Mandarin is a group of Chinese dialects that use as standard pronunciation the dialect of Beijing. Also the expected language when "Chinese" is referred to by non-Chinese, as in "I want to learn to speak Chinese."

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Why is 有 (yǒu) the only verb that requires 没 while other verbs can use 不?

To negate something, we use 不 (bù) before the verb, such as in this short dialogue: A: 你是老师吗? = Are you a teacher? B: 不是。 = I'm not. However, the verb 有 (yǒu) is the only one that requires 没 ...
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9answers
10k views

Is it easier to learn Chinese after learning Japanese or vice versa?

For those who speak both Chinese and Japanese, would first learning Chinese make it easier to learn Japanese? Knowing that Japanese Kanji are derived from Chinese characters, how hard is it to do the ...
17
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5answers
953 views

Can native Chinese speakers distinguish tones in songs?

I already have a hard time distinguishing tones in normal speech. This gets significantly worse when I listen to Chinese songs, since the melody masks tones even further. Yes, I understand that ...
17
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6answers
704 views

How polite is too polite?

I've noticed in China that people don't tend to use as many 'polite' words as we do in western languages, like 'please' or 'thank you'. I want to make it clear that I'm not complaining about this; I ...
17
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7answers
1k views

What is a good technique for remembering tones?

I find it a great struggle to try and remember tones for all the new vocab I learn, and aside from gradually picking up tones by listening and talking with native speakers, I can't really remember ...
16
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11answers
26k views

How to describe differences between Cantonese and Mandarin?

When I tell people I speak Cantonese I'm often asked, "What's the difference between that and Mandarin?". This inevitably leads to a very poor explanation that includes references to the differences ...
13
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7answers
645 views

How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?

Since there are many characters that share a common pronunciation and sometimes also the same tone, how do we properly choose which character best represents our name? Is it totally arbitrary or are ...
13
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4answers
179 views

The question about “很好”

I've read that when asked the simple question 你好吗? ("how are you?"), answering 我很好 is the standard form, while 我好 is simply not used. 很 means "very", but 我很好 is simply translated as "I'm fine." and ...
12
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4answers
220 views

Is this an exception in the use of 的?

I know that, when expressing possessives, we add 的 to the usual personal pronouns, such as 我的. However, in a question in my grammar textbook I saw: 你爸爸忙吗? = Is your father busy? Why not ...
12
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2answers
346 views

Tense and use of 了

I struggle a bit to get my head around tense 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?
11
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5answers
305 views

How do we know what characters correspond to Chinese names?

Recently I've asked "How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?", and now, I'm facing a similar, yet kind of different problem, which I think applies to any westerner or Chinese ...
11
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2answers
3k views

What is the exact meaning of 吃豆腐, and where does the expression come from?

I'm not talking about eating tofu, but the expression that means something more like taking advantage of someone. What exactly does 吃豆腐 mean, and where does this expression come from?
11
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3answers
673 views

What is the difference between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前)?

I'd like to have some way to differentiate between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前), in order to help with memorising them both. Referring to Modern Mandarin Grammar (Claudia Ross, Routledge 2006), it ...
10
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6answers
328 views

Do all schools in China teach in Standard Chinese (普通话)?

When I went to China, it was apparent that many (sometimes most) people still spoke their local dialects instead of Standard Chinese/Putonghua (also known as "Mandarin" in English). I was told that ...
10
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5answers
1k views

Is there a rule of thumb for distinguishing male and female names in Chinese?

I often get tripped up when reading names of Chinese people, and trying to work out if they are male or female. Is there a good rule of thumb to follow to determine which is which?
10
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3answers
251 views

What is the meaning of 当仁不让?

I was browsing the Chinese internet looking for a bank that supports Mac OS when I came across this site. They list a range of different banks under a range of different headings, the first of which ...
10
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3answers
317 views

How does foreign word transliteration work in the context of Cantonese vs Mandarin?

If I understand correctly, Cantonese sounds very different from Mandarin, despite being written in the same way (omitting some small differences, which are irrelevant for the question). If it is the ...
9
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5answers
218 views

Why isn't 到 (dào) used in this sentence?

