Questions tagged [grammar]

Questions about the rules that govern and structure the language, and the composition of clauses, sentences and expressions.

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45
votes
11answers
38k views

的-地-得, when do you use which?

So the age old question of 的-地-得, when do you use which? When spoken, it all sounds the same, but on paper it depends on if it's a verb, noun, adjective. But I don't quite remember if that is all that ...
27
votes
8answers
3k views

How do I decide whether to use 可以, 会 or 能?

According to every dictionary I've seen so far, there is a big overlap in these: 可以 = can, may, be able to 会  = can, be able to, able 能  = can, may, able, capable How do I properly choose which ...
27
votes
7answers
2k views

Tense and use of 了

I struggle a bit to get my head around tenses in Mandarin, and in particular when I need to use 了 (le). Do you have any tips, examples or resources to help me out with this?
20
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the difference in use between 以及, 和 and 与?

I have a book with the following lesson titles: 中文以及中国 聚会和饮食 交通与环境 Why are these terms connected with 以及 / 和 / 与, why not always use 和 for example? Are there any rules for proper use of these ...
18
votes
6answers
5k views

Difference between 如果 and 要是?

In the Pimsleur Mandarin course it uses 如果 (rúguǒ) to mean 'if', but the dictionary shows 要是 (yàoshì) to have a similar meaning: 如果: if; in case; in the event that 要是: if Are there any ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

How do I decide whether to use 還是/还是 or 或者

還是/还是 (háishì) and 或者 (huòzhě) seem to have very similar meanings: 還是/还是: or; still; nevertheless 或者: or; possibly; maybe When I want to say 'or', how to I choose which to use, and are ...
16
votes
6answers
1k views

Learning how to use measure / count words properly

Chinese has measure (or count) words like “个” (一个人), “部” (三部车), etc. These always get me confused, and there way too many of them. Are there any general rules that can help me memorize them? Also, ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

Does an Alarm clock 吵醒 or 叫醒?

I'm trying to figure out whether an alarm clock 吵醒我, or 叫醒我。 I'd like to say the sentence my alarm clock woke me up at 5:30 today my translation so far is 今天早上五点半, 我手机的闹钟叫醒了我。 Can 叫醒 be done by ...
15
votes
3answers
791 views

Why is 我很要… an invalid statment

Why is it that to say I very much or really want something I have to say 我很想要... and not just 我很要... So if I wanted a cup of coffee I would say 我要一杯咖啡 But if I want to say I really want coffee I ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

Does 多 always come after the measure word?

I've realized that I still don't fully understand the placement of "多“ a relatively common word. Can you never place 多 before a measure word? A friend recently corrected my "四多快美金“ into 四块多美金” but ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do Chinese translations of English names sound very inaccurate?

I have noticed that most Chinese translation of English names sounds really inaccurate and weird. For example, the common translation of person's name "Robert Wilson" is "罗伯特·威尔逊", which is not ...
13
votes
3answers
4k views

Using 的 at the end of a sentence

I'm looking for confirmation of the way I'm parsing a sentence with 的 at the end, and I'd appreciate some background or other examples of this usage. I found this sentence on tatoeba.org: 我一定會去看他的。...
12
votes
6answers
3k views

被 (bèi) vs. 叫 (jiào) vs. 让 (ràng): regional difference? formality difference?

I know that with a 被 (bèi) sentence, you are allowed omit the object: S + 被 + (O) + Other elements, e.g. 河里的鱼都被毒死了 (Hé lǐ de yú dōu bèi dú sǐ le) whereas, when using 叫 (jiào) or 让 (ràng,) the object ...
12
votes
3answers
496 views

Use of 十年中 to express duration

Does 十年中 mean "in ten years"? I found it in this sentence from tatoeba.org: 他十年中第一次回家。 He returned home for the first time in ten years. It seems like I could use the same pattern to say, "I ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

Where should I place the comma in large numbers?

If writing for an exclusively Chinese audience, would the number 五萬 be written as 5,0000 or 50,000? To flesh out the question, we could consider: 五千 5000 or 5,000 五萬 5,0000 or 50,000 ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does the construction of 要是…的话 mean “if”?

I know other words like 如果 also mean "if", but why would 要是...的话 mean "if"? An example sentence: 要是你喜欢汉语(的话),你该听中国的音乐。 If you like Chinese, you should listen to Chinese music.
11
votes
6answers
1k views

What is the difference in use between 完 and 了?

