Questions about the rules that govern and structure the language, and the composition of clauses, sentences and expressions.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

24
votes
10answers
3k views

的-地-得, when do you use which?

So the age old question of 的-地-得, when do you use which? When spoken, it all sounds the same, but on paper it depends on if it's a verb, noun, adjective. But I don't quite remember if that is all that ...
14
votes
4answers
376 views

How do I decide whether to use 可以, 会 or 能?

According to every dictionary I've seen so far, there is a big overlap in these: 可以 = can, may, be able to 会  = can, be able to, able 能  = can, may, able, capable How do I properly choose which ...
14
votes
2answers
550 views

How do I decide whether to use 還是/还是 or 或者

還是/还是 (háishì) and 或者 (huòzhě) seem to have very similar meanings: 還是/还是: or; still; nevertheless 或者: or; possibly; maybe When I want to say 'or', how to I choose which to use, and are ...
14
votes
2answers
408 views

Tense and use of 了

I struggle a bit to get my head around tenses in Mandarin, and in particular when I need to use 了 (le). Do you have any tips, examples or resources to help me out with this?
14
votes
1answer
280 views

What is the difference in use between 以及, 和 and 与?

I have a book with the following lesson titles: 中文以及中国 聚会和饮食 交通与环境 Why are these terms connected with 以及 / 和 / 与, why not always use 和 for example? Are there any rules for proper use of these ...
11
votes
5answers
353 views

Learning how to use measure / count words properly

Chinese has measure (or count) words like “个” (一个人), “部” (三部车), etc. These always get me confused, and there way too many of them. Are there any general rules that can help me memorize them? Also, ...
11
votes
2answers
900 views

Does an Alarm clock 吵醒 or 叫醒?

I'm trying to figure out whether an alarm clock 吵醒我, or 叫醒我。 I'd like to say the sentence my alarm clock woke me up at 5:30 today my translation so far is 今天早上五点半, 我手机的闹钟叫醒了我。 Can 叫醒 be done by ...
10
votes
3answers
256 views

Use of 十年中 to express duration

Does 十年中 mean "in ten years"? I found it in this sentence from tatoeba.org: 他十年中第一次回家。 He returned home for the first time in ten years. It seems like I could use the same pattern to say, ...
10
votes
2answers
300 views

Where should I place the comma in large numbers?

If writing for an exclusively Chinese audience, would the number 五萬 be written as 5,0000 or 50,000? To flesh out the question, we could consider: 五千 5000 or 5,000 五萬 5,0000 or 50,000 ...
10
votes
6answers
473 views

What is the difference in use between 完 and 了?

If I understood correctly, both 完 and 了 can be used to indicate a completed action, so what is the difference in use? How do we properly use 完 in a sentence? Which contexts would be valid?
10
votes
3answers
383 views

Why is 我很要… an invalid statment

Why is it that to say I very much or really want something I have to say 我很想要... and not just 我很要... So if I wanted a cup of coffee I would say 我要一杯咖啡 But if I want to say I really want coffee ...
10
votes
3answers
726 views

Why do Chinese translations of English names sound very inaccurate?

I have noticed that most Chinese translation of English names sounds really inaccurate and weird. For example, the common translation of person's name "Robert Wilson" is "罗伯特·威尔逊", which is not ...
10
votes
5answers
371 views

Difference between 如果 and 要是?

In the Pimsleur Mandarin course it uses 如果 (rúguǒ) to mean 'if', but the dictionary shows 要是 (yàoshì) to have a similar meaning: 如果: if; in case; in the event that 要是: if Are there any ...
10
votes
4answers
589 views

How is 就 (jiù) used?

Pimsleur's Mandarin course teaches "I'm leaving very early tomorrow morning" as: 我明天早上很早就走 (wŏ míngtiān zăoshàng hĕn zăo jiù zŏu) It says that 就 (jiù) doesn't have a corresponding meaning in ...
10
votes
2answers
234 views

Why is it possible to replace 都 with 也 in 什么都没有?

I know 也 only as "also", but I see it now and then used in ways difficult to understand, especially in some negative statements. Why is this so? Does 也 also have some meaning not mentioned in ...
9
votes
6answers
504 views

被 (bèi) vs. 叫 (jiào) vs. 让 (ràng): regional difference? formality difference?

