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130
votes
13answers
39k views

Resources for learning Mandarin Chinese

This is a community-maintained list of resources for learning Mandarin Chinese. Alphabetical Index Add-ons (browser) Apps Books Dictionaries Language Exchanges Lists of Resources News Online Courses ...
8
votes
8answers
2k views

How do I self-answer “What does this say?”

We get a lot of translation requests at Chinese.SE, and while we'd like to help, there's sometimes very little about the Chinese language in the question, and a lot about the procedure for obtaining ...
52
votes
11answers
48k 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Generalize consecutive third tones change rule

井井有条​ (to be neat and tidy) we have a sequence of the third tones. Why is it pronounced as jing2 jing2 you3 tiao2 and not jing2 jing3 you3 tiao2 After all, the first half goes together, and the ...
34
votes
10answers
5k views

How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?

Since there are many characters that share a common pronunciation and sometimes also the same tone, how do we properly choose which character best represents our name? Is it totally arbitrary or are ...
30
votes
9answers
3k views

Number two in chinese: 二 vs 两

I always knew, from my studies of Japanese, that the number two is 二 (èr). I am not sure about the actual etymology, but looking at the character, it's understandable why it represents the number "2". ...
47
votes
7answers
3k views

Why is 有 (yǒu) the only verb that requires 没 while other verbs can use 不?

To negate something, we use 不 (bù) before the verb, such as in this short dialogue: A: 你是老师吗?= Are you a teacher? B: 不是。= I'm not. However, the verb 有 (yǒu) is the only one that requires 没 (méi) ...
9
votes
6answers
2k views

How do you specify past tense for 是?

For example, 'She was a good teacher' ? Any and all translations I get are '她是好老师'. Is there anyway to indicate past tense explicitly?
2
votes
3answers
353 views

Writing critique request: Zhou Ziwang and the revolutionary new technology

Here's the start of a short story I'm writing: 首先,大多数人强烈反对它,说人一定不要“扮演上帝”。当时他们害怕极了,对于未来的效果有关心。人性会怎么改变?人有很多批评:使用它以后,人还是人吗?用这种技术就是根本不自然的。这些论点使世界政客也反对它,而且除了世界上最伟大的科学家,谁都不允许用这种技术。 其实这只是正式的说法,...
33
votes
9answers
3k 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?
23
votes
2answers
1k views

When to use 了 and when to use 过 to express past actions or events

I kind of have an idea when 了 and 过 should be used but it's mostly on a case by case basis, and I don't know the exact rules. So if I want to express something that happened in the past, when should ...
5
votes
3answers
567 views

Why does 他吃了饭 sound incomplete?

As I study usage of different aspects markers in Chinese, I started to realize that my problems with those markers come from simple fact that: "I don't see any use in them." Reason for this is: ...
1
vote
3answers
97 views

Writing critique request: Zhou Ziwang was fat when she was young

Continuing on from part 1: 当我是女孩时,世界上最重要的是吃巧克力和其它甜食。我爱吃麦当劳、我爱吃比萨、我爱吃巧克力蛋糕。我爸忙时就让我吃,如此我不打扰他,而他经常在电脑上工作。并不奇怪的是,我当时很胖。 虽然我很小,但不得不注意到了别人不同的对待我,使我感到对自己的身体不满意,而我变得越来越难过了。我渴望变瘦了,或者至少不那么胖。那时候我知道吃热量高的食物让人长胖,...
17
votes
7answers
4k views

Stative verbs in Chinese: only for adjectives?

I've recently discovered that in Chinese, adjectives can function as verbs. An answer on this site stated that "all adjectives in Chinese can function as verbs". This was obviously an interesting ...
16
votes
11answers
716 views

What etymology dictionaries are available?

What dictionaries (online, software-based or in paper form) explain the origins of a word and its evolution over time? E.g. how the character was once written, how the usage – and the meaning – ...
9
votes
3answers
578 views

Why there is no 的 after 你 in 你国家的医院好吗?