If I understood correctly, both 完 and 了 can be used to indicate a completed action, so what is the difference in use? How do we properly use 完 in a sentence? Which contexts would be valid?
11
votes
4answers
9k views

How is 就 (jiù) used?

Pimsleur's Mandarin course teaches "I'm leaving very early tomorrow morning" as: 我明天早上很早就走 (wŏ míngtiān zăoshàng hĕn zăo jiù zŏu) It says that 就 (jiù) doesn't have a corresponding meaning in ...
11
votes
5answers
5k views

What are the rules in Chinese for adjective order when multiple adjectives describe a noun

See https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/1155/what-is-the-rule-for-adjective-order for the equivalent question in English. I didn't find any discussion online of the order for multiple Chinese ...
10
votes
3answers
957 views

What grammar makes 同 品 項 第 2 仵 6折 mean “Buy one, get the second at 60% of base price”?

So in the convenience store, there were bottles of iced coffee with the slogan: 同 品 項 第 2 仵 6折 I was told that this meant: "Buy the first item, get the second item at 60% of base price." I was ...
10
votes
9answers
4k views

What's the correct translation for 1.5 months? Is it “一个月半” or "一个半月“?

What's the correct translation for 1.5 months? Is it "一个月半" or "一个半月“?
10
votes
6answers
1k views

Is it 一些东西 or 一点东西?

I know that 东西 translates to "something" in English. So I would like to know, can both 一些东西 and 一点东西 be used? If so, what are their differences in meaning?
10
votes
2answers
997 views

Measure Words and their English Analogue

I was taught that the closest analogue in English of Chinese measure words are 'units', e.g. "a pile of wood", "a cup of water", etc. What strikes me as a bit odd about this analogy is that the units ...
10
votes
4answers
8k views

What software can detect the parts of speech of written text?

What software or online tools can detect the parts of speech in a piece of written text (e.g. to predict if a word is a verb, adjective, etc.)?
10
votes
3answers
662 views

When do I use 着 to indicate action in progress?

It seems like for some verbs (正)在 is used to indicate action in progress, but I have also encountered 着 for some, like 穿着. When should it be used, is there a rule to follow?
10
votes
2answers
329 views

Why is it possible to replace 都 with 也 in 什么都没有?

I know 也 only as "also", but I see it now and then used in ways difficult to understand, especially in some negative statements. Why is this so? Does 也 also have some meaning not mentioned in ...
9
votes
7answers
587 views

Is 了 optional when a time word is present?

In sentences that already have a point in time word that indicates that the event happened in the past, is 了 optional? Or could there be some additional meaning with it present? For instance: ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the meaning of the sentence 字了一?

I ve found this sentence between two other sentences in an article about the scholar wang li: 中国语言学家、诗人。字了一。广西壮族自治区博白县人 I understand both sentences before and after 字了一, but i am clueless what this ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the difference between 一只狗 and 一条狗?

I've been told by native speakers that the former refers to little dogs while the latter is for bigger dogs. I also have been told that the latter has a negative connotation. I'm wondering: how ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

求解释: “我有问题” 和 “我有个问题” 中英 | Chinese & English

这个问题我找不到解释, 希望哪位高手可以帮下 ^^ 学生想说 I have a question, 常常会说成 "我有问题." 我会教他们用 “我有个问题” 或者 “我有一个问题。” 原因是听到 “我有问题”的时候, 我的第一联想就是 “我脑子有问题。" 可是我语法上面解释不来也查不到。 现在我自己都快糊涂了。 所以我想问: 1) “我有问题” 是正确的吗? 我左看右看都觉得是错的。 ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

Why do both 太 (too) and 过于 (excessively) occur in 外国人有时候太过于开放 (foreigners are sometimes too excessively open)?

A Mandarin Corner YouTube video describes "3 Things Chinese Like about Foreigners". One sentence from this dialogue is the following: 首先我觉得外国人有时候太过于开放。 Shǒuxiān wǒ juédé wàiguórén yǒu shíhòu tài ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

Why should I use 由 here and not 被?

I could choose 由 or 被. Why should I choose 由? Are there any good reasons for this choice? 这件事 _______ 公司负责。My girlfriend immediately said 由, but she couldn't say why. Considering the answers below ...
9
votes
3answers
493 views

Quotation Marks (“”) and Angle Quotation Marks (《》)

Based on my recent observation, most people use "" to enclose a quote and use 《》 to enclose the name of a book (or a movie?). However, since I began my Chinese study, I have been learning to use 「」 as ...
9
votes
3answers
545 views

What is the difference between 古怪 and 古里古怪?

