An Introduction to Chinese Grammar 汉语语法入门
目录导言 Contents and Introduction
Click on any word to see more details.
- Parts of Speech
- Subject-Predicate Phrases
- Verb-Object Phrases
- Coordinative Phrases
- Endocentric Phrases
- Numeral-Measure Word Phrases
- Complementary Phrases
- Phrases of Locality
- Appositive Phrases
- Set Phrases
- Prepositional Phrases
- ”De” Phrases
Chinese sentences can have six types of elements: subject, predicate, object, attributive, adverbial adjunct, and complement. The attributive is a part of the subject. The object and the adverbial adjunct are parts of the predicate.
|主语 Subject||谓语 Predicate|
|定语 Attributive||状语 Adverbial Adjunct||宾语 Object|
|I like the color red.|
|My mother is in the United States.|
|I am diligently studying Chinese.|
Sentences can be divided into two classes: simple sentences and compound sentences.
|单句 Simple Sentences||复句 Compound Sentences|
|主渭句 Subject-Predicate Sentences||非主渭句 Non-Subject-Predicate Sentences||分句 Clauses|
In Chinese one Chinese character represents a single syllable and a word consists of one or more characters. Word boundaries are not as clear as in European languages. In European languages spaces are used between words and word morphology changes to allow for plural forms, tenses, and other changes. In Chinese most characters have an independent meaning, so while they can be used together to form multi-character words, they can also be used independently (Sun 2006, loc. 601).
Chinese words can be divided into two kinds. The first kind is notional words and the second kind has a purely grammatical purpose (function words). Notional words can be divided into seven categories: nouns, verbs, auxiliary verbs, adjectives, numerals, measure words, and pronouns. Chinese has a rich collection of measure words, one for each object and action. Measure words must be used and cannot be arbitrarily used.
|名词 Nouns||动词 Verbs||助动词 Auxilliary Verbs||形容词 Adjectives||数词 Numerals||量词 Measure Words||代词 Pronouns|
|名量词 Nominal||动量词 Verbal||人称代词 Personal||指示代词 Demonstrative||疑问代词 Interrogative|
Function words include six kinds: adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, particles, interjections, and onomatopes.
|副词 Adverbs||介词 Prepositions||连词 Conjunctions||助词 Particles||叹词 Interjections||象声词 Onomatope|
|结构助词 Structural||动态助词 Aspectual||语气助词 Modal|
Affixes include prefixes and suffixes, which can both be used to construct sentence elements.
|词头 Prefix||词尾 Suffix|
词类 Parts of Speech
Nouns express the names of people or objects. Proper nouns include place names and the names of people. Some monosyllabic nouns can be repeated to indicate every individual in a group, such as 人人 (everyone), 天天 (every day), and so on.
In general, nouns do not inherently have a difference in singular and plural forms. When referring to people the suffix 们 can be used to indcate more than one person. For example, 同志们 (comrades), 先生们 (gentlemen), and so on. “们” should be pronounced with the neutral tone.
The nouns of location 里 and 上 are often used after other nouns. For example, 脑袋上 (on your head), 路上 (on the road), 手里 (in hand), 兜里 (in my pocket), and so on. However, you cannot use the word 里 after a geographic place names. When a noun of location is acting as the predicate or adverbial adjection 在 is not needed. For example, in the sentence 房子里有架钢琴 (There is a piano in the house), there is no 在 before 房子.
When a noun is acting as the attributive it must be placed before the modified word. For example, in the sentence 您要玻璃杯还是瓷杯？(Would you like a glass or a porcelain cup?) The terms 玻璃 (glass) and 瓷 (porcelain) act as the attributives and 杯 (cup) is the modified word.
Adjectives describe the form and characteristics of people and objects or the mode of an action. Most adjectives can be modified using an adverb placed in front. Adjectives can be used in affirmative-negative form to ask a question. For example, 那双筷子干净不干净？(Are those chopsticks clean?)
Some adjectives can be repeated to intensify their degree. For example, 她的头发是长长的。(Her hair is very long.) Adjectives can be used in front of verbs to act as abverbial adjuncts. For example, 他热情地接待我们。 (He cordially received us.) The adverbial adjunct is 热情地 and the verb is 接待.