I got a translation of “Are hospitals in your country good?” from a native speaker of Mandarin as: 你国家的医院好吗? Why there is no 的 after 你? It is after a pronoun for instance in such a sentence: ...
9
votes
3answers
400 views

words where it is important to distinguish between the neutral tone and the citation tone

I'm working through the HSK vocab lists, and sometimes I find it hard to remember if a character should be pronounced with the neutral tone or with the citation tone. It would help if I knew when it'...
8
votes
4answers
692 views

认识 vs 知道 based on glyph origins

I'm trying to understand what 识 means and why 认识 is different from 知道. As far as I was able to gather the information on 戠 is a depiction of an armed group of people which, while in battle, should be ...
1
vote
2answers
52 views

Writing critique request: Zhou Ziwang's father takes her to the “doctor”

Continuing from part 2 (see also part 1): 我妈注意到我当时变胖了,她想要帮我减肥但是长期以来的饮食习惯改不掉。难道说 ,我已经患有饮食失调了吗?我妈终于要求我总是忙于工作的爸爸帮我的忙,因此我爸带我去看医生。虽然我说“医生”,但即使到现在我也不确认。我问道,“老爸,我们去看医生吗?妈妈已经带我去看过了,但是没用”。我爸犹豫地答道,“噢,这位医生不一样”...
31
votes
13answers
14k views

What is a good technique for remembering tones?

I find it a great struggle to try and remember tones for all the new vocab I learn, and aside from gradually picking up tones by listening and talking with native speakers, I can't really remember ...
34
votes
8answers
7k 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
5k views

How were Chinese characters taught to Chinese children before the introduction of pinyin?

Before schools started to use pinyin for teaching characters to Chinese children, how and/or what was used to teach it instead? And what about how dictionaries showed the pronunciation of characters?
12
votes
1answer
570 views

How does tone sandhi apply in people's names? [duplicate]

Like the title says, the question is simple: what's the proper way to handle tone sandhi in names? Is there something like "pronounce the family name as-is, apply tone sandhi to given name"? Or is ...
0
votes
2answers
49 views

Writing critique request: Zhou Ziwang gets an injection from the “doctor”

Continuing from part 3 (with the story starting at part 1): 我们到了医务室,这家楼看起来像实验室,而并不是像普通的医院。我看着我爸,他似乎已经对这个地方很熟悉,甚至知道怎么走。他说了“我的朋友在这儿工作”。我们一进去就看到医生了,而他带我们去他的办公室。医生立刻从桌子的抽屉中取出了一只注射器,说“这会解决你的体重问题 ”。...
23
votes
8answers
8k views

What's the difference between 学 and 学习?

I know both mean "to study" and I also know that while 学 (xué) is transitive, 学习 (xué xí) can be both intransitive and transitive, for example: 我学中文。 (I study «what?» Chinese) = transitive; 我在大学学习。 (...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the nuance of 很好?

Beginning textbooks say 很好 means "very good," but soon add that 很 is usually just there to balance the phrase and does not really mean "very" in this context. S.Rhee's comment cites a much fuller ...
9
votes
1answer
521 views

When should I use the 是…的 construction?

I've been told that 是...的 is used to put emphasis on something, but I'm not sure when or why I should use it.
16
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 ...
11
votes
4answers
4k views

Reasons for Chinese changing from monosyllabic to disyllabic?

Classical and Middle Chinese are often considered monosyllabic languages - most words are single syllables. Modern Chinese however is considered disyllabic - most words are two syllables. For example,...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is 月 used when speaking about anatomy?

One thing I've been curious about while learning Chinese is the use of 月 in many 汉字 representing anatomical features (for example, 脸, 腰, or 腿). What is the etymology of the use of 月 as a radical?
17
votes
7answers
2k views

Why is it written LIU in Pinyin, when there's clearly an O sound?

Does anybody know why this decision was made in pinyin, about not writing any hint of the sound /o/ in liu, instead of writing something like liou or liow ? The first reaction of any newcomer to ...
3
votes
1answer
709 views

Is the meaning of this symbol “longevity”?

I'm trying to determine the meaning of a particular character. Sparing the boring details, I'm trying to figure out what the meaning of this character is: As near as i can tell it might be a symbol ...
2
votes
5answers
346 views

What does “了” do in the sentence “呆在家里, 这样你就能接电话了”?

