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  1. 这个故事发生在上个世纪末.

I wonder if 发生 could be placed after 在上个世纪末. Shouldn't time be placed before a verb?

  1. 电梯已经可以正常使用了

正常 is an adjective, and adjectives describe nouns? Can't 使用 work as a noun?

  1. 任何事情的发生都是有原因的

任何事情的发生 after 的 there should be a noun. 发生 is not a noun.

  1. 他出生在一个美丽的小城市

出生 is not an exception that can be placed before a location, so why is it placed like this?

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    I looked up HSK documents and found you made a typo in the fourth sentence: 他出生在一個美麗的 城市 should be 他出生在一個美麗的 城市.
    – L Parker
    Jun 4 at 1:55
  • 3
    General tip: What part of speech a word belongs to isn't as rigid in Chinese as it is in English, and like L Parker says, it's rarely indicated (so you can't know by just looking at it). If you see something used as noun that you thought was a verb, you reaction should probably be "ah, cool, it can be used as a noun, too", not "this can't be, my textbook says this is a verb!". You will encounter many, many such examples, so the earlier you get used to it, the better. :)
    – Olle Linge
    Jun 4 at 9:26
  • There is an increasing tendency (most likely due to influence from English) for people to use Chinese words that are traditionally verbs or adjectives as nouns. That may be worth keeping in mind. Jun 4 at 23:40
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1-这个故事发生在上个世纪末. I wonder if 发生 could be placed after 在上个世纪末. Shouldn't time be placed before a verb?

昨天,明天,一小時前,or 十分鐘後 are 'time particles' that indicate when the verb occurs.

在昨天,在明天,在一小時前,or 在十分鐘後 are noun phrases indicated by the preposition 在 (in/at), refers to a unique period of time, not unlike 在上个世纪末 or 在五四運動時期. Both (在)上个世纪末 and (在)五四運動時期 are treated as a noun phrase, not a time particle

  • 这个故事昨天發生 (O) - time particle 昨天 is correctly placed before the verb

  • 这个故事發生昨天 (X) - time particle 昨天 is incorrectly placed after the verb

  • 这个故事發生[在昨天] (O) - having 在 in 在昨天 make it a noun phrase that refers to a unique time

  • 这个故事[在昨天]發生 (O) - [在昨天] is in effect a relative phrase of [这个故事發生], therefore it can be placed before or after the verb

  • replace [在昨天] with [在上个世纪末], you would notice 在 is required to indicate it is a noun phrase e.g. 这个故事發生上个世纪末 would be incorrect

2-电梯已经可以正常使用了: 正常 is an adjective, and adjectives describe nouns? 使用 can not work as a noun?

正常(normally) is an adverb in this context,

使用 (use) is a verb in this context

正常使用 = 正常地被使用

3-任何事情的发生都是有原因的: 任何事情的发生 after 的 there should be a noun... 发生 is not a noun...

Yes, 发生 can be used as a noun. 的 in 的发生 makes 发生 a noun for 'occurrence'. Similarly, 攻擊 (attack) is mostly used as a verb, but 的 in 他的攻擊 makes 攻擊 a noun

4-他出生在一个美丽的小城市: 出生 is not exception that can be placed before a location so why it is placed like this...

  • 他出生 (verb phrase)

  • 在一个美丽的小城市 (relative phrase provides additional information on the verb phrase )

  • 他出生[在一个美丽的小城市] = 他[在一个美丽的小城市]出生

A simpler example:

他出生 (verb phrase) 在美國 (relative phrase)

他出生[在美國] = 他[在美國]出生

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  1. Yes, 這個故事在上個世紀末發生 is grammatical and sensical. It appears that the adverbial phrase 在上個世紀末 can act as both 狀語 (a preceding adjective or adverb) and 補語 (a succeeding adjective or adverb). It is a matter of style to put the adverbial phrase (arguably the most important piece of information in this sentence) at the very end of the sentence to intrigue readers.

  2. 正常 here is not an adjective but an adverb. Usually the -地 is omitted, as in 正常使用 (to use normally), 正常操作 (to operate normally) etc.

  3. 發生 here is unequivocally a noun! Unlike English, Chinese does not have inflection to change the part of speech of a word; that's where your confusion arises. It translates as 'occurrence; happening' (n.), not 'to occur; to happen' (v.) here.

  4. This follows point 1: both 他出生在一個美麗的小城市 and 他在一個美麗的小城市出生 are grammatical and sensical. Putting the adverbial phrase at the end of the sentence is a stylistic choice.

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