In general, a monosyllabic adjective can directly modify another word. For example, 白纸 (white paper). However, if you wish to emphasize the modified nature then you may use the particle 的. For example, 很冷的天气 (very cold weather). When a dissyllabic adjective modifies a monosyllabic noun then the particle “的” must be used. For example, 漂亮的花 (a beautiful flower). When a dissyllabic adjective modifies a dissyllabic noun then the particle 的 is optional.
When repeating adjectives use the form AABB. For example, 干干净净 (very clean).
Adjectives can directly function as predicates. For example, 他个子高 (He is tall). The subject is 他个子 (his height) and the predicate is 高 (tall). In this situation, you may also use the adverb 很 (very). For example, 他个子很高 (He is tall).
公 (male) and 母 (female) are used to describe the sex of animals.
Verbs express actions, behavior, mental processes, developing changes, and so on. Transitive verbs can be followed directly by an object. Some verbs can take only a single object.
|动词 Verbs||宾语 Objects|
|骑 ride||自行车 a bicycle||马 a horse|
|穿 wear||裤子 trousers||袜子 socks|
|戴 wear||眼镜 glasses||帽子 a hat|
|写 write||文章 an article||信 a letter|
|看 visit||亲戚 relatives||朋友 friends|
|吃 eat||面包 bread||饼干 a cookie|
|喝 drink||牛奶 milk||啤酒 beer|
|保护 protect||自己 oneself||环境 the environment|
Some transitve verbs can take two objects.
|动词 Verbs||宾语 Objects|
|给 give||你 you||礼物 a gift|
|教 teach||学生 students||英语 English|
|问 ask||老师 the teacher||问题 a question|
|告诉 tell||他 him||情况 the situation|
Intransitive verbs cannot take object. Some examples are: 活 (to live), 坏 (to be bad), 病 (to be sick), 醒 (to be awake), 存在 (to exist), 休息 (to rest), 咳嗽 (to cough), 胜利 (to be victorious), 腐败 (to be corrupt), 出生 (to be born), and 前进 (to progress).
Verbs can take a complement after them. For example, in the question 你学会了吗？ (Can you do it now that you studied it?), 学 is the verb and 会 is the complement.
The affirmative-negative form can be used to express questions. For example, in the question 你会不会国语？ (Can you speak Mandarin?) the verb 会 is repeated to form the question.
The suffix 化 can be added to some nouns and adjectives to create verbs.
|名词 Noun||动词 Verb|
|政治 (politics)||政治化 (politicize)|
|现代 (modern age)||现代化 (modernize)|
|信息 (information)||信息化 (automate [IT])|
|形容词 Adjective||动词 Verb|
|自动 (automatic)||自动化 (automate)|
|绿 (green)||绿化 (to make green / to landscape)|
|暖 (warm)||暖化 (to warm)|
The verb 是
- The verb 是 can be used to express judgement. For example: 他是大夫。 (He is a doctor.)
- To express existence. For example, the sentence 前边是公安局。 (The police station is ahead.)
Verbs expessing actions, behaviors, or including positive thought can be repeated. For example: 听听 (listen), 打扫打扫 (sweep), 想想 (think), 启发启发 (to inspire). Some verbs cannot be repeated:
- mental activities, such as 害怕 (to fear), 羨慕 (to envy), 喜欢 (to like), and so on
- changes, such as 发生 (to occur), 发展 (to develop), 开始 (to start)
- existence, judgement, and possession, such as 在 (is at), 是 (is), 象 (to seem), 有 (to have)
- indicating direction, such as 起 (to get up), 过 (to go past), 出 (to go out), 进 (to enter)
Pronouns can take the place of nouns, verbs, adjectives, numerals, and adverbs. Pronouns can be classified as personal pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, and interrogative pronouns. Personal pronouns take the place of people or things. 你、我、您、他、她、它、and 自己 are all personal pronouns. Demonstrative pronouns distinguish people or things. 这、这里、这儿、这么、这样、那、那里、那儿、那么、那样、每、and 各 are all demonstrative pronouns. Interrogative pronoun express a question. 谁、什么、哪、哪里、哪儿、几、多少、怎么、怎样 and 怎么样 are all interrogative pronouns.
The use of pronouns are basically the same as the nouns they represent. For example, 小王去哪里？(Where is Xiao Wang going?) 小王去北京。 (Xiao Wang is going to Beijing.) 哪里 is the pronoun substituting for 北京.
