I very often come across the following problem. Somebody asks me about a thing/ person/ noun and I start responding by: It's a thing/ person that... Wait, in Chinese you must say the description first and then put a noun. Blimey.

For example, one asks a question: 警察是谁?I want to say that a policeman is a person who chase criminals. So I start: 警察是一个人。。。but it's a wrong start. Can one continue this sentence and get away with starting it wrong, without saying "Oh, sorry, my bad" and restarting?

Beating around the bush and saying the noun at the end is soooooooo unnatural for me. So the way I often say things is: 警察是一个人。。。一个追逐犯人的人。

Is there a more natural or more sophisticated way of getting away with such a mistake? Does my way of correcting myself sound OK?

  • 1
    A description which corresponds to "restrictive attributive clauses" in English must come before the noun, while "non-restrictive" ones can go after it. As for me, I can't think of any way to get away with that... (at least for now)
    – ekd123
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 9:36

4 Answers 4


If you stated the subject before describing it, you can always use another sentence to add the description

For example:

A: 「警察是一个人」 (Police is a man)

A: 「一个維護法紀的人」" (A man who upholds law and order)

This kind of talk is quite dramatic, see example below, which was from a Taiwanese manga 阿鼻劍 written by 馬利 and illustrated by 鄭問

The sword crazy mad man: 「你有劍?你有好劍?你有絕世好劍?」(You have sword? You have good sword? You have the peerless good sword?)

The blind man: 「我有劍,我有好劍,我有絕世好劍。」(I have sword, I have good sword, I have the peerless good sword.)

Simply say「你有絕世好劍?」and 「我有絕世好劍。」wouldn't be as dramatic.


警察是一个人。。。一个追逐犯人的人。 is also ok, but as you know, they are not very Chinese style.

The bad news is you can not put an attribute clause after your noun.

The good news is there are many other ways.



You can use 是 to start your description, the description can be started over and over, the subject part would stay there.


警察是一个人。。。一个追逐犯人的人 is also used for emphasis. One way to get around your issue is that when you try to start with 警察是一个人, try to insert a description between the measure word and noun/pronoun. In your case, it can go like警察是一个 xxxxxx 人. Combine the two clauses: 警察是一个人; 一个追逐犯人的人. It will become 警察是一个 追逐犯人的 人, where xxxxxx is 追逐犯人的.


"警察是一个人。。。一个追逐犯人的人"It's also ok. But the natural expression is "警察是一个追逐犯人的人"

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