I've read several books on Chinese linguistics. I found that they mix terms and knowledge of several grammar systems to explain Chinese sentences throughout the book. So I think there's still no perfect grammar system for the Chinese language.

Another bad thing about these textbooks is they don't provide example sentences for every point they make.

  • In mainland, we have grammar books in Chinese such as <现代汉语>. Here in this site, English grammar is often used to explain Chinese grammar because that way works better for English mind.
    – dan
    Oct 17, 2021 at 7:03

3 Answers 3



I don't think such a system exists for any language. There are still many controversies even for English, and linguists don't agree with each other. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, published in 1985, was called "the greatest of contemporary grammars" and "the most thorough and detailed we have" by some linguists, but another famous linguist Huddleston reviewed it as such:

there are some respects in which it is seriously flawed and disappointing. A number of quite basic categories and concepts do not seem to have been thought through with sufficient care; this results in a remarkable amount of unclarity and inconsistency in the analysis, and in the organization of the grammar.

I agree that many Chinese grammar books are not satisfactory and more research is needed. However, on the other hand, if your purpose is to learn/teach Chinese as a second/foreign language, stop looking for a perfect system that can explain all sentences. What you need is to help the students understand the language phenomena better. It doesn't matter if you use one theory to explain this phenomenon and use another theory to explain that phenomenon. As long as it helps the students to understand and learn, it is ok.

Here are some books written especially for second/foreign learners/teachers. They are practical, descriptive, and with a lot of example sentences:



  • Thank you Betty. BTW, You made me really interested in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. LOL~
    – user29397
    Oct 22, 2021 at 7:39

I don't have a direct answer to your question. Still, there is one thing to keep in mind: the Chinese language is different from most European languages because Chinese is an analytic language, but English and a lot of European languages are synthetic languages. (well, this is a very relative concept. English is more analytic than a lot of European languages, but compared to Chinese, it is very synthetic) With this said, the grammar system of Chinese, suppose it exists, could be stated in a hugely different way from the English grammar system. Don't be surprised if you don't see the definition of Predicate Verb or SVO structures in the discussion of Chinese grammar.


  • Most theories, it not all, I read so far are based on or derived from a western theory. Do you know any theory that is invented by a Chinese from scratch?
    – user29397
    Oct 22, 2021 at 7:48

It has even been said that the Chinese language has no grammar system as such, that is, no system when using, say, the English or French systems as yardsticks.

Quote:- "...mix terms and knowledge of several grammar systems to explain Chinese sentences ..."

Why is that the case?

Well, just look at what the top echelon officials of the Chinese Communist Party wear, these officials being held out as the epitome of "Chinese-ness"? They wear immaculate Western suits, in case no one notices.


Does it mean a 5000 year old Chinese civilization, (a common patriotic boast you hear all the time), has no national dress of its own? Even some "primitive" tribe in darkest Africa has a national dress, often seen at the United Nations.

Now look at some old classical Chinese writings. Grammatical by English grammar standard? Definitely not. They don't even have punctuation marks.

Any artificial transplantation of an alien grammar system onto another, (being civilizations apart), because of the perceived notion that one is "superior", or "more logical", or "have better linguistic sophistication", would result in the "problem" you are encountering.

All this happens because of the historical circumstances of the last 400 years in opening up old China to the new West. Even when the Chinese wanted to have a "pinyin" system to make it easier to teach their own people, they needed the English alphabets. Ironically, the Pinyin system actually benefits non-Chinese learners more.

So, ever wonder why English grammar is used to explain / analyse the "grammar" of the Chinese language, the so-called "Anglicization" of the modern Chinese language to the point where if somehow a Chinese sentence is "off" by a misplacement or absence of a verb or adverb, the adjective is placed at the end of a sentence, it is "ungrammatical" How many contributors here born in the 1940s and 1950s actually studied such kind of grammar in school, in or out of mainland China?

Please, I am not making a judgmental assumption of the situation as I see it. There is no "good" or "bad", "right" or "wrong" dissection tool available to push one agenda or another. Just like the Universe, it is what it is. History, like Time, is unchangeable and unstoppable.

In any case, the Chinese language has evolved over the last few thousand years; why should it stop now?

  • Sadly to say, you are too shallow in Chinese culture and language. The most significant mistake you made is about pinyin - a younger sibling of the more traditional Zhuyin phonetic system/symbols. Note that Chinese modernization started in the 20th century, but its language is thousand years old, do you really believe without a gradually evolve grammar system a language can survive the ages? But a sure thing is that Chinese grammar is not so strickly developed as some other languages, such as French.
    – r13
    Oct 17, 2021 at 20:14
  • Other mistakes include the comment "no punctuation", please do a thorough research before offering the misleading statement; "no national dress of its own", what is the most representative Chinese dresss you would suggest, from which of the past dynasties, for which each dynasty had their own style? The dress you mentioned is called "中山裝", I shall leave it to you to find out how it was come about and deemed the formal dress for the persons work for the government. I don't see Americans, French, Italian .... wear their own traditional dress either, don't they, or do they have one of their own?
    – r13
    Oct 17, 2021 at 20:42
  • “the adjective is placed at the end of a sentence” is totally acceptable, for example, 你真好看。
    – user29397
    Oct 18, 2021 at 2:21
  • @r13, I haven't studied French. Do you mean French evolves in a way that the grammar system of it is more and more clear, exceptions gradually disappear? I found there are too many exceptions in Mandarin.
    – user29397
    Oct 18, 2021 at 2:29
  • @r13 -- I am sure many members here would like to read your answers to OP's comments and question, namely, (a) "... they mix terms and knowledge of several grammar systems to explain Chinese sentences throughout the book" (b) "So I think there's still no perfect grammar system for the Chinese language", bearing in mind that OP has "... read several books on Chinese linguistics" Oct 18, 2021 at 2:30

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