助动词 Auxiliary Verbs
Auxiliary verbs help verbs express need, possibility, or hope.
- expressing capability: 能 (is capable of), 能够 (is capable of), 会 (is able to)
- expressing possibility: 能 (may), 会 (may), 可以 (may), 可能 (may)
- expressing necessity: 应 (should), 该 (should), 要 (should), 应该 (should), 应当 (should)
- expressing obligation: 得 (děi, must), 必须 (must)
- expressing subjective willingness: 要 (want to), 想 (want to), 敢 (dare to), 愿意 (willing to)
Auxiliary verbs can modify verbs or adjectives. For example, 我会讲国语 (I can speak Mandarin). In this sentence the auxiliary verb 会 (can) modifies the verb 讲 (speak). For example, 图书馆里应该安静 (The library should be quiet). In this sentence the auxiliary verb 应该 (should) modifies the adjective 安静 (quiet).
Numerals express numbers. See Table of Basic and Accounting Numerals.
Numerals can be arranged together for express other whole numbers. For example, 七十万 (700,000). The prefix 第 (dì) can be used to express order. For example, 第七百零一 (number seven hundred and one). The measure word 倍 (bèi) can be used to represent multiples. For example, 三倍 (three times).
The …点… format can be used for expressing decimals. For example, 零点二 (0.2). The …分之… format can be used for expressing fractions. For example, 三分之四” (3/4) and 百分之五” (5%).
Two adjacent numerals can be used together to express an approximate quantity. For example, 三四个 (3 or 4). 几 can represent an approximate number between one and nine. For example, 阅览室只有几种杂志 (There are only a few kinds of magazine in the reading room). Used after the numerals 十 (ten), 百 (hundred), 千 (thousand), and 万 (ten thousand) the numeral 多 represents a number greater than the number preceding it. For example, 我们班有三十多个学生 (In our class there are more than 30 students).
In front of a measure word the number 两 should be used rather than 二. For example, 两头大象 (two elephants).
量词 Measure Words
Measure words express counting units. Nominal measure words express units for people and things. Verbal measure words express the frequency of actions. See Units of Weights and Measures.
Measure words are used after numbers and demonstrative pronouns. For example,我买了一辆自行车 (I bought a bicycle). The measure word is 辆 and the number is 一. Another example is, 我每次去都看见他 (I see him every time I go). The measure word is 次 (time) and the demonstrative pronoun is 每 (every).
Repeating measure words indicates “every.” For example, 个个都聪明 (every one of them is clever).
Nominal measure words are used in front of nouns to describe quantities of objects. See List of Common Nominal Measure Words.
Verbal measure words are used with verbs to describe quantities of actions. For example, 来一次、去一趟、看一回. 次、趟、回 are all verbal measure words. Most verbal measure words are placed after their verbs as complements. For example, 你得去一趟。
Adverbs are placed in front of verbs or adjectives to express time, degree, scope, repetition, negation, possibility, or tone. Some adverbs can serve a connecting purpose. For example, 他说完话就走。 (He said his piece and then immediately left.) 就 is an adverb expressing time.
The basic use of adverbs is to act as adverbial adjuncts. For example, 他们已经出发了。 (They have already left.)
Although both are for negation, the use of 不 and 没 is different. 不 is used to negate.
- Mental activities — 我不了解这篇文章。 (I do not understand this article.)
- Frequently performed actions — 我从来不喝酒。 (I never drink.)
- Present or future actions — 我明天不去。 (I am not going tomorrow.)
- Auxiliary verbs — 今天不会下雨。 (I will not rain today.)
- The verbs “是”，“象”，“在”，“存在” — 他不是我的老师。 (He is not my teacher.)
- Adjectvies expressing state or character — For example, 这个句子不对。 (This sentence is not correct.)
- Adverbs expressing degree — For example, 我的英文不太好。 (My English is really not very good.)
- Adverbs expressing scope — For example, 我们不一起去。 (We are not going to all go together.)
没 is used to negate
- 有 — For example, 你有没有时间? (Do you have time or not?)
- Verbs expressing completion or occurence of an action — For example, 这样的事故从来没发生过。 (That kind of accident has never occurred.)
