Posts Tagged ‘Chinese grammar’

又 [you4] is usually used as an adverb or a conjunction in sentences. This article will introduce some  of the core usages of 又. Generally speaking, 又 means “again”, “and” and “but”. The meanings (and usage) will vary accordingly with different scenarios. 

1. In the sense of “again”, 又 can indicate disapproval or negative feeling. For instance:

今天又有考试。(There is another exam today).

明天又要下雨。(It’s going to rain again tomorrow)

昨天他又迟到。(He was late again yesterday)

All the above examples express the that actions or events (考试,下雨,迟到)have happened again, and can also convey that the instances have been ongoing for some time. 

2. In the sense of “and”, 又 usually connects two similar conditions or qualities. These qualities may be both positive or both negative (i.e.: utilising 不 + ADJECTIVE) For example:

他又高又帅。 (He is both tall and handsome).

这个房子又漂亮又干净 (This house is both beautiful and clean).

运动完后,我又不累又不饿 (Following exercise, I am neither tired nor hungry).

3. In the sense of “but”, this usage is normally is used in colloquial conversation. It is, for the student studying Chinese, very complicated to grasp.

Different from the two previous usages, this time 又 conjuncts two opposite decisions, feelings or conditions. In this sense, 又 leads to some comparisons of contrasting situations. For instance:

我之前想去游泳,现在又不想去了 (Before I wanted to go swimming, but now I don’t want to).

你刚才不是说要吃鱼吗? 现在又要吃鸡肉了?(Didn’t you just say you wanted to eat fish, but now you want to eat chicken?)

他刚和他女朋友分手,现在又有新女朋友。(He just broke up with his girlfriend, but now he has a new one).

 Good luck!

Jing and Michael


In Chinese there are several different forms of adjectives.

The forms can be divided into four types: AA, ABB, ABAB and AABB.  AA form is 高高的 [gao1 gao1 de] (tall); ABB form is 亮晶晶 [liang4 jing1 jing1] (shining); ABAB form is 雪白雪白 [xue3 bai2 xue3 bai2] (snow-white); an AABB form is 高高兴兴 [gao1 gao1 xing4 xing4] (happy).

This article will only highlight the AA form adjectives. When we use AA form adjectives, the degree of the adjective will be relatively increased or the description which is presented by this adjective will be more impressive.

As a result, we don’t need any other degree adverbs to modify the adjective again. For example: 高[gao1] (tall) can be modified by the adverb 非常 [fei1 chang2] (very), to make 非常高 which means very tall. However, the AA form 高高的 cannot be modified with 非常, 非常高高的 is wrong.

When AA form is an adjective which represents the situation of objects, the AA form will express a feeling of loving approval. For example: 她大大的眼睛很漂亮. (Her big eyes are very pretty).

The most important thing is not all single adjectives can be extended into AA form.

One example is 对的, which cannot be extended into 对对的 because there an absolute benchmark for what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’.

Michael and Jing

Can Sparky the Dog (right) eat all those hotdogs?In Chinese, there are three words for can: 可以 and .  Which one do we use to describe Sparky’s challenge?  Read on to find out…

In Chinese 会(huì) and 能(néng) both have the meaning of be able to/can do something and indicate possibilities. However, there are several differences between them.

In the sense of “can and be able to”, 会 indicates that people have gained the ability via learning. Sometimes 会 is more frequently used in the ability in terms of intelligence and physical vigour. For example:

她会说汉语 (She can speak Chinese)

他会游泳 (He can swim)

能 refers to inherent physical abilities: 她有眼睛,她能看(She has eyes so she is able to look at things)

In the sentence: 他能去电影院吗?(Is he able to go to the cinema?) there is a connotation of physical ability. That is to say, you are asking whether he is physically able (i.e.: healthy enough) to go there.  So, there could be some context or circumstance of sickness warranting the use of 能.

能 may also focus on people’s capacity and skill which has reached a certain degree. That is to say, if the ability is presented by concrete figures, 能 is more often used in this situation. For instance:

他一天能吃5个苹果 (He can eat five apples every day)

In the sense of “indicate possibility”, 会 has a subjective tendency, such as the phrase 我会想你的 (I will miss you). It indicates the action will definitely happen according to the subject’s perspective.

Compared with 会, 能 has a more objective trend and focuses on objective conditions (generally: time, climate, weather, and non-subjective actions). For example:

 时间还早,我能走路回家 (It is still very early, I can walk back)

Have a great weekend!

Michael and Jing 

The aspect particle 了 is used to show that an action has been completed.  What does “aspect particle” mean?  As Chinese verbs aren’t conjugated like English verbs are (EX.: run -> running -> ran), they require the insertion of particles to show the status of the verb.  For instance,

我买东西 (I’m going to buy some things)

我买东西     or     我买东西 (I’ve bought some things)

The difference, therefore, is the insertion of 了 to show the completion of the action (in the aforementioned case, the purchase).

Because 了 is an aspect particle, it shouldn’t be considered as the Chinese equivalent of “past tense”.  It should be known as the “completed action” particle.

