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A foreign friend of mine asked me the following questions and I cannot explain to him very well. So I am looking for help here.

Context:

I said to him: it's ok to say a sentence in different word order, let's say,

  • 你昨天付了钱吗

  • 昨天钱你付了吗

  • 昨天钱付了吗你

But he questioned: Isn't there any difference?

I considered and said yes, and made up 3 scenes for each one:

(普通夫妻)

  • 昨天晚上小李请我吃的饭。

  • 你昨天付了钱吗?

  • 没有,都是他埋的单。

    comment: Here is a plain question on whether I paid for (anything) yesterday.

(中年男子和停车场收费大爷)

  • 师傅麻烦抬一下收费杆

  • 昨天钱你付了吗?

  • 不好意思忘记了,我连今天的一起给了吧

comment: Here the toll collector is definite that I haven't paid parking fee for yesterday, and he is not very happy, and he is asking for it. So I do not answer whether I paid yesterday but say sorry.

(穷人与小旅馆老板娘)

  • 再让我歇一晚上吧……

  • 笑话!昨天钱付了吗你!赶紧挪窝让别人进来!

comment: Here the landlady is furious, and she doesn't care whether or not the poor guy will make up the room rate, and all she want to do is get rid of him.

I said each of the sentence is the best choice under these circumstances, thus not exchangeable (if we want to express the emotion of each character).

He asked if there is a guideline to understand these sentences and how to compose a sentence in best word order. I answered something but felt it not very well-rounded.

Arh so I post this question on almighty forum~

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I think different word orders put emphasis on different topics. 你昨天付了钱吗 is a normal sentence so I don't think there is a particular emphasis on anything.

昨天钱你付了吗, however, put the object in front, so it's emphasizing the object and the verb rather than the subject.

I think 昨天钱付了吗你 is the same as 昨天钱你付了吗, but using a 倒装 to, still, put an emphasis on the verb-object information.

  • You made a good point. And I would say even for the same sentence, 昨天钱你付了吗,there could be differrent emphasis depending on how you say it, you can stress on or to express your emphasis. – zyy Mar 26 at 0:01

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