One of my teachers asked us the example question:


I asked her why there would be two "question words", 什么 and , when I believed you should only have one question word (in this case, should not be there in my opinion.)

Is this some kind of slang? Or just wrong?

Can it safely be disregarded?

5 Answers 5


The problem is not whether Chinese allows two question words in one sentence, it's that 什么 has multiple meanings.

It can variously mean any, anything, whatever. In the example "你有什么安排吗", 什么 means "any", as in "Do you have any plans?"

This is a very similar question to "do you have plans?", which is what "你有安排吗" is.

By contrast, in the question "你有什么安排?", 什么 is asking what, as in "What plans do you have?"

Here's some examples of when 什么 doesn't mean "what":

只要认真学,什么都能学会 (as long as you study hard, you can learn anything)

他什么也不怕 (he's not afraid of anything)

他们到处放火,把什么都抢得精光。 (they set fires everywhere, and looted everything)

  • 1
    Ahh I see, so in this instance 什么 isn't a question-word, it's a pronoun. Good explanation, thanks! This does tie in with an "I don't understand why but I can remember it" phrase of 什么都不做
    – Ming
    Feb 20, 2014 at 7:14
  • Very good answer! Mar 14, 2014 at 8:05
  • 1
    As you can see from @congusbongus's examples, note that you can often tell that 什么 means "any/anything/whatever" when it is followed by 都 or 也 since X都 or X也 denotes "all of X".
    – Claw
    Mar 14, 2014 at 19:40

As a native Chinese speaker , I must tell you that it is OK both




But I think the difference is that what they emphasize are different. When you ask 什么安排 , it may emphasize the detail of your plan . While you ask 你有安排吗 , it just ask you whether you are available .



is just a question that ask whether you are available while not caring about the details of your plan.

  • Hi, thanks. Wouldn't that make 你有什么安排吗? the same as 你有安排吗? though? My question is, is it legitimate to have both 什么 and in one question, and why would it be done? Is it slang? Can it be ignored? In my mind I would interpret it as if the were not there at all, and answer with my 安排 rather than or 没有.
    – Ming
    Feb 20, 2014 at 5:55
  • Actually , 你有什么安排吗? is same with 你有安排吗? . It is legitimate to have both 什么 and . I am not sure why can we do this. But it is not slang. Chinese is flexible .
    – einverne
    Feb 20, 2014 at 6:04

你有什么安排吗? means what plans do you have. so it emphasizes on WHAT

你有安排吗? means do you have any plans? so it emphasizes the existence of the plan.

well according context, they are sometimes exchangeable.

  • Hmm, this is contrasting to @einverne's answer ... -_- so it's a tie right now.
    – Ming
    Feb 20, 2014 at 7:03
  • 2
    if someone asks you 你有什么安排吗? your answer may be, yes my plan is blah blah...; if someone asks you 你有安排吗? you only need to answer yes or no Feb 20, 2014 at 8:14

Another seemingly-double-question-word example is: 你知道他叫什么名字吗 (什么 and 吗).

The breakdown is: (i) outer "Onion Ring": 你知道……吗 Do you know [fact]? (ii) inner "Onion Ring" / the "fact" bit: 他叫什么名字 "he is called what name" Do you know what his name is? (Coincidentally, the "what" here in English is not the question bit either.)

Cf. 你知道他叫什么名字: only one question word (什么), which is in the "fact" bit (comes after 知道; 知道 being for knowing a fact). This is a statement: You know what his name is. (However, people often take short cuts, especially when speaking, so this can be a question, with the 吗 left out, because it's clear from the context that the speaker's asking the listener.) Context is practically always necessary.


Rest assured, there's not too much difference between those two answers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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