I want to be able to translate sentences with complicated relative clauses specifying that two things are the same in a particular context. For example, "I take classes where the tests are conversations." My inclination is to say




But something about these doesn't feel quite right. Are these ungrammatical, and why? Is there a better way?

  • An off-topic translation of your example is 我修了一些用交談做測驗的課. There is no 是 here.
    – user3a
    Jan 27 '17 at 6:45

Unlike in English, in Chinese, an attributive clause is not long in general. Instead, we prefer to a subject-detail stucture over the sentence-attributive cluase structure.

In your case, if you insist on an attributive, you can say

What I take is classes whose tests (forms) are conversations".

This is correct, however, more naturally, I would say:

The classes I take, whose (their) test forms are conversations.

Here, you first propose a topic/subject - 我选的课程, and then you start explaining its details. This is how Chinese language organizes the sentence structure.


  • I think the verb "take" in your case means "to choose/pick/select/participate in". The verb "采取" (to adopt/use/take) generally precedes nouns like 方法(method),措施(measure),方案(plan).
  • I think "考试形式(test forms)" sounds more natural.
  • pay attention to the word "其",it's a formal word used like "which/whose" as in an attributive clause in English. You can use it as a pronoun in the cluase to avoid mentioning the subject repeatly.
  • Great answer! Thank you! So if I wanted to say "I want to visit countries where the food is delicious" is it natural to say "我想游览的国家,其美食是很好吃的”?It feels to me like this would be saying that these are the only countries I want to visit. How about “我想游览一些国家,其美食是很好吃的”?This feels to me like I have a specific set of countries in mind. I suppose I could say “我想游览一些美食很好吃的国家”, but I would like a more general method that I can use for more involved conditions (I want to visit some countries where the cuisine is mostly fruit, I want to visit a country where everyone is friendly). Can you help me there? Jan 27 '17 at 10:17

You can say they are grammatical, but they are unnatural. In Chinese, attributes usually won't be too long. Also, attributes are almost always placed before nouns. So for your case you can use something like a compound sentence.




"I take classes where the tests are conversations."

In the above sentence, "I take classes" is the main clause. It is a complete sentence on its own -- [subject (I) + verb (take) + object (classes) ]

In English, if you want to add the relative clause "the tests are conversations" to describe the object (classes), you can use the relative pronoun 'where' to introduce the relative clause.

[I take classes (main clause)] + [ where (relative pronoun)] + [the tests are conversations (relative clause)]

  • Translate the main clause "I take classes" into Chinese:"我上課"
  • Translate the relative clause "the tests are conversations" into Chinese: "對話就是測驗"

If we apply the English grammar directly in to the Chinese translation, by adding a relative pronoun like 'where', the sentence would become " [我上課][那裡][對話就是測驗]. It is simple enough but not very accurate, because 那裡 (that place) becomes the subject of this sentence.

In typical Chinese grammar, we usually add a relative clause to a main clause by adding adjective suffix '的' after the relative clause to turn it into an 'adjectival clause' and insert it between the verb and noun in the main clause.

  • "我上課" is the main clause
  • "對話就是測驗" is a the relative clause
  • "對話就是測驗的" by adding the adjective suffix '的', the phrase became an 'adjectival (relative) clause'
  • insert the 'adjectival clause' between the verb and noun in the main clause- The result is:


{main [relative clause] [adjective suffix] clause}

More example:

"I watch movies that no one watch."

  • Main clause - {我看電影} ( I watch movies)
  • relative clause - [沒人看] (no one watch)
  • Adjectival suffix - [的]

Result: {我看[沒人看][的]電影}

How to form a relative clause with a 是 in it?

You are talking about [topic + comment/opinion] structure here.

我上的 is adjective phrase for the noun

  • The noun phrase "我上的課 "is the topic.

  • the comment phrase that provide additional information to the topic is "是對話就是測驗那種" (is the kind that tests are conversations)

  • [我上的課]+[是對話就是測驗那種] = [我上的課(topic)]+ [是對話就是測驗那種(comment)]


I love Chinese and I love the way it works. If only I could learn it properly!

In Chinese, you can take a relative clause and stack it in front of the noun.

For example:

These are the things [(which) I bought in the supermarket yesterday].

which is periphrasitic and can be left out:

These are the things [I bought in the supermarket yesterday]. In [ ] is the relative clause. It is really just an adjective for 'things'.

English cannot do this:

'These are the [I bought in the supermarket yesterday] things.', but Chinese can:

这是 [我昨天在超市里买] 的 东西。 I think this is really cool!

I take classes where the tests are conversations. where here = in those classes

The real subject of this sentence is the the tests and what kind they are.

the tests are conversations 考试是口试的

I would not like to do the same as above here in Chinese: I take [where the tests are conversations] classes.

I take classes. In those classes, the tests are conversations.

If I rewrite: The Chinese classes [which I take] all only have oral tests.
The [which I take] Chinese classes all only have oral tests.
那些【我参加的汉语课】的考试都只是口试型的。That seems a bit long winded.

我汉语课的考试都是口试型的。Less is more, or at least better!

I hope the Chinese readers among you can improve my poor Chinese!



Most of the answers here are too theoretical and some are even wrong. In Chinese, tests based on conversation is called 口试(verbal test) as compare to tests based on written (笔试). So the most direct translation is 我选择口试为考试方法的课程. Or for non-Chinese beginner, a more literary translation of 我选择交谈为考试方法的课程 is understandable. I think for most of non-Chinese speakers, the diffcult part is how to handle "where" (or "as"), it is often (not always though) can be replaced it with 为.

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