1

When trying to translate this sentence:

How many times have you gone shopping this week?

I would assume that it is:

你这个星期买东西几次了?

But apparently I put the 几次 at the wrong place? Can somebody help me understand why?

My teacher told me (if I remember correctly) it has to be:

你这个星期买几次东西了?

5

买 is a transitive verb; 买东西 is a separable Verb-Object structure, so the number + measure goes between.

Examples:

to eat/ to have eaten a meal

吃飯/ 吃了一頓飯

to sing/ to have sung two songs

唱歌/ 唱了兩首歌

to shop/ to have shopped three times

買東西/ 買了三次東西

to tell a story/ to have told several stories

講故事/ 講了幾個故事

With intransitive, multi-syllabic verbs that cannot be separated, the number + measure goes after.

Examples:

to perform/ to have performed one show

表演/ 表演了一場

to complain/ to have complained quite a few times

投訴/ 投訴了好幾次

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2

The typical form is [(v) + (measure word) + (n)]

Example: [买了 (v) + 几次 (measure word) + 东西 (n)]

你去那間超市买了几次东西?

But "买东西" is commonly treated as a single word for "to shop"

If we treat "买东西" as a single verb, the measure word would be placed after it. e.g. [(买东西) + (几次了?)] = [(shopped) + (how many time?)

你去那間超市买东西几次了?

Similarly:

If you treat "讀書" as '讀'(v) + '書'(n), the measure word would be placed after the verb 讀. e.g. [(讀)+ (三年) + 書(n)]

If you treat 讀書 as a single word for 'study; read' then the measure word would be placed after the verb 讀書. e.g. [(讀書) + (三年) ]

  • [买东西] and [讀書] are [separable verbs] that are made up of [v + n]

  • The common practice for placing measure word with separable verbs like these is to insert it between [v] and [n] parts of the word

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0

Have you gone shopping this week?
Have you gone shopping 【你去买过】 this week 【这周】?
你这周去买过东西吗?(Don't like 了 instead of 过 here)

Your sentence is a kind of double question: How many? and Have you?

English accepts:

This week how many times have you gone shopping?
How many times this week have you gone shopping?
How many times have you gone shopping this week?

Chinese accepts: (please correct me if I'm wrong.)

你这周去买了/过几次东西?
这周你去买了/过几次东西?

How many times [have you gone shopping] this week?
How many times 【几次】have you gone shopping 【你去买了】 this week 【这周】?
你这周去买了/过几次东西?
你这周几次去买了/过东西。(don't like this one, wrong association of 几次)

几次 asks 'how many times'. 去买 is an event that can repeat itself.
东西 are just things, not an event that can repeat.

English: How many times 【几次】have you gone shopping 【你去买了】
Chinese: Have you gone shopping 【你去买了】how many times 【几次】

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0

May I take the chance to clarify several points involved here, which always bother my foreign students.

  1. position of 了: here are 2 most popularly used: v+了 (perfect tense), and at the end (stating a fact, usually simple past). When asked "which one to use", I always ask them to think about the difference between "I have done my homework," and "I did my homework." The answer you get will apply to the position of 了 here.

  2. Chinese is a language using a lot of complements. It might be a cultural thing: we tend to express as detailed as possible, especially the aftermath of an action. The general rule is that the complement should be placed immediately after the v. as it gives more detail about the action.

  3. As in many languages, object of vt should be placed immediately after the v.

Now we got a conflict between 2 and 3 as both are fighting to be placed immediately after v.

  1. Solution, repeating the v.: Your example, if put into very fundamental sequence would be:

    你 这个星期 买东西 买几次了? or 你 这个星期 买东西 买了几次? The problem here is the sentence becomes long and nagging.

Yes, you can shorten it. But you still need to follow the grammatical rules: For example: object should be placed immediately after v, but object can have descriptive terms in front of it:

买东西 ->  买很多东西, so 买东西 -> 买几次(的)东西

This is the fun of Chinese, it's flexible and strict at the same time.

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