1

While talking on discord someone typed that they were studying, to which I jokingly replied, "我已经学会什么都了,没有没学的", though people were quick to correct me, apparently 什么都 is not a noun and belongs before the verb. I don't like this one bit, 什么都 to me seems like the object of the verb and I can't make sense of it as an adverb. I thought maybe historically 什么都 was preceded by a verb that has since fallen out of fashion, making the sentence originally function as a serial verb construction (我已经_什么都学会了) which makes intuitive sense to me but is pure conjecture. Whatever the case is, I would like someone to clear up my confusion

4
  • 这个(我)学会了,那个(我)也学会了,什么(我)都学会了。 – Shaw Jan 15 at 3:29
  • And here is a quite long discussion from a cn forum about why to put object at the beginning. – Shaw Jan 15 at 3:34
  • @Shaw yea thats the topic comment structure, I'd considered the last sentence "什么我都学会了" but im not sure if 什么 is allowed to be the topic of a sentence since it is neither definite nor known – 小奥利奥 Jan 15 at 4:12
  • Anyway, 什么 is an object not an adverb. And the translation could be "whatever is there" rather "what" – Shaw Jan 16 at 0:39
3

This might help you to understand it better.

我已经(把)什么都学会了.

And 我已经什么都学会了 just omits 把.

Another example: 我把这本书读完了. Colloquially, you can say 我这本书读完了.

More: 我把话说完了/我话说完了。

But the omission doesn't always work well. E. g. 我把这件事给忘了. It doesn't sound right to say 我这件事给忘了. In this case, we do need 把 and can't be omitted.

So be cautious of this omission in practice.

3
  • Actually, yes, that makes the sentence more clear, thank you. searching online for "把什么都" shows that this exact wording is used fairly frequently. Though I'd always use 把 when the context requires the object to come before the verb, it seems to be a hit-or-miss as to whether native speakers choose to use it. Do you have any opinion on how often natives deem the use of "把" to be necessary? – 小奥利奥 Jan 15 at 0:56
  • For completeness and posterity's sake, if you could detail the necessity of the object preceeding the adverb 都 in addition to the optional inclusion of 把 I'd then be willing to accept this answer – 小奥利奥 Jan 15 at 1:28
  • @小奥利奥 什么都/什么也 is for emphasis in this case. e. g. 他什么都懂.(he knows everything!) 他什么都不知道。(He knows nothing!) – dan Jan 15 at 4:41
2

The way you parse it seems to be an issue to begin with, as it isn't a single entity but rather a two word pattern.

Allset Learning notes how this is confusing for learners:

什么……都 (shénme... dōu) is a pattern often used to express "all" or "everything." Because it's not just one word, though, it can be a little tricky to get the hang of at first.

They also give the basic structure to this pattern

Structure

In this structure, 都 (dōu) is more frequently used than 也 (yě)。

Topic (+ Subj.) + 什么 + 都 / 也 + Verb / Adj.

Grammatically speaking 都 is always going to be followed by something. Here are some short examples of usage:

  • 什么都会
  • 什么都吃
  • 什么都说

and some negative ones

  • 什么都不知道
  • 什么都没有
  • 什么都听不见了

My only guess to your confusion is that you're mixing up 什么的 with 什么都, as they could sound similar especially when spoken quickly.

什么的 tacks right on the end of sentence to express, "and the like." Here's another excerpt from Allset Learning

什么的 (shénme de) is an informal way to express "and so on," and is used to end a list of items when it is obvious to the listener what class of things the speaker is talking about. 什么的 can also be used after a single item if it is obvious enough what might follow.

They also give some examples of usage:

-我奶奶不吃肉,只吃蔬菜、豆腐什么的。
-养狗很麻烦,你要喂它,给它洗澡,跟它玩什么的。
-我们见面一般就是吃饭、聊天什么的。

and here's one that also includes a 都 + 不

数学、物理、化学什么的,我都不感兴趣。

It could be the case that you've mixed these two up.


Just like you wouldn't put a verb before 都 - you also wouldn't put it before 什么 + 都 together.

3
  • that details the proper usage of the structure but not how the structure came to be, why the object of the verb precedes it. I'm trying to understand the logic and/or origin of the structure since it doesn't make grammatical sense to my eye. I understand the "how" but I wish to understand the "why" – 小奥利奥 Jan 14 at 10:06
  • @小奥利奥 That's because you're thinking in English. 什么都 isn't a single word. I'm sure you wouldn't say "我喜欢都", right? Or "我吃都", no? 都 functions exactly the same way here it's just got a 什么 for extra emphasis. – Mou某 Jan 14 at 10:08
  • To simply explain it away as "me thinking in English" and "this is how it works" has the effect of obstructing any higher level of understanding. I'm asking for someone to explain the behavior of this construct in such a way that it becomes intuitive even to someone "thinking in English" which is surely possible, even if I need do so myself – 小奥利奥 Jan 14 at 10:21
2

To begin, 都 as seen in "我们都喜欢看电影" is oft transcribed as "all" which has the potential to be misleading since "all" used in this sense in English is an adjective. To steer clear of such misunderstandings and to keep in mind that 都 is in fact an adverb and modifies the verb following, it aught to be transcribed as "entirely" or "collectively" (i.e. We collectively like watching movies).

keeping in mind that 都 functions as an adverb aught to, here I am citing "Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar" by Charles N. Li and Sandra Thompson:

Chapter 8 "Adverbs", pages 335 and 336:

enter image description here enter image description here

And so, it is due to the unique constraints of 都, in that it must be preceded by the noun phrase being referred to, that we see 什么 occupy such a weird position. Though the book states that the preceding noun phrase is "generally" the topic or subject, this does seem to be an exception. In the sentence "我已经什么都学会了" I was not wrong in assuming that 什么 was the object of the sentence, it is in fact due to the unique constraint of 都 that the sentence has been forced to take on a SOV (subject-object-verb) word order.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.