinating and Textual Connectives.

Group I. Coordinating Connectives Coordinating connectives may be single-character or two-character words, used between words and phrases that are equal in grammatical value or importance.


和 he2, and, with

跟 gen2, with, and, following

同 tong2, and, with

与 yu3, and, with

及 ji2, and, as well as

而且 er3qie3, and also

或(者)  huo4(zhe3), or

并(且)  bing4(qie5), and also

既…又 ji4... you4, not only ... but also

又…又 you4, you4, also... and also...

不但…而且 bu2dan4 ... er3qie3, not only... but also...

不是/就是, bu2shi4 ... jiu4shi4, if not…then


Group II. Subordinating Connectives

Subordinating connectives are link words used between two clauses of a sentence, in which one may be considered as functioning like the English main clause and the other a sub-clause. Since Chinese words don't have inflectional changes showing the grammatical relations between words, these connectives assume greater importance than connectives in English.


因为…所以… yin1wei2 ... suo3yi3, because..., (so) ...

虽然…但是… sui1ran2 ... dan4shi4, although..., nevertheless...

尽管…还是… jin3guan3 ... hai2shi4, although..., nevertheless...

如果…那就   ru2guo3, na4jiu4, if..., then...

即使…也     ji2shi3 ... ye3, even if..., still...

除非…才     chu2fei1 ... cai2, only when..., will...

只要…就     zhi3yao4 ... jiu4, if only.., will...

宁可…也不   ning4ke3 ... ye3bu4, rather..., than...

既然…就     ji4ran2 ... jiu4, since..., then...

与其…不如   yu3qi2 ...bu4ru2, rather than..., the better is...

Special Notes: The two parts in coordinated relation are usually separated with a comma, and in compact sentences in which the comma is not used (see in next chapter) the second connective alone is adequate.


Group III. Textual Connectives The connectives in this group can be used either between clauses or sentences to serve as textual links, indicating other logical relations therein rather than those can be simply understood in terms of grammatical coordination and subordination within complex sentences.


即      ji2, that is, ie.

例如/如 li4ru2/ru2, for example

比如    bi3ru2, for example

于是    yu2shi4, therefore, so (that)

这样    zhe4yang4, so, by so doing

这样一来 zhe4yang4yi4lai2, by so doing,

其实    qi2shi2, in fact, actually

换言之  huan4yan2zhi1, in other words

总之    zong3zhi1, to conclude, in conclusion

由此可见 you2ci3ke3jian4, so it can be seen


2. Prepositions

在 zai4, in/ on/ at (a time, place, or scope)

从 cong2, from, starting from

由 you2, from, starting from

向 xiang4, towards, to

朝 chao2, towards, to

到 dao4, towards, to

往 wang3, towards, to

自(从)  zi4(cong2), from, starting from

以 yi3, by way of, by means of

比 bi3, than, compared with

对(于)  dui4 (yu2), as regards, as for

为(了)  wei4 (le), for (the purpose of)

关于  guan1yu2, as regards, as concerns

除了  chu2(le), except (for)


3. Auxiliaries

Chinese auxiliaries are those grammatical function words that go together with substantive or predicate words to add to the specific aspects of meaning, such as the tense or mood. They have two basic groups, namely the structural auxiliaries and sentence-final particles.


的 de, 1) a link between the modifying and modified nominal constructs; 2) a possessive function word; 3) an affirmative function word used at the end of a sentence in collocation with a preceding "是”.

得 de, a function word between a verbal construct and its complement.

地 de, a function word between adverbial and verbal constructs.

着 zhe, continuous aspect marker.

了 le, perfect aspect and past tense marker.

过 guo3, perfect aspect marker.

把 ba3, fronted object marker.

起来 qi3lai2, a marker of the "progressive inceptive", or starting and going on of the action of the preceding verb.

下去 xia4qu4, a marker of the "progressive", suggesting the continuation of the action of the preceding verb.