I know that with a 被 (bèi) sentence, you are allowed omit the object: S + 被 + (O) + Other elements, e.g. 河里的鱼都被毒死了 (Hé lǐ de yú dōu bèi dú sǐ le) whereas, when using 叫 (jiào) or 让 (ràng,) the object ...
9
votes
3answers
198 views

What grammar makes 同 品 項 第 2 仵 6折 mean “Buy one, get the second at 60% of base price”?

So in the convenience store, there were bottles of iced coffee with the slogan: 同 品 項 第 2 仵 6折 I was told that this meant: "Buy the first item, get the second item at 60% of base price." I was ...
9
votes
2answers
454 views

Using 的 at the end of a sentence

I'm looking for confirmation of the way I'm parsing a sentence with 的 at the end, and I'd appreciate some background or other examples of this usage. I found this sentence on tatoeba.org: ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

What software can detect the parts of speech of written text?

What software or online tools can detect the parts of speech in a piece of written text (e.g. to predict if a word is a verb, adjective, etc.)?
9
votes
2answers
314 views

Measure Words and their English Analogue

I was taught that the closest analogue in English of Chinese measure words are 'units', e.g. "a pile of wood", "a cup of water", etc. What strikes me as a bit odd about this analogy is that the units ...
9
votes
2answers
150 views

Using 一样 instead of 同一 for “the same school”

In my study software, I recently had the following sentence: 我想我们会上一样的学校. The context (a girl speaking to another girl who had just moved into the neighborhood) made it seem like the correct ...
8
votes
8answers
951 views

Difference between 是不是喝酒了? and 喝酒了没有?

What is the difference between 是不是吃了蛋糕? and 吃蛋糕了没有? or 是不是喝酒了? and 喝酒了没有?
8
votes
7answers
297 views

Is 了 optional when a time word is present?

In sentences that already have a point in time word that indicates that the event happened in the past, is 了 optional? Or could there be some additional meaning with it present? For instance: ...
8
votes
5answers
238 views

Are there sentences where 跟 and 和 are interchangeable?

For example: 我跟朋友去公园了。 我和朋友去公园了。 Are both of these sentences correct? Are there any subtle differences in the meaning conveyed? If they are not entirely interchangeable, how do we know which one ...
8
votes
3answers
601 views

Why does the construction of 要是…的话 mean “if”?

I know other words like 如果 also mean "if", but why would 要是...的话 mean "if"? An example sentence: 要是你喜欢汉语(的话),你该听中国的音乐。 If you like Chinese, you should listen to Chinese music.
8
votes
3answers
263 views

When do I use 着 to indicate action in progress?

It seems like for some verbs (正)在 is used to indicate action in progress, but I have also encountered 着 for some, like 穿着. When should it be used, is there a rule to follow?
8
votes
9answers
401 views

What's the correct translation for 1.5 months? Is it “一个月半” or "一个半月“?

What's the correct translation for 1.5 months? Is it "一个月半" or "一个半月“?
8
votes
3answers
169 views

How to properly use 掉?

I am referring to the usage as defined on zdic.net 用在动词后表示动作完成:改~。戒~ Does 掉 often have the connotation of falling or missing? What is the difference between (verb)掉 and (verb)了 and(verb)掉了? ...
8
votes
3answers
139 views

Are 平常 and 通常 essentially interchangeable?

In a few of my entries on Lang-8.com, several of my Chinese friends have changed 平常 into 通常 and vice versa without providing additional explanation. It it just a matter of personal taste?
8
votes
1answer
359 views

V + 到。。。。头上来: Exact meaning and how to use?

I know that the abovementioned formula expresses a negative result, but I am not exactly sure how to translate it. Some questions: 1 How to translate it well into English? 2 Can I use it ...
7
votes
5answers
682 views

Usage of 一定 vs 当然

I recently had a homework assignment to select the correct answer 我学了10年汉语了,含有水平 。。。 很高 I chose 一定,but the correct answer turned out to be 当然 Was my answer incorrect, why? How do these two ...
7
votes
3answers
320 views

What is the difference between 一只狗 and 一条狗?

I've been told by native speakers that the former refers to little dogs while the latter is for bigger dogs. I also have been told that the latter has a negative connotation. I'm wondering: how ...
7
votes
3answers
177 views

我一字一字地学习汉语 OR 我一个字一个字地学习汉语

Which is the correct use of this grammar pattern? 我一字一字地学习汉语。 我一个字一个字地学习汉语。 The first one feels correct to me. The pattern is: 一{MW,N}一{MW,N} + 地 + V
7
votes
4answers
140 views

Using 都 when refering to both subject and objects

I saw this in a lesson: 你都会去吗? In this context, 都 refers to islands, as in "Will you go to all of them [the islands]?" But, when I hear that my brain thinks 都 refers to the subject, as in "Will all ...
7
votes
5answers
223 views

When can 把 be used?