又 and 再 both express repetition but their use is different. 又 expresses that a situation or action has already repeated. For example, 今天又去一趟。(We have already left.) 再 is used for future actions. For example, 我们不会再看见他。 (We will not see him again.)
The adverbs 不，没有，大概，也许，and 可能 can stand alone as answers to questions.
Prepositions are placed in front of nouns or pronouns to form prepositional phrases expressing the exclusion, comparison, being acted on, mode, cause, object, direction, place, or time of an action. Expressing time, place, and direction include 在、从、向、and 往. Prepositions indicating an object are 跟、对、给、对于、关于、把、and 连. Prepositions expressing a cause include 为、为了、and 由于. Prepositions expressing mode are 按照 and 根据. Prepositions expressing the passive are 被、叫、and 让. Prepositions expressing comparison include 比. Prepositions expressing exclusion include 除 and 除了.
- 他从大陆来。 (He is from the mainland.) 从 is a preposition acting as an adverbial adjunct.
- 这是关于皇帝的故事。 (This is a story about the Emperor.) 关于 is a preposition acting as an attributive.
- 这辆公共汽车开往天安门。 (This bus is going to Tiananmen.) The preposition 往 acts as a complement.
Conjunctions connect two words, phrases, or sentences expressing coordination, cause and effect, circumstances, or conjecture. Conjunctions indicating coordination include 和、跟、同、与、及、并、and 而. Conjunctions indicating cause and effect include 因为、所以、and 因此. Conjunctions indicating circumstances include 只要、只有、and 不管. Conjunctions indicating conjecture include 如果 and 要是. Conjunctions indicating inference include 既然、这样、and 那么. Conjunctions indicating transition include 虽然、但是、可是、and 不过 Conjunctions indicating concession include 即使 and 就是. Conjunctions indicating an alternative include 还是 and 或者. Conjunctions indicating an enumeration include 例如 and 比如. Conjunctions indicating succession include 接着、于是、and 然后. Conjunctions indicating progression include 甚至、至于、and 而且.
- 工人和干部工作都很认真。 (Workers and leader have all been working very dilligently.) The conjunciton 和 is used to connect two nouns.
- 党领导讨论并且通过两个条款。 (Party leaders discussed and passed two clauses.) The conjunction 并且 is used to connect two verbs.
- 你要打排球还是踢足球？ (Would you like to play volley ball or play soccer?) Conjunction 还是 is used to connect two phrases.
- 如果你不能开车，你就坐车。 (If you cannot drive then catch a bus.) The conjunction 如果 is used to connect two sentences.
Some conjunctions are used in matching pairs.
- 我因为很忙，所以明天不去。(Because I am busy, I will not go tomorrow.)
- 现在虽然是冬天，但是不冷。(Even though is is winter at present, it is actually not cold.)
When using 和 to join more than two words or phrases it can be placed before the last word or phrase. The serial comma “、” can be used to represent the conjunction 和. For example, 今天有三个红的、两个白的和一个黑的。
Particles are added to words, phrases, or sentences to express supplementary meaning, grammatical relations, or mood. Particles do not have an independent meaning. Particles are spoken in the neutral tone.
Structural particles are added to words or phrases to express a grammatical relation. The structural particles are 的，地 and 得. The structural particle 的 can only be placed after an attributive modifier. For example, 她的衣服很漂亮。 (Her clothes are beautiful.) 地 can only be placed after an adverbial adjunct. For example, 她刻苦地学习。 (She studies hard.) 得 must be placed after a verb or adjective and before a complement. For example, 她跑得快。(She runs fast.)
Aspectual particles are placed after verbs to indicate a supplementary meaning. The aspectual particles are 了（le），着（zhe）and 过（guo）. However, not all verb can be followed by 着 and 了.
着 incidates that an action is in progress or in a particular state at a certain time or that a particular state continues. For example,
- 她正弹着小提琴。 She is playing the violin. (The action is in progress.)
- 门开着。 The door is open. (The state is continuing.)
- 我们坐着聊天。 We are sitting down chatting. (in a certain state)
When the particle 了 follows a verb it indicates that an action has been completed. For example, 我买了一本书。 'I bought a book' (Sun 2006, loc. 610).
The aspectual particle 过 is placed after a verb to indicate that the action happened in the past. For example, 你去过美国没有？ (Have you ever been to the United States?)