Remember that Chinese is a highly contextual language.  If it is clear that the event, or series of events, took place in the past, then you can omit 了. 

Further, if the sentence contains a time word, then 了 is generally unnecessary, unless required to emphasise to the speaker that the action is complete.  EX.: 昨天晚上我做作业了. (Yesterday afternoon, I (totally) completed my homework).

The placement of 了 frequently causes confusion for foreign students.  Essentially, it can come immediately after the verb or after the verb-object construct.  For example, the sentences below both mean: I went to the Bank of China.



However, I have observed that了 is commonly placed directly after the verb when there is an extended verb-object construct.  An “extended verb-object construct” typically contains a verb + modifying phrase + object.  To illustrate,

他卖很多纪念品 (He sold many souvenirs)

她吃一点食物 (She ate a few pieces of food)

我借你的借书证 (I borrowed your library card)

More advanced students will note that 把字句 can be used here to show the transformation of an object, or a change to its state.  Where the object is unaffected by the action (Ex.: looking at your watch), 把字句 cannot be used, and 了 must be utilised instead.

We hope this clarifies the use of 了.  Feel free to use the sandbox to practice your sentences.

Michael and Jing

弄[long4]  can be used as a noun which means: a lane, an alley, or an alleyway. For example ,这是一条小弄子( This is a small alley) .

However this character is often used in oral Chinese as a verb.  It can be used in the sense of: to get something; to do something; to make or to handle something.

弄 can therefore be instead of verbs such as : 做[zuo4](to make), 办[ban4](to do), 拿[na2](to grab), 取[qu3](to get). Compared to 做, 办, 拿 and 取, the verb 弄 is very informal and more colloquial.
Pay attention: when 弄 is used as a verb the pronunciation is [nong4].

Here are several examples when it is used as a verb:

今天该你饭了。/ 今天该你做饭了。 ( Today is your turn to make /cook a meal)
你去帮我点水果。/ 你去帮我拿点水果。(Help me to grab some fruit)
你把书坏了 (You broke the book) ** Here 弄 can be used instead of any actions which broke the book such as tear or throw
你可以把这件事好。/ 你可以把这件事做好。 (You can do this thing well)
我的车坏了,你帮我弄弄。/ 我的车坏了,你帮我修修。(My car doesn’t work, help me repair it)

Michael and Jing

In Chinese, the particle  一边 is used to show that two actions are occurring simultaneously.  For instance 咱们一边喝果汁, 一边聊天 (As we drink fruit juice, we chat). 

The consequent structure is [subject] +[optative verb] + [一边] + [predicate],  [一边] +[predicate].  The subject can be omitted if well-known to the speakers.

Further examples include:

我一边用QQ,一边吃些点心 (As I’m using QQ, I eat some snacks) **  For the uninitiated, QQ is a Chinese social networking website.  

她一边坐地铁,一边看报 (As she rides the subway, she reads the newspaper)

他不可以一边写英文的文章,一边练习汉子 (He can’t write an essay in English while practicing Chinese characters)

However, there exists another, more colloquial way to express simultaneous actions. 

北方人到茶馆去的时候,他们喝茶听戏。(When Northern Chinese go to a tea house, they drink tea while listening to a performance)

Here, 他们喝茶听戏 the verb-oject combinations follow each other.  However, this does create some ambiguity, as it could be interpreted that, Northern Chinese drink tea before listening to a performance.

As such, the use of 一边, although a tad formal, specifically expresses the nature of simultaneous actions.

Michael and Jing

Before we begin, a special thanks needs to go out to Mao Yueyan and Li Xiaojiao, who both provided valuable assistance with this article.

Both 向 and 往 are prepositions which have the general meaning of ‘toward’. 

However, their usage and application(s) are quite different.

Phrases which utilise the preposition 往 must express “concrete” directions.  “Concrete” directions include:

Countries (Ex.: 往美国寄)

Directions such as “north, south, east and west”  (Ex.: 往东边看)

Directions such as “left, right, in front, behind, inside, outside” (Ex.: 往里走)

Locations such as “the Great Wall, your apartment, the hospital” (Ex.: 往杭州飞)


往 subsequently takes on the meaning of  “(to go) toward”

向 means “toward” or “to”.  It is often used to indicate movement toward people or objects.  向 can take “concrete” directions and it can take abstract directions.  Take the phrase 走向成功 (towards success) as an example.  It is not possible to use 往 to convey this particular phrase.

A further difference between 往 and 向 is that 向 allows the “target” of a specific action to be indicated.  她向送别的人挥手告别 (She waved towards the people who saw her off).  In this sentence, 向 shows the direction of the action with respect to the recipient (the people who saw her off). 

A simpler example is: 向她介绍一下 (introduce to her) where  向 shows the direction of the action (the introduction) with respect to the intended recipient (her).

The distinction may seem like a mind headache, but it can be summarised like this: 往 = (to go) towards a place/direction, 向 = towards a person/object/abstract notion.

Michael and Jing (thanks again to Yueyan and Xiaojiao)