I know it switches the order of the verb and object and can be used to place emphasis on the object. 我把东西放在椅子上 And 把 should be used to indicate some kind of change is happening to the object. In ...
7
votes
4answers
250 views

How to add emphasis to sentences

Last week a kid wrote on the office white board "Give me all your cheese now!" and I attempted a translation into Chinese (mostly to practice my handwriting). I wrote 马上给我你的奶酪。 I felt like this ...
7
votes
2answers
209 views

Is the measure word optional in 这件毛衣?

I've heard the sentence 这毛衣, (so without measure word), but my chinese manual always use a measure word after 这: 这件毛衣 这件苹果 Is the measure word optionnal in after 这 ?
7
votes
2answers
160 views

漏拆 - Meaning & usage?

I tried several sources & can't find a translation that seems correct. An example sentence & my attempt at translation: 嘴里漏拆了一根线怎么办? mouth inside left behind remove a strip of thread what ...
6
votes
5answers
474 views

What is that use of 得?

I have read the sentence: 你还记得我吗? But I can’t understand the meaning of 得, here. I don’t think it belongs to the rules explained here
6
votes
4answers
325 views

该 - How do you know when to use it? Nothing to do with 应该

In the sentence below, why do you need 该公司? Chinese is contextual, right? 公司 talked about previously is 苹果. Instead of 该公司, why not use 它? Or 这个公司? 也有一些分析师和投资者为苹果辩护,他们说,该公司 完全清楚自己在做什么,设定的价格也符合 该公司 ...
6
votes
6answers
864 views

Is it correct to say “在手机”?

Would it be correct to use the phrase "在手机”/“在手机上”, etc to express that I am doing something on my phone? For example, could I say “我听音乐在我的手机上。”? Or can 在 only be used for my actual physical location? ...
6
votes
5answers
600 views

Could you explain the structure of this sentence?

The sentence 我吃饭的时候看了一本书。 apparently has two verbs (吃 and 看), but I can’t see how the two actions are correlated. Could anyone explain that?
6
votes
4answers
166 views

How to indicate plurality/singularity

I'm aware that basic Chinese grammar tends to lack distinction between the plural and singular forms of many nouns. For example, 我的朋友是中国人 could either mean "my friend is Chinese" (singular) or "my ...
6
votes
3answers
365 views

Using 比 (bǐ) for comparison

I know how to use 比 in simple sentences like 哥哥比姐姐高 (my big brother is taller than my big sister) Would it be used for other sentences like You learn more words by listening than by ...
6
votes
3answers
260 views

份, 个, 本, 两: How do they function in these sentences?

I've been working with Rosetta Stone for about 2 weeks now, and due to the immersion (from the start, the entire program is entirely Chinese—no English anywhere), they don't do any explaining of ...
6
votes
3answers
162 views

Position of 面熟 in this sentence

In my textbook I found this sentence: 常常看着一个人面熟却叫不出名字来。 If 面熟 is an adjective, why is it used after 人 (to indicate a "familiar-looking person")? Can 一个人面熟 be rewritten to 一个面熟人 without ...
6
votes
2answers
92 views

What is the proper word order when a sentence contains an adverb using 地 and a coverb phrase?

Can anyone provide some guidance on word order of a sentence if it has an adverb using 地 and coverb phrases. I thought 地 always came directly in front of the verb, but then I saw this site: ...
6
votes
2answers
192 views

Never understood the usage of 弄

I never understood the usage of 弄 for example in this sentence 婶婶找来几片叶子,给雪弄了一双耳环 why is there a 弄了? The sentence makes sense without it.
6
votes
1answer
360 views

What's the grammatical structure for “<subject> <verbs> like a <noun>” style simile in Chinese

I am fond of the simile structure "I eat like a wolf" or "The light flickered like a candle" in English. I never know how to express these thoughts in Chinese though, even if I know the underlying ...
6
votes
2answers
242 views

Questions on “的话”

What is the etymology behind "的话" in the common construct 如果...的话 or 要是...的话? In addition to wondering about it's meaning, what exactly is the 的 doing? Is it modifying the 如果? Is it modifying the ...