In the sentence "呆在家里, 这样你就能接电话了", I can't see why "了" is used in this sentence. I study Chinese these days, and I think that I can just say "这样你就能接电话", but in this ...
25
votes
16answers
4k views

Techniques for learning and retaining characters

For many of us, memorizing characters is a difficult thing. In Chinese, just because you can speak the word doesn't mean you can read it. Just because you can read it doesn't mean you can write it. At ...
25
votes
6answers
7k views

Why is 的 (de) sometimes pronounced “di” even though it is used as a possessive particle?

I've noticed sometimes the word 的 is pronounced as "di" rather than "de". I'm aware that there is a valid use of 的 with pronunciation "di", which means "really and trully". However for the sentence: ...
25
votes
8answers
2k views

How do native speakers of Chinese pronounce Latin characters?

I hear that "Windows XP" is commonly called "Chā P" because the letter "X" may be pronounced "Chā". Are there other Latin characters that have similarly peculiar pronunciations?
15
votes
4answers
1k views

Difference between 想 and 要?

I know both of them mean "want to" but have usage in different contexts. When should I use each one? For example: 我要去上海市 and 我想去上海市 What's the difference in the meaning between them? Also, I've ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

How does foreign word transliteration work in the context of Cantonese vs Mandarin?

If I understand correctly, Cantonese sounds very different from Mandarin, despite being written in the same way (omitting some small differences, which are irrelevant for the question). If it is the ...
10
votes
3answers
5k views

When to use 看 and 见?

I know 看 and 见 both mean "to see". But they are used differently in different words. Like 看书 看电影...etc. and 见面 见识...etc. (Or do Chinese people say 见书 见电影 or 看面 看识?) Is there a rules to use them ...
6
votes
3answers
792 views

To 了 or not to 了

I'm Chinese learner and as everybody else I'm puzzled by the verbal aspect 了. My research into the subject gave such results: 了 belongs to a class of perfective aspect markers just as many other ...
12
votes
4answers
7k views

Differences: 干,办,做,搞,弄

What's the difference between all these five words? They mean all "to do", they're driving me crazy! I write some example sentences with some of them (hoping that's the right one), just to understand ...
9
votes
6answers
877 views

A unified theory of 就 meaning

就 always bothered me. I couldn't (and maybe still can't) get a hold of its meaning. By looking at many examples of the usage I came to realization that 就 marks a process of becoming a subject to or ...
10
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the difference between 必须, 得, 必需, and 需要?

I know that all of them mean "to have to" in some form or another, but are they interchangeable?
5
votes
6answers
2k views

Why use combined characters that have the same meaning?

(rèn shí ) both characters means ( to know)and when combined it still have the same meaning. So why can't I use only one of them ?
3
votes
2answers
2k views

的确, 确实, 实在, and 真正: what's the difference?

(Related a bit to Difference between 实际, 现实, 确实, and 实在 I guess. Good to link to it for posterity.) 的确, 确实, 实在, 真正 My dictionaries all say that all four can be adverbs with a meaning of "really." ...
11
votes
4answers
13k 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

b and p, d and t, k and g etc. in English and Cantonese

Many words in Cantonese which I think should be pronounced as b, d, g, are translated by the British to p, t, k, respectively. For example, a place in Hong Kong called 大埔 and is pronounced as Dai Bo ...
6
votes
2answers
818 views

Why is 的 used in 你是哪一天出生的 and 我们什么时候开始的 and 前天你什么时候来的这里?

I have the following sentences: 你是哪一天出生的? (sentence 1) I'm trying to understand why 的 is being used in this sentence. I know it is used to express possession, but I'm not sure that's the case is ...
5
votes
3answers
155 views

What does the second "幅” mean in the following sentence?

...真是一幅"幅"美丽的山水画... VS ...真是一幅美丽的山水画... I am having some problems figuring out why there is a second ”幅” in the sentence and what it means? If I took out the second "幅” what would the meaning then be ...
5
votes
4answers
731 views

How and when is 做 used as the verb “to be”?

Can someone please clarify how and when 做 is used to mean "to be" e.g. 不愿做奴隶人们 I am familiar with 做 meaning "to do" or "to make", and I would expect that if I was saying "I am a slave", “我是一个奴隶“ ...

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