下来 xia4lai2, a marker of the "conclusive", suggesting that the action of the preceding verb is coming to the end.


4. Sentence-Final Particles

吗 ma1, question mark

呢 ne1, marker of inquiry, question, or a mood of uncertainty, but also may be used at the end of an affirmative sentence.

吧 ba, marker of the mood of suggestion, congesture or need for advice

啊 a, an exclamatory particle with the same effect as English but can be used directly in the final position of a sentence.

嘛 ma, marker indicating self-affirmation or emphasis of a point.

呀 ya, marker of assurance or a reminder. It can also have the same function as “嘛”.

啦 la, marder of the perfect aspect that is actually formed up from "了" plus “阿", thus showing the aspect with an exclamation.

哇 wa, an exclamatory particle equal in effect to "啊", used especially after the preceding final sound is "u”.

Special Notes: Except for “吗" and “呢", which are pronounced in the first tone, all the other particles are usually in the light tone.


5. Onomatopoeia

哈哈 ha1ha1, mimic of laughter

呜呜 wu1wu1, of weeping

啪啪 pa1pa1, of sounds of patting.

终略 dong1dong1, of drums or large bells and similar sounds

砰砰 peng1peng1, of sounds of jumping

哗哗 hua1hua1, of splashing sounds

扑通 pu1tong1, of plopping sounds

叮当 ding1dang1, of sounds of small bells

汪汪 wang4wang4, of a dog's barks

吱吱 zhi1zhi1, of squeezing sounds

叮叮当当 ding1ding1dang1dang1, continuous sounds of small bells or similar sounds

叽叽喳喳 ji1ji1zha1zha1, of chirrups of small birds like sparrows, also used for chattering between women and children.

part 6

Word groups

Chinese words

A Chinese word with two or more characters can combine with other words to form up a word group, serving as a part of a sentence, and the construction rules are in some aspects similar to those of compound words as introduced in the previous section on word structure. Such word groups often function as the subject or predicate of the sentence and thus make it longer. What's more important, some of them may often be used as sentences with construct omissions, especially in conversations.

There are basically 9 kinds of constructions in Chinese word groups, of which the first 5 are the same with those in compound words.


1. Coordination

In the construction of word groups that belong to the type of coordination, the coordinated constructs are equal in status and function. There may be a connective word in between the constructs, but in Chinese, its use is often dispensable. In the following, the coordinated parts are indicated with a slash, an underlined connective word, or with a pause mark "、".


小李和小张 xiao3li3 he2 xiao3zhang2, Little Zhang and Little Li (in which "little" means "young", to show affection

英语和汉语     ying1yu3 he2 han4yu4, English and Chinese

音乐、艺术  yin1yue4, yi4shu4, music and arts

孔子及其弟子 kong3zi3ji2qi2 di4zi3, Confucius and his disciples

分析/研究 fen2xi1/yan2jiu1, analyze and study, analysis and study

生动/活泼 sheng1dong4/huo2po1, vivid and lively

工作/学习 gong1zuo4/xue2xi2, work and study

唱歌或跳舞 chang4ge1 huo4 tiao4wu3, sing or dance (singing or dancing)

听/说/读/写 ting1/shuo1/du2/xie3, listening, speaking, reading and writing

吃/喝/玩/乐 chi1/he1/wan2/le4, eat, drink, play and have fun (/have a loose way of life)


2. Subordination

In a word group of subordination, one word is lower in grammatical status than the other that carries the "central" meaning. Such word groups usually have nouns, verbs and adjectives as the "central words" and their respective modifiers as subordinating components.


Nominal Subordination

A nominal subordination has a central noun modified by a modifier with or without "的” as a marker. In the following, the modifier is underlined.


