In English, it is hard to rhyme. So writers sometimes resort to rather awkward sentence structures, just to get the song to rhyme.

Recent example from Maroon Five:

I'm at a payphone trying to call home
All of my change, I spent on you
Where have the times gone?
Baby, it's all wrong
Where are the plans we made for two?

While it's perfectly legal to say "All of my change, I spent on you", nobody would phrase it that way in everyday speech.

My guess is that since a lot of chinese words sound the same, it should be easier to rhyme. So it should be easier for chinese writers to achieve a natural flow. Right?

If I learn Chinese from new songs, do I risk learning unnatural expressions and word orders?

  • 1
    Good question, but your explanation of why this is done in English is incorrect. It has to do with rhythm and not with rhyme. Correct grammar would be "I spent all my change on you" which still rhymes.
    – going
    Sep 19, 2013 at 11:26
  • It is indeed easier to rhyme in Chinese, but it's still possible for song lyrics and poems to use uncommon word orders. However, I think you can still learn from songs if you are interested.
    – Betty
    Aug 28, 2020 at 9:39

2 Answers 2


This is really a big topic that can be expanded on multiple dimensions, but to the core of your question,

Does Chinese songs have a natural word order?

Not always, if 'natural' means grammatical and can be used in daily spoken language or formal non-poem writing.

If I learn Chinese from new songs, do I risk learning unnatural expressions and word orders?

Yes, as you do from lyrics in any language.

Lyrics can be seen as free-form poems, which are very lax in grammar, syntax and idiom. The author may deliberately break grammatical rules or create non-existing words and usages, for the purpose of rhetoric, rhyming, style or any other reason. In lyrics, a big proportion of the lines, if not the majority, are language fragments instead of complete sentences. This is especially true in the Chinese pop songs since the late 90's. Grammar aside, they can be too rhetorical or too literary to use in daily conversations. Keeping that in mind, lyrics are still a good way to get familiar with the language and memorize vocabularies.

I can add some examples to demonstrate the point but it's nothing special given you know the phenomenon well in English lyrics. They can be added upon request.

  • 1
    I respectfully request some good pop songs in Mandarin language.
    – user43633
    Sep 25, 2013 at 19:21

In every language, songwriters and poets twist syntax and grammar to achieve effects, so songs and poems are often "unnatural". But structures which are rare or very colloquial in English, such as topic-comment or object fronting, are part of standard Chinese.

Learning Chinese from new songs will definitely expose you to the risk of learning unnatural expressions and word order, but in a good way. As in every culture, native Chinese speakers use quotes from popular songs to express their own feelings and opinions. For popular songs, these may be age-specific, but many singers are so widely known that their songs will be recognized by people of all ages. This is not to say that邓丽君, for example, will survive in Chinese culture as long as 李白 or 杜甫, but broad cultural knowledge is essential for understanding and using Chinese.

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