When you ask someone his/her name, you can say: 你叫什么名字

什么 is not right after 你

but when you ask someone how he/she knows your name, you say: 你怎么知道我的名字

Must 怎么 be right after 你 in this sentence? Is 你知道怎么我的名字 also correct? So the structure of this sentence the same as 你叫什么名字


5 Answers 5


什么 is a modifier for 名字 in 你叫什么名字

怎么 is a modiifer for 知道 in 你怎么知道我的名字

You cannot move 怎么 in the sentence. And you can see that they are actually of different structure.


This is the relevant grammar structure:

Subj. + 怎么 + Verb + Obj.
How to do something with "zenme" (see also Expressing "How" with 怎么 (zěnme))



is not correct because we need to have a verb after 怎么, but instead we have the noun phrase 我的名字. However, these are correct:

你知道我的名字。 [with no 怎么]
You know my name.

你知道怎么我的名字。 [adding 叫 after 怎么]
You know how to say my name.

I don't believe 怎么 can be moved to any other place in 你怎么知道我的名字 to give a grammatical sentence, as there is only one verb, i.e., 知道.

(I should note the existence of 怎么样, which is perhaps irregular in this regard.)

  • Following your structure Subj. + 怎么 + Verb + Obj and we need to have a verb after 怎么. Do we not need to have a verb after 什么? Should it not be 你什么叫名字?
    – O Connor
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:04
  • It's a different grammar structure for 什么, namely Subj. + Verb + 什么 + (Noun) ?
    – Becky 李蓓
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:05
  • Then 你 有 什么 地方 的 钥匙 should be a correct sentence/question.
    – O Connor
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:27
  • Sounds correct to me, although we’re getting away from the original question.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:32

Must 怎么 be right after 你 in this sentence?

No, 怎么 can be placed before or after 你. However, changing the placement of 怎么 would change the meaning of the sentence. It would no longer mean "How do you know my name"

The problem is 怎么 can mean 'how' or ''how come' (used to ask why something has happened, especially when you are surprised by it)

[你怎么][知道我的名字] = [How do you] [Know my name]

[怎么][你知道我的名字] = [How come] [you know my name]

If you want to ask "how do you know my name?", you must put 怎么 after the subject, otherwise [怎么你...] would mean "How come you..."

I always avoid using "怎么" for "How come" and op for the more specific 为什么

Is 你知道怎么我的名字 also correct?

"你知道怎么我的名字" needs a verb between 怎么(how) and 我的名字 (noun).

E.g. "你知道怎么(读)我的名字?"; "你知道怎么(写)我的名字?"

  • 1
    怎么 at the beginning is more like an exclamation than an adverb
    – fefe
    Aug 6, 2020 at 9:57
  • How about I replace 怎么 with 为什么? "为什么你知道我的名字?" . '怎么' carries the meaning of 'why' as '为什么' does
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 6, 2020 at 9:58
  • Using an exclamation in the sentence would look like this. "什么? 你知道我的名字?" -- "What? Do you know my name?"
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:18
  • In case I want to use 为什么 for why, must it always be before or can it also be right after ?
    – O Connor
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:20
  • Both "[你][为什么]知道我的名字?" and "[为什么][你]知道我的名字?" mean " why do you know my name?"
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:23

怎么 and 什么 in Chinese are interrogative substitutes.

They work as placeholders. Their position in the sentence depends entirely on what other phrase they are replacing, in order to compose a interrogative sentence.

In 你怎么知道我的名字 the substitute 怎么 replaces a complement of the verb 知道, which would occur before 知道. You can see this if we rewrite the sentence to be affirmative:

就是知道你的名字 I just know your name (affirmative with same verb, 就是 can answer the "how" question, and occurs before the verb)

Replying to 怎么知道 while maintaining a simple complement + 知道 to illustrate how the substitute works is kinda hard. A less contrived example might be:


In 你叫什么名字, the substitute 什么 acts a modifier of 名字. It would work also without 名字, so for the purpose of this argument, let's assume you ask 你叫什么. Then you rewrite the sentence to be affirmative as:


Again, the position of the phrase that answers the question is the same as the interrogative substitute.

Yes, there are some exceptions, due to how you can construct question and answers with complex complements, e.g. subordinate clauses, etc. but the rule of thumb is, the interrogative substitute goes in the sentence where its answer would go.

  • You said ` the position of the phrase that answers the question is the same as the interrogative substitute` and you used 就是 to replace the substitute 怎么 but 就是 is not a way to the how. Can you give an example answer to the how question which replaces ` the substitute 怎么 position?
    – O Connor
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:45
  • @OConnor my example is a bit contrived because the question "how do you know" is hard to answer while maintaining the verb 知道 with a simple complement... more complex examples might be confusing. Anyway, an example might be: 我朋友告诉我才知道
    – blackgreen
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:51
  • @OConnor even better: 我从我朋友那里知道
    – blackgreen
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:54

你知道怎么我的名字 is incorrect.

怎麼你(會)知道我的名字 is correct. Add 會 would be more fluent.

  • You are placing 怎么 after the verb. which is not the case the OP is stating
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:04
  • @TangHo 小弟的回應哪邊錯了?請賜教。 Aug 6, 2020 at 10:18
  • The main question is can 怎么你 be changed to 你怎么? You should address that first before you address the obviously ungrammatical 你知道怎么我的名字 example
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 6, 2020 at 10:47

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