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I would like to know if the verb 是 (shi) is optional?

  • 你的生日是什么时候? (Ni de shengri shi shen me shi hou?)

  • 你的生日什么时候? (Ni de shengri shen me shi hou?)

Which of those two sentence used more?

  • jukuu's 1st 10 examples for "when is your birthday" all have "是",also note:你的生日是哪一天? – user6065 Jan 11 '16 at 14:29
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    你的生日是什么时候 is a little more formal. 你的生日什么时候 is acceptable in casual conversations. – Stan Jan 11 '16 at 14:37
  • according to e.g. "外国人实用现代汉语语法"there are the following types of simple sentences, (1)subject-predicate 主谓句,(2)Non-S-P 非主谓句 (a)subjectless 无主句 (b)one-word 独语句 (c)elliptical 简略句。If verb "是"is omitted it becomes an elliptical sentence,简略句都不能离开上下文,对话时常用简略句,简略句只能在一定的语言环境中使用,也就是说不能脱离当时环境和上下文。 – user6065 Jan 11 '16 at 15:01
  • I would never say 你的生日什么时候. It's quite weird. If you really prefer this, I suggest say 你的生日什么时候啊 – AGamePlayer Jan 12 '16 at 5:54
5

你的生日是什麼時候? (When is your birthday?) is the proper way to propose a question. 你(的)生日什麼時候? is gramatically incorrect but seldom heard when speaking for shortness

Also, 你(的)生日是哪一天? (What day is your birthday?) and, 你什麼時候生日? are frequently used for asking about birthdays.

These can also be used in many other occations. For example:

  • 你什麼時候出去的? (When did you get out?)
  • 你們什麼時候要走(=離開,出發)? (When are you guys going to leave?)

These are really colloquial way to speak

I'll take the last one when speaking :-)

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  • “你生日什麼時候?” totally makes sense for me. – ziyuang Feb 15 '16 at 1:46
3

Well, I must say the answer provided by user12473 is not "colloquial".

For asking the birthday, you can say 你什么时候生日, 你生日什么时候, 你什么时候过生日, 你生日在什么时候. Note that there's no use of 的 in colloquial language.

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  • I disagree with your last sentence - who says you can't use 的 colloquially?!? Use it as much as you like! That's why it's colloquial - but otherwise this is right. – congusbongus Feb 15 '16 at 4:44
  • If you can read simplified Chinese I recommend this article to you, it introduces why we should avoid using too much "的". – Lucius Hu Feb 16 '16 at 7:14
  • I think this is about what people actually say, not what someone somewhere thinks we ought to say. – Olle Linge Feb 17 '16 at 7:49
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In my ears, 你的生日什麼時候? sounds more authentic than 你的生日是什麼時候? Which of the phrasing is more common might depend on location though. As a non-native speaker, one should remember that nouns or pronouns can be predicates in Chinese. Sometimes non-native speakers are influenced by their native language and add 是 as copula, even though it is not necessary. Other examples of sentences, where nouns or pronouns are predicates:

一瓶水多少錢?

外面二十度。

他們中國人嗎? (In this sentence 他們是中國人嗎? would put emphasis on 'being Chinese' and increase the tone of doubt.)

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'你的生日是什么时候?’seems more natural than '你的生日什么时候?' But it does not mean that '你的生日什么时候’cannot be used in certain situations. Otherwise, it seems to me that '你生日什么时候?' sounds more natural than '你的生日什么时候?’. I do not know exactly the reason for this. It is possible that this relate to the number of characters in one utterance.

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