Chinese Grammar 101 For New Learners: Part 2

Pandanese is here again to show you that Chinese grammar is not difficult at all! 

Continuing on from our blog Chinese Grammar 101 For New Learners: Part 1, this is the next Chinese grammar wiki guide to help facilitate your journey of mastering one of the most difficult languages in the world. 

Let’s check it out right now! 

Chinese Grammar: Basic rules that every newbie must know (Part 2)

1. There is no pluralization

In English, we usually add an extra letter ‘s’ or ‘es’ at the end of a singular noun to make it plural. For example, to indicate that there is more than one book on the table, we say ‘five books are on the table.’ English also has all sorts of exemptions and additional grammar rules for plural nouns. For instance, the plural form of a mouse is not mouses – it’s mice! Confusing, right?

Luckily, you don’t have to deal with any of these odd rules because Chinese doesn’t work that way! There are no plural nouns at all in Chinese – singular or plural; they are the same nouns. 

Example: 

Mouse → 老鼠 (Lǎoshǔ)

Mice → 老鼠 (Lǎoshǔ)

Person → 人 (rén)

People → 人 (rén)

In case you want to specify the quantity, you can apply the following grammar structure: 

Number + Measure Word + Noun

We’ll explain this formula in detail in another post, but for now, let’s take a look at some examples: 

1 person → 一 个人 (yí gè rén)

10 people → 十个人 (shí gè rén)

99 people → 九十九个人 (jiǔshíjiǔ gèrén)

You can also use ambiguous phrases like 几 (jǐ, several), 一些 (yīxiē, some), or 很多 (hěn duō, many) to indicate the amount of whatever thing you mean.

Example:

Several people → 几个人 (jǐ gèrén)

As you can see, the noun person/people (人) remains the same regardless, while other factors in the sentence will let you know if the noun is singular or plural. 

See also:

2. There are no articles: a, an, the

A, an, and the—what we call articles in English—don’t exist in Chinese. You don’t have to memorize any additional rules regarding this matter.  

A noun in Chinese can simply stand alone, and the sentence’s context will let you know if something is definite or indefinite – the main purpose of articles. 

 3. To make comments, put the topic first

Apart from the sentence structure S+V+O mentioned in Chinese Grammar 101 For New Learners: Part 1, topic-comment is another basic type of Chinese sentence and probably the most natural way to express yourself in a conversation. 

Simply put, a topic-comment sentence starts with a ‘topic’—the subject matter you want to talk about, then followed by a ‘comment’—your thoughts, opinions, or sometimes what you want to know about the subject matter. 

Here is an example of a topic-comment sentence:

Chinese: 茶我喜欢。(Chá wǒ xǐhuan.)

Literal translation:  Tea I like.

English meaning: I like tea. 

In this example, ‘tea’ is the topic I want to talk about, and ‘I like’ is my comment on that topic. 

To better understand this common structure, take a look at some other examples:  

Chinese Literal translation English meaning 
那个人我见过。Nàge rén wǒ jiàn guò.That guy, I’ve met.I’ve met that guy.
中国我没去过。Zhōngguó wǒ méi qù guò.China, I haven’t been to.I haven’t been to China.
钱你带了吗?Qián nǐ dài le ma?Money, did you bring?Did you bring the money?
他钱很多。Tā qián hěn duō.
He, much money.He has a lot of money. 
这个汉字你会念吗?Zhège Hànzì nǐ huì niàn ma?This Chinese character, can you read?Can you read this Chinese character?

Chinese people mostly use this structure to make it straight to the point and shorten the sentence by putting the topic in the beginning and using fewer words compared to the S+V+O structure. 

Additionally, you can also use the topic-comment structure to express emphasis, especially when you’re comparing or contrasting different things.

Example: 

Chinese: 水果 ,我 最爱 吃 草莓 。(Shuǐguǒ, wǒ zuì ài chī cǎoméi.)

Literal translation:   Fruit, I like strawberries best. 

English meaning:  Strawberries are my favorite fruit. 

See also:

4. This, That, These, Those – Chinese demonstratives are the same as in English. 

Demonstratives, also known as demonstrative pronouns, are the words used to point to specific people or things, for example, this, that, these, those. 

In Mandarin Chinese, demonstratives are just as straightforward as their English equivalents.

ChinesePinyinEnglish meaning 
zