What I mean by difference is its grammatical difference. How is Classical Chinese grammatically different from today's Chinese? Is modern Chinese's golden rule similar or equivalent to some rules in Classical?

If someone would lead me to a page or answer that would be appreciated.

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    Totally different rules. Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 3:59
  • Cause the difference is a little complicated,so I find out a website for you,it provided integrity different grammatical between them(particularly the sentence pattern like judgement sentence etc.)and a lot of examples.
    – user6453
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 4:02
  • Look downward until '文言文句式' ,It's in. :)
    – user6453
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


The following is an excerpt from wikipedia, Classical Chinese Grammar:


Further information: Classical Chinese lexicon

Classical Chinese is distinguished from written vernacular Chinese in its style, which appears extremely concise and compact to modern Chinese speakers, and to some extent in the use of different lexical items (vocabulary).[citation needed] An essay in Classical Chinese, for example, might use half as many Chinese characters as in vernacular Chinese to relate the same content.

In terms of conciseness and compactness, Classical Chinese rarely uses words composed of two Chinese characters; nearly all words are of one syllable only. This stands directly in contrast with modern Chinese dialects, in which two-syllable words are extremely common. This phenomenon exists, in part, because polysyllabic words evolved in Chinese to disambiguate homophones that result from sound changes. Similarly, Chinese has acquired many polysyllabic words in order to disambiguate monosyllabic words that sounded different in earlier forms of Chinese but identical in one region or another during later periods. Because Classical Chinese is based on the literary examples of ancient Chinese literature, it has almost none of the two-syllable words present in modern Chinese languages.


Classical Chinese has more pronouns compared to the modern vernacular. In particular, whereas Mandarin has one general character to refer to the first-person pronoun ("I"/"me"), Literary Chinese has several, many of which are used as part of honorific language (see Chinese honorifics), and several of which have different grammatical uses (first-person collective, first-person possessive, etc.).[citation needed]


In syntax, Classical Chinese is always ready to drop subjects, verbs, objects, etc. when their meaning is understood (pragmatically inferable). Also, words are not restrictively categorized into parts of speech: nouns used as verbs, adjectives used as nouns, and so on. There is no copula in Classical Chinese, "是" (pinyin: shì) is a copula in modern Chinese but in old Chinese it was originally a near demonstrative ("this"); the modern Chinese for "this" is "這" (pinyin: zhè).

Word order

The Classical Chinese word order is often the reverse of Mandarin; for example, Mandarin 饒恕 (pinyin: ráoshù, "forgive") is Classical 恕饒 (Classical Chinese: ŋjew hnjas).1 [2]


Let's translate this English sentence to Classic and Modern Chinese:

Donald Trump is a New Yorker.

Classic Chinese:

Donald Trump 者 New York 人也.

  • 者: topic marker (which does not exist in modern Chinese)
  • 人: person
  • 也: to be (is)

Modern Chinese:

Donald Trump 是 New York 人.

  • 人: person
  • 是: to be (is)

The 人 (meaning person) is written the same in classic and modern Chinese, but the pronunciation in Classic Chinese was probably very different. But we will never know, unless someone invents a time machine that will allow us to go back in time and talk to ancient Chinese.

  • Please try to use Chinese characters when writing Chinese: it's at best frustrating, particularly without any tone marks, to decipher what characters a romanized syllable is supposed to correspond to. If you're having trouble typing Chinese characters, there are a number of IME's out there, and it should also be possible to use Google Translate (among other tools) to produce them.
    – user5714
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 21:15
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    These examples give a completely wrong impression that Classical Chinese was more explicit and modestly more verbose than modern. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 2:58

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