Earlier while chatting, I wrote a sentence and a native speaker told me it was correct. The sentence was: 某天我去北京。= Someday I'll go to Beijing. (mǒu tiān wǒ qù Běi jīng) I noticed that no ...
9
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4answers
620 views

How to pronounce “下载”

How to pronounce the word "下载", "xià zǎi" or "xià zài"? Most Chinese people pronounce it "xià zǎi", but there are some people insist on pronouncing it "xià zài". There are different also different ...
9
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3answers
267 views

When do the tones change?

Sometimes, in certain combinations of tones or words, the tones change. Where can I find a complete list of all tone changes that occur in Mandarin?
9
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3answers
352 views

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常?

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常? I hear them a lot in conversational Chinese, but I can't pick out the difference in meaning. The dictionaries I've checked don't seem to agree on their ...
8
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4answers
392 views

Why are 成语 (idioms) four characters long? Are there 成语 with more or less than four characters?

I really enjoying learning 成语 (chéng yǔ) in Chinese, and I'm curious to know why they are often or always four characters long? Where does this tradition stem from? And are there 成语 with more or ...
8
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5answers
446 views

Translation for “sorry” as in “I am sorry to hear that”?

In English we can say "sorry" as an abbreviation for "I am sorry to hear that"/"I feel sorry for you" to express sympathy. Is there a Chinese word or phrase that bears the same meaning? I know one ...
8
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3answers
500 views

How is adding oil going to beneficial to the situation? 加油

Is anyone able to explain the history behind this cheer? At the face of it I'm unsure how this could be a cheer as 加 translate to add/plus/apply and 油 translates to oil/fat/grease you would think ...
8
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3answers
284 views

What is the equivalent of the English word 'Fail' in Mandarin?

Fail is a pretty popular term on the internet these days, and one I'm quite fond of. Looking in my Chinese dictionary I can't find a great equivalent - is there a good way to say this? What would be ...
8
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2answers
2k views

Various ways to say “nice to meet you”

When I first started learning Chinese I knew the in order to say "Nice to meet you" or "Pleased to meet you", I had to use the following expression: 很高兴见到您。 But recently I've come across other ...
8
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4answers
333 views

Confusion about bian 邊 and miàn 面

I'm having a little trouble with learning directions and positions. It seems that most often the word bian is being used to indicate a position: front side 前邊, back side 後邊, etc. But then I see stuff ...
8
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2answers
136 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 ...
7
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3answers
185 views

Asking “what's the pinyin/character for X?”

How do we ask someone to "translate" a character or some pinyin into the other one? The expressions I'm referring to are: What's the pinyin for this/that (character)/... ? What's the ...
7
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4answers
200 views

What's the difference between 遇到 and 碰到?

Both 遇到 and 碰到 can be translated to "come across/run into" in those sentences: 遇到大学同学了。 碰到大学同学了。 What's the difference between 遇到 and 碰到?
7
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2answers
616 views

What font size for reading simplified characters on screen?

I realize this sounds like a very subjective question, so I will try to ask it very carefully: I'm learning to speak, read, and write Mandarin. A lot of times (particularly on the web or in e-mail) I ...
7
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4answers
245 views

When is the spelling and the pronunciation different?

I noticed that sometimes certain finals in Chinese sound differently when combined with different initials. For e.g., what is spelled "u" sometimes is pronounced "ü". Other times, I think the final ...
7
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2answers
233 views

Why does 有机 as in 有机食品 mean organic?

有 and 机 are some of the first characters we learn in Chinese, but I only recently found out that they mean "organic" when put together. Can anyone explain why this is?
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6answers
2k views

Which website/service can give good example sentences in Chinese? [closed]

Often when learning new words, I want to see them in context. It helps my learning process, and understanding how to properly use new vocab makes it stick in my mind that much more. Does anyone have ...
7
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3answers
428 views

Anyone know why cellphones are called 大哥大 in Taiwan?

