I passed HSK 1 as a self-learner (using the official coursebook) but there were a few grammar points I could not find in the book (and did not know). I do not know the official name of this grammar so using an example of a question whose structure really confuses me:


How are these questions formed, where do I find this grammar explained? I understand that if it was simply "who" bought the cup or "what did my friend buy", I would simply use the question words, e.g. (谁买了这个杯子)etc.

  • Hi, what do you mean with "official coursebook"? Nov 21, 2021 at 11:44
  • @GiuseppeRomanazzi Hi, I mean the standard HSK 1 Course by Confucius Institue (Hanban)
    – John V
    Nov 21, 2021 at 14:08

2 Answers 2



In this sentence, we basically see two structures:

  1. The “是” Sentence
  2. Modifier+的+Noun

1) The “是” Sentence

In this case, the verb 是 ties two things, indicating that they are identical or that the second explains or states the case of the first. The structure works the same way even if we have the interrogative word "谁".


A: 买杯子的那个(人)
B: 谁

Both forms "A是B" and "B是A" are correct (their meanings sometimes are slightly different).


2) Modifier+的+Noun

A modifier (i.e. any word, phrase, or clause, except conjunctions, grammatical particles, interjections, and exclamations) is used in this structure to qualify or modify a noun (headword). "的" is placed between modifier and headword.



where do I find this grammar explained?

I just did a copy/paste from my free course (Lesson 17 and Lesson 18) at wearyourchinesename.com, but you can find an explanation of these basic structures in any Chinese course.

  • Not sure I made that clear. My main issue is that the question begins with "mei beizi". So far, I have only known questions with "shen me", "shei" etc., where the word order is the same as in the positive sentence.
    – John V
    Nov 21, 2021 at 14:10
  • @JohnV In this case the declarative sentence would be, for example, 买杯子的那个是我哥哥, where 我哥哥 replaces 谁. Both A是谁 and 谁是A are structurally correct. Nov 21, 2021 at 14:55
  • Thank you, that is exactly what I did not know. That a sentence can begin like that (买杯子) is competely new thing for me. Is this grammar covered in your lessons?
    – John V
    Nov 21, 2021 at 15:06
  • 1
    @JohnV Search for usage of 是 and 的. In my lessons I call them "the '是' Sentence" and "the Modifier+的+Noun Structure". Nov 22, 2021 at 8:45
  • 1
    @JohnV Yes, but "那个" is still related to 人. In the structure Modifier+的+Noun, the modifier is still 买杯子, not 那个买杯子. The one who, or if you want to call it the "subject" who 买杯子 is the noun after 的. That's why 买杯子 is called modifier. Suggestion: forget English, learn Chinese. Nov 22, 2021 at 13:18

買杯子的那個是谁? and 誰買了這個杯子? are different questions.

買杯子的那個是谁? => You want to know who is buying cup . The action(buy cup) is still in progress.

誰買了這個杯子? => You want to know who bought this cup.

  • Thanks. Why the action is still in progress, I thought "le" here indicates completeness?
    – John V
    Nov 21, 2021 at 14:06
  • I don't see the difference. If I really want to know who is buying the cup, I'd use "去買杯子的人是誰?"
    – joehua
    Nov 22, 2021 at 0:31
  • 1
    I suppose the difference is, in 買杯子的那個是谁?, the questioner merely wants to know who bought a cup; whereas in 誰買了這個杯子?, the questioner wants to know who bought "this" particular cup, because of ......這個杯子? However the answers to both questions would be the same, i.e., the name, if known, of the buyer in question. I do not, however, see the first question as a Present Continuous Tense, unless the context shows the questioner is actually looking at the buyer in the process of buying a cup. Nov 22, 2021 at 8:25
  • Hi all. Sorry for the intrusion. Since OP used simplified Chinese, do you think it would be better to adapt? Traditional Chinese, especially for those at HSK1 level, might be well considered as if it were a different language! Nov 22, 2021 at 9:02
  • To many Taiwanese Simplified Chinese is also a different language :) Nov 22, 2021 at 9:16

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