I already learned that Chinese wh- questions don't require a 吗 particle but I got stuck on this sentence: 你要买点儿什么?

Which does the sentence mean, "what will you buy?" or "will you buy something/anything?"

The 点儿 confuses me a bit. That's why I'm not sure if the question 你要买点儿什么? is asking whether or not to buy or what to buy.

Also if I add a 吗 to the end of the sentence, thus 你要买点儿什么吗?, what will it mean?

Thanks for your help in advance!

5 Answers 5


Yes, with or without could be different.

你要买点儿什么? -> What would you buy?

你要买点儿什么吗? -> Would you buy anything?

点儿 doesn't change the basic meaning here. It just means a bit/a little, and makes the mood soft.

  • But what is the syntactic relation between 点儿 and the rest of the sentence? In English, we don't say "a little what would you like to buy?", but we do say "a little something". It seems 点儿 functions likewise as a determiner of an indefinite pronoun. This is to be contrasted with softening through 一下 (in other contexts), which I would parse as an adverbial.
    – Papa Smurf
    Feb 2, 2023 at 13:32

Basic grammar. It means ”What would you like to have?”

You cannot add an interrogative 吗 at the end, since 什么 (what?) is already interrogative. The same applies to 还是, as in 你想买苹果还是香蕉?, and some other constructs.

点儿 is used as an emphasis, it carries no relevant information. You might as well say 要买什么? in the most minimalistic form. 你要买点儿什么? makes it more polite.

  • Thanks! Your answer is different from Alex's below... I know I don't have to redundantly add a 吗 if I already said an interrogative word, 什么 in this case. But what I still want to know is if I can say a 什么+吗 question like "您要喝点儿什么吗?". If so, does the 什么 mean 'something', not 'what', and the sentence "Would you like something to drink?" Also whether I can say 您要买点儿什么吗? for the meaning of "Would you like to get/buy something?"
    – Jin
    Dec 12, 2015 at 18:27
  • You can't combine 什么 with 吗. 什么 here means ”what”. ”Would you like to get/buy something?” is what 你要买点儿什么? means… although there are many ways to formulate it. If you will, you can regard 点 as ”something”. Try not to find word-for-word equivalents, but instead try to get the gist of standard phrases.
    – user4452
    Dec 12, 2015 at 19:39
  • regarding "more polite" see comments for previous question, Is it 一些东西 or 一点东西?: (一)点儿"在祈使句或者在"想"、"要"等能原动词后,可以起缓和语气的作用,使说话更客气。例如:2你喝点儿什么?3我饿了,想吃点儿什么,你有吃的吗?"
    – user6065
    Dec 12, 2015 at 22:37

你要买点儿什么?——>What do you want (to buy) ?

你要买点儿什么吗?——>Do you want (to buy) sth.?

And a seller usually use the 1st statement because they want to let you believe that you have decided to buy sth. ,just don't know what to buy,so they can sell more goods per day.


点 and 儿 are separate words. The first one means 'something' and the 2nd one is just a commonly attached word that helps the pronunciation, pronounced as 'er'. The two combined is asking "do you want to buy anything". 吗 refers to the questioning tone, in which it is pronounced as 'ma'. It is totally ok for you not to add it to your sentence.

  • Thanks for your answer but I'd like to make sure once again. Do you mean that 你要买点儿什么? is a kind of yes-no question(if we insist on classifying the sentence) and not really asking what to buy even though 什么 is used? And if we take out the 点儿, does the meaning (of 你要买什么?) turn into "WHAT do you want to buy?"
    – Jin
    Dec 12, 2015 at 16:14
  • it will be the same if you take out the 点儿. It is what do you want to buy.
    – BearAqua
    Dec 14, 2015 at 2:04

You can combine 什么 and 吗. But as others stated, 你要买点什么 and 你要买点什么吗 are different.

The word 什么 in 你要买点什么 means "what" and forms the question.

While in 你要买点什么吗, 什么 means "anything, whatever" and is NOT part of the question structure. Other example of this use 你说什么都好 anything/whatever you say is ok.

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