I was looking at Singapore Mandarin from the question here on Hong Kong Mandarin and came across the word for cellphone. I know it's popular now to refer to cellphones as 手机 but I remember in Taiwan ...
7
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1answer
213 views

吗 and 吧 at the end of a question

I heard that ba (吧) can be used at the end of a sentence just like ma (吗). Per my understanding, it's not interchangeable with ma (吗) but a more playful way of asking the same question. (Some girl ...
7
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3answers
300 views

了解 vs 明白 vs 知道 - what is the difference, and when should I use each one?

了解, 明白, and 知道 seem to be fairly synonymous in Mandarin, but there does seem to be some subtle differences between them. What exactly is the difference? When should I use each one? Could you give me ...
7
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6answers
999 views

What software can correct pronunciation?

What software is available which can record my voice and warn me about problems with my pronunciation and tones?
7
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1answer
173 views

Is there a tone sandhi rule that “4 3” changes to “4 0”?

This is a followup to my earlier question about the tones in the word "豆腐": On their own "豆" and "腐" have the tones 4 and 3: dòu, fǔ As a two-syllable / two-character word, "豆腐" has tone 4 but "fu" ...
7
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2answers
207 views

Are there Chinese approximations for the colloquial/slang English terms “snot rocket” or “bushman's blow”?

In English I know of two colourful terms for blowing your nose without use of a handkerchief or tissue by holding one nostril closed and expelling mucus from the other: bushman's blow [1][2] snot ...
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2answers
259 views

Academic explanation for rhyming fillers with irrelevant meaning in doggerel

在打油诗、顺口溜、儿歌里经常有纯粹是为了押韵或节拍而插入的和文意无关的词汇。在北方话、传统北京/天津评书相声里尤甚。我想知道在语言学专业里这种情况是怎么解释的,有没有术语或相关资料。 例如北京顺口溜: 嗝屁着凉大海棠,脚不丫子蘸白糖。 里“大海棠”完全是为押韵,无意义;蘸白糖虽然略有意义,但选词十分随机,更多是为了一种插科打诨的效果。 Brief translation: ...
6
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4answers
392 views

Origin of beautiful kingdom and hero kingdom

Why in Mandarin chinese, USA is beautiful kingdom and England is hero kingdom?
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3answers
230 views

“Actually” as a sentence-starter of speech filler

When casually speaking English I use the word "actually" a lot when beginning of a sentance, or as part of the flow of my speech. e.g. Actually, next semester doesn't start for a month. ...
6
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5answers
3k views

Tips for pronouncing X vs SH in Mandarin?

I'd like to think my Mandarin pronunciation is generally pretty reasonable, but I often get tripped up with X and SH - for example words like 雪 and 水, or 虾 and 莎. Even with different tones, I find ...
6
votes
1answer
167 views

Meaning of 这么多好吃

I want to get the correct meaning of this sentence: 我恨不得一下子把这么多好吃的都吃完。 I understand this sentence as "I wish to eat up all those delicious things, all at once". I don't fully understand the ...
6
votes
2answers
350 views

我(也)很好 and tone sandhi

What are the (resultant) tones in those sentences, where all the words in isolation have 3rd tone? 我很好。 我也很好。 Reading tone shandhi rules on Wikipedia, there is no explanation about tree or ...
6
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2answers
423 views

Are these two form of “I live in…” both correct?

When studying I came across a useful expression to say "I live in..." which is "...在...住" such as in this sentence: 我在意大利住。= I live in Italy. Wǒ zài Yìdàlì zhù. But then I saw a different one ...
6
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4answers
237 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 ...
6
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1answer
171 views

9 Questions from the movie Red Sorghum (红高粱)

My friend bought me a set of four Zhang Yi Mou movies. I watched Red Sorghum (红高粱) today, and there were a few sentences which, after looking up the meanings, I still couldn't quite understand. I'll ...
5
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7answers
328 views

Correct/Polite way of asking “Can we speak in chinese?”

I would like to preface this by saying I'm Australian and speak with an Australian accent when I'm speaking English which can be hard to digest for a lot of people new to Australia. A lot of 1st gen ...