Modal particles are placed at the end of a sentence to express a mood. The modal particles are 吗（ma），呢（ne），吧（ba），了（le），啊（a）.
The modal particle 吗 indicates a question. For example, 机场离饭店远吗？ (Is the airport far from the hotel?)
The modal particle 呢 has the following uses
- 呢 can be placed at the end of an affirmative / negative question to indicate uncertainty. For example, 你买不买书呢
- 呢 can be placed at the tail of a sentence with an interrogative pronoun to indicate conjecture. For example, 这是谁的错误呢？
- 呢 can be used in a question with an alternative to indicate a tone of interrogation. For example, 你学科学还是学文学呢？ (Are you studying science or are you studying arts?)
- 呢 can be appended to a noun or pronoun to ask a one-member question. For example, 现在我们回家，你呢？ (We are going home. And you?)
- 呢 can be used at the end of a declaritive sentence to indicate that an action or condition is still continuing. For example, 别那么快，我还没有决定呢。(Not so fast. I haven't made up my mind yet.)
The modal particle 吧 has the uses listed below.
- 吧 can be used at the end of a declarative sentence to express a proposal, consultation, command, or request. For example, 你在琢磨琢磨吧！ (I suggest you reconsider carefully!)
- 吧 can be used at the end of a statement to indicate agreement. For example, 好吧，我先走。 (Very well then. I will go first.
- 吧 may be used at the end of a declarative sentence to indicate estimation or some uncertainty. For example, 你忘了吧？ (Did you forget?)
The modal particle 啊 has the following uses:
- 啊 may be used at the end of a sentence to indicate exclamation. For example, 孩子多礼貌啊！(This child is so polite!)
- 啊 can be used at the end of a sentence to urge or exhort. For example, 想好啊！ (Think carefully!)
- 啊 can be used at the end of an alternative style question, a affirmative-negative question, or a question with an interrogative pronoun to indicate an interrogative tone. For example, 你是坐车还是打车啊？ (Are you going to catch a bus or [wave down] a taxi?)
The structural particle 了 has the following uses.
- 了 can be used at the end of a sentence to indicate a newly emerged condition. For example, 外边下雨了。 (It has started to rain outside.)
- 了 may be used at the end of a sentence to indicate a reminder, advice, or urging.
The modal particle 吗 can only be used at the end of a declarative sentence to form a question. 你是翻译吗？ (Are you a translator?)
Interjections express an exclamation, a call, or a response. For example, 喂（wèi）、嗯（èn）、啊（à）、哎呀（āiyā）、噢”（ō）、and 哦（ó）. Interjections are most often used at the start of a sentence but do not act as an element of the sentence. For example,
- 喂！你是小王吗？ [Hello. Are you Xiao Wang?] （打电话，表示呼唤）(Making a telephone, expressing a greeting.)
- 嗯！我是小王。 [Yes. I am Xiao Wang.] （表示答应）[Expressing a response]
- 哎呀！我的衣服湿了。 [Oh my! My clothes are wet.] （表示惊讶）(Expressing surprise)
- 啊！美丽的风景。[Ah! What a beautiful scene.] (表示赞叹) (Expressing admiration)
- 唉！我马上就走。 [OK! I will go right away.] （表示答应） (Indicating a response)
- 哦！我错了。 [Oh! My mistake.] （表示领会） (Expressing realization)
- 噢！原来是你。 [Oh! It was you all along.] （表示了解） (Expressing understanding)
An onomatope imitates the sound of a thing or action. Examples:
- 哗哗 （流水声） (The sound of flowing water)
- 扑通 （东西掉水里的声音） (The sound of an object falling into water)
- 乒乓 （枪声，打乒乓球的声音） (The sound of bouncing objects or gunfire)
- 呼呼 （风的声音） (The sound of the wind)
- 轰隆 （雷声，炮声，机器声） (The sound of thunder, machinery, or artillery)
- 叮当 （金属碰撞得声音） (Clink of metal objects)
- 哈哈 （笑声） (The sound of laughter)
Affixes in English include prefixes like 'un' in 'unhappy.' In Chinese prefixes include 第, as in 第一 'first', 第二 'second', etc and 初 as in 初一 'first of the month', 初二 'second of the month'. Suffixes include the plural suffix 们 as in 我们 'us' and 他们 'them'.
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