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Mandarin Chinese Question Formats

Learning how to ask questions in a new language is as important as learning basic survival sentences--maybe more important.

By that I mean, what good is learning, "One beer, please, bartender," if you can't ask before that, "Excuse me, where can I get a beer?"

Using the particle (ma) is not the only way to create a question. Two other common formats involve interrogatives (who, what, where, why, when, and how) and the "verb-not-verb" construction.

Interrogatives

Following are examples of some common interrogatives.

common Chinese question formats

The "Verb-not-Verb" Construction

In this format, a verb is followed by (b) or (mi)--which mean no, not, or don't--and then the verb is repeated. These examples will show you how the construction works.

Chinese verb-not-verb question format
NOTE
Here's come those tone shifts again. Normally, Chinese bu (b) is pronounced in the fourth tone, but before another instance of the fourth tone, it shifts to the second. In the "Do you want to watch a movie?" example above, it would be pronounced like "yo b yo."

Be aware too that in some cases, chinese you (yŏu) is better translated as "are." Other times, "are" will be better translated as Chinese shi (sh).

I'll let your Chinese teachers explain the difference to you. I don't want to do all their work for them.

G'day, Eh?

When is added as a tag to the end of an already completed sentence, it functions much as the English "right?" or "isn't it?" - and perhaps the Canadian "eh?" Seriously. I'm not joking.... All right, all right, maybe it's just a little joke.

  can be tagged to a sentence which contains any other verb in the main clause.

Chinese shi-bu-shi

LET'S NOT GET TOO CARRIED AWAY NOW
Well, we'd better stop here before this becomes more than just a brief look at grammar, even though there are many other interesting lessons on Chinese we haven't covered yet. These should be enough to get you started, though. If you're looking for more FREE Chinese learning resources, be sure to check this site's growing list of recommended sites.

Have a great time learning Chinese, and thanks for visiting The Chinese Outpost!


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