1) 中国北京   zhong1guo2bei3jing1, China's Beijing/ Beijing, China

2) 美丽的山河mei3li4 de shha1he2, beautiful mountains and rivers

3) 我的汉语   wo3de1han4yu3, my Chinese

4) 汉语语法   han4yu3yu3fa3, Chinese grammar

5) 体音运动   ti2yu4yun4dong4, physical sports

6) 电脑硬盘   dian4nao3ying4pan2, computer hard disk

7) 手机号码   shou3ji1hao4ma3, cell phone number

8) 图书馆一楼 tu2shu1guan3yi1lou2, library's first floor


Adjective Subordination

An adjective subordination has an adjective modified by an adverb. The modifying adverb in the following is underlined.

1) 真好      zhen1hao3, really good

2) 太糟糕   tai4zao1gao1, too bad

3) 很聪明  hen3cong1ming2, very intelligent

4) 特别贵  te4bie2 gui4, extremely expensive

5) 非常有趣 fei1chang2you3qu4, very interesting

6) 万分感激   wan4fen1gan3ji1, extremely grateful

7) 十分激动 shi2fen1ji1dong4, very excited

Verbal Subordination

A verbal subordination has a verb modified by an adverb, and the modifying adverb in the following is underlined.

1) 互相帮助   hu4xiang1bang1zu4, help each other

2) 普遍提高   pu3bian4ti2gao1, generally improve

3) 十分喜欢 shi2fen1xi3huan1, like very much

4) 完全同竟   wan2quan2tong2yi4, completely agree

5) 认真考虑   ren4zhen1kao3lv4, seriously consider

6) 仔细分析   zi2xi4fen1xi1, carefully analyze

7) 反复练习   fan3fu4lian4xi2, exercise over and over again

8) 不断提高   bu2duan4ti2gao1, make progress continuously


3. Subject-Predicate Construction

The word group in this construction contains a nominal component functioning as the subject and an adjective or verb as the predicate, and thus can usually be considered as a complete sentence when used independently (for there is no need to use anything like the English link verb). In the following, the subject is underlined.

1) 身体健康   shen1ti3jian4kang1

Body/Physique healthy: healthy body


2) 身材高大   shen1cai2 gao1da4

Physique tall: have a tall physique


3) 家庭幸福   jia1gting2 xing4fu2

Family happy: have/having a happy family


4) 心情愉快   xin1qing2 yu4kuai4

Mood delightful: have/having a delightful mood

5) 兴趣广泛   xing4qu4 guang3fan4

Interest wide: have/having a wide range of interest


6) 工作认真 gong1zuo4 ren4zhen1

Work serious: have/having a serious attitude towards work.


7) 交通方便   jiao1tong1 fang1bian4

Traffic communication convenient: have good traffic facilities

8) 价钱优惠   jia4qian2 you1hui4

Price favourable: have favourable price


4. Verb-Object Construction

Just as a word can be made up by two characters in which the first is a transitive verb and the second its object, a word group can also be made in the same way, which may contain two or even more words. In the following examples, the verb is underlined.


1) 热爱艺术   re4ai4 yi4shu

Ardent love arts: have an ardent love for arts


2) 开始上课   kai3shi3 shang4ke4

begin (to) have a class: start a class


3) 提高产量   ti2gao1 chan3liang4

raise production: increase production


4) 增加收人   zeng1jia1 shou2ru4

increase income


5) 整理图书   zheng3li3 tu2shu

arrange (sort out) books


6) 发送邮件   fa1song4 you2jian4

send (out) email


7) 学习汉语   xue2xi2 han4yu3

learn Chinese (Mandarin)


8) 打扫房间   da3sao3 fang2jian1

clean room: clean up the room


5. Verb-Complement Construction

When the predicate verb is followed by a complementary component indicating the grammatical tense, orientation, effect, result, degree, etc, the word group forming up the predicate is then in verb-complement construction. In the following, the predicate word group is underlined. And it should be noted that there is often a "得" used before the complement that indicates the result. In the following examples, the verb is underlined.


1) 想明白        xiang3ming2bai2, see clearly through thinking

2) 看清楚        kan4qing1chu3, see clearly

3) 读几遍        du2ji3bian4, read several times

4) 玩得痛快   wan2de tong4kuai4, to have fun to one’s content.