According to my book, there is a pattern for building further adjectives from adjectives. If the original adjective is AB (two different characters), its derivation is A里AB. Unfortunately, this ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Macau Cantonese, any differences from HK?

Does anyone know how Cantonese from Macau differ from HK if there are any? Any slangs or terms used in Macanese Cantonese that is rarely used or heard in HK? Maybe some sinicised portuguese words? ...
9
votes
2answers
298 views

Using 一样 instead of 同一 for “the same school”

In my study software, I recently had the following sentence: 我想我们会上一样的学校. The context (a girl speaking to another girl who had just moved into the neighborhood) made it seem like the correct ...
9
votes
1answer
881 views

What is the difference in usage between 以后 and 之后?

Today John Pasden linked to an old Sinosplice post in which he discussed how Chinese grammatical categories cannot be mapped neatly onto those of Indo-European languages. http://www.sinosplice.com/...
9
votes
2answers
332 views

Questions on “的话”

What is the etymology behind "的话" in the common construct 如果...的话 or 要是...的话? In addition to wondering about it's meaning, what exactly is the 的 doing? Is it modifying the 如果? Is it modifying the ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

V + 到。。。。头上来: Exact meaning and how to use?

I know that the abovementioned formula expresses a negative result, but I am not exactly sure how to translate it. Some questions: 1 How to translate it well into English? 2 Can I use it ...
8
votes
5answers
616 views

How to say “I wouldn't go so far as to say…” in Mandarin

I'm searching for a common way to say "I wouldn't go so far as to say that" in Mandarin. The only translation of this expression, that I found in a dictionary, is : It's good, but I wouldn't go so ...
8
votes
8answers
1k views

Difference between 是不是喝酒了? and 喝酒了没有?

What is the difference between 是不是吃了蛋糕? and 吃蛋糕了没有? or 是不是喝酒了? and 喝酒了没有?
8
votes
7answers
1k views

Is it correct to say “在手机”?

Would it be correct to use the phrase "在手机”/“在手机上” etc. to express that I am doing something on my phone? For example, could I say 我听音乐在我的手机上。 Or can 在 only be used for my actual physical location?...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

When to use “们”

In Chinese, using "们" after a noun is, in some sense, equivalent to adding an "s" after an English word. Yet I find the rules in Chinese of using 们 to be very puzzling; I am a native speaker yet I ...
8
votes
3answers
881 views

Indefinite article vs numeral: use of “一” (yī)

Sometimes, when the English has an indefinite article ("a", "an"), the Chinese translation has a numeral ("一", yī). So, for example, "I want to buy a ticket" sounds like "I want to buy one ticket". ...
8
votes
5answers
386 views

Are there sentences where 跟 and 和 are interchangeable?

For example: 我跟朋友去公园了。 我和朋友去公园了。 Are both of these sentences correct? Are there any subtle differences in the meaning conveyed? If they are not entirely interchangeable, how do we know which one to ...
8
votes
4answers
631 views

份, 个, 本, 两: How do they function in these sentences?

I've been working with Rosetta Stone for about 2 weeks now, and due to the immersion (from the start, the entire program is entirely Chinese—no English anywhere), they don't do any explaining of ...
8
votes
3answers
258 views

我一字一字地学习汉语 OR 我一个字一个字地学习汉语

Which is the correct use of this grammar pattern? 我一字一字地学习汉语。 我一个字一个字地学习汉语。 The first one feels correct to me. The pattern is: 一{MW,N}一{MW,N} + 地 + V
8
votes
3answers
782 views

What is the difference between 免费 and 无偿?

I'm trying to sort out the difference between 免费 and 无偿 as adverbs. Would you say 水果店的老板免费送了我六个苹果。 or would it be 无偿送了?
8
votes
3answers
7k views

Differences between 咱们 and 我们?

我们,咱们 both means: we, but when I should use 咱们, 我们? What is the difference?
8
votes
3answers
1k views

What's the difference between 了, 著 and 到 when used as verb complements?

I need help with sorting out the difference between 了, 著 and 到 when used as verb complements. I have learnt most of my Chinese in Taiwan and in my experience, Taiwanese people don't use 著 as a verb ...