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I know that 是谁打电话过来呢 means "who is calling?" but I don't know how to parse it:

  • why is 是 at the beginning?
  • not sure about the meaning of 过来. Is 电话过来 a standard combination?
  • why 呢? I thought it is used for "what about...?" questions.
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  1. This sentence has an abbreviated 的 in 是誰打電話過來的呢. 是~的 is a very common construction that you must remember; it is used for emphasis. In your sentence, you would like to emphasise who called. Basically, 誰打電話過來 (who called) is the question without any emphasis.

  2. 打~過來 should be seen together, not 電話過來. For details please see my explanation on the auxiliary verb 來 here. In general, 來 may (1) indicate an observed movement caused by the main verb (打) towards the speaker; or (2) the start (or in a more abstract sense, consequence) of the action caused by the main verb. Here, it emphasises someone called as if the call approached the speaker. A more semantically accurate translation of 打~過來 is 'to call here'.

  3. Your statement on 呢 is irrelevant in this situation. While 嗎 is a question particle for yes/no questions, 呢 is a question particle for 5W1H words, in this case 'who'. Therefore,

是誰打電話過來的嗎(✖)
是誰打電話過來的呢(✓)
Who is it that called?

是他打電話過來的呢(✖)
是他打電話過來的嗎(✓)
Is it he who called?
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  • 1
    Thank you. I know about the 是~的 construction and I suspected that my example was related. I just didn't know that the final 的 can be omitted. Regarding my last question, I thought that 谁 was enough to make that sentence a question. Feb 15 at 21:17
  • Hi @AlexanderVorobiev, you are right, both 是誰打電話過來? and 是誰打電話過來的? are grammatically sound, despite the absence of a question particle. You may see here for when to use 呢: eastasiastudent.net/china/mandarin/four-uses-呢. As for 的 omission, it is fine unless the ~的 indicates possession, such as 是我的 (lit. is mine); in that case 是我 would mean differently (lit. is me).
    – L Parker
    Feb 16 at 1:29
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[是谁] = [(it) is who]

打 = dials

电话 = phone

[打电话] = [makes phone call]

过 = over

来 = toward here

[过来] (verb particle indicates the direction of the verb)

[呢?] (particle indicate a question, but not a yes or no question )

是谁打电话过来 = who makes the phone call (coming in/ toward here) = who called (in) here?

Similarly:

是谁打电话过去 = who makes the phone call (going out/ toward there) = who called (out) there?

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1.这句话是正确的, 是谁=谁,用于句子开头都是可以的。 2.从打电话一方来说,是打过去;从接电话一方是打过来。 2.呢是语气词,在不同句子中不同含义。可以用于选择疑问句。

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