5) 说得对        shuo1 de dui4, say correctly

6) 吃得好        chi1 de hao3, eat well

7) 站起来        zhan4qi3lai2, stand up.

8) 干起来        gan4qi3lai, begin to do

9) 学下去        xue4xia3qu4, continue to learn


6. Adjective-Complement Construction

Just like the verbs, adjective can also have a compliment directly following it or led by "得”. In the following, the adjectives are underlined.


1) 大极了。da4ji2le, big extremely: extremely big

2) 多得很。duo2 de hen3, many very: very much

3) 兴奋万分。Xing4fen4wan4fen1, excited extremely: extremely excited.

4) 富起来。fu4qi3lai2,  rich up: become rich

5) 胖起来。pang4qi3lai2, fat up: become fat

6) 瘦下去。shou4xia4qu4, thin down: become thin

7) 少得可怜。shao3 de ke3lian2, little poor: so little (in quantity) as to be pitiable

8) 小得看不见。Xiao3 de kan4bu2jian4, too small to see

9) 红得像苹果。hong2de xiang4ping2guo3, as red as an apple

10) 大胆得惊人。da4dan3 de jing1ren2, so bold as to be surprising, surprisingly bold


7. Appositive Construction

The construction is usually composed of two words (although there may be more than two) that are referring to the same thing or person. In the following, the division between the two parts is indicated by a slash.

1) 我们/俩      wo3men/liang3, we/two

2) 他们/学生 ta2men/xue2sheng1, they/students

3) 政治家/邓小平 zheng4zhi4jia1/deng4xiao3ping2, statesman/Deng Xiaoping

4) 小说/《家》 xiao3shuo1/jia1, novel/family

5) 首都/北京 shou3du1/bei3jing1, capital/Beijing


8. Verbal Chain Construction

If verbal constructs follow one another in a string, the structure is considered as a verbal chain construction, regardless of whether the constructs contain objects or not. The division between the verbal constructs is indicated with a slash in the following.


1) 发邮件/通知 fa1you2jian4/tong1zhi1, send email to inform: send an e-mail to inform

2) 打电话/找人 da3dian4hua1/zhao3ren2, call find somebody: make a telephone call to find somebody

3) 到中国/学习 dao4zhong1guo2/xue2xi1, come China study: come to China to study

4) 去欧洲/旅游 qu4ou1zhou1/lv3you2, go Europe travel: go to Europe for sightseeing

5) 来这里/参观 lai2zhe4li3/can1guan1, come here visit: come here for a visit

6) 回家/休息 hui2jia1/xiu1xi1, go home rest: go home to have a rest


9. Pivot Construction

The pivot construction is traditionally called "兼语式" (jian1yu3shi4) by some Chinese grammarians, which means that there is a central noun in between two verbal components that serve the double function of both objects to the preceding verb and the subject to what follows. There may also be several "pivot" words in a phrase or sentence. In the following examples, the central noun serving the double function is underlined.


1) 有人敲门 you3ren2qiao1men2, have people knock the door: there is someone knocking at the door.

2) 请你说 qing2ni2shuo1, invite you to speak: you speak, please.

3) 听我说 ting1wo3shuo1, listen me speak: listen to me

4) 让你看 rang4ni1kan4, let you look: let you look

5) 称赞中国好 cheng1zan4zhong1guo2hao3, praise China good: praise that China is good

6) 有人找我教汉语。you3ren2zhao3wo3jiao1han4yu3, someone find me teach Chinese: someone asked me to teach Chinese.

7) 听我说汉语。ting1wo3shuo1han4yu3, Listen me talk Chinese how to learn: Listen to me as I tell you how to learn Chinese.

8) 老板让我请客户稍等。lao3ban3rang4wo3qing2ke4hu4shao1deng3, the boss let me ask customers wait: the boss asked me to tell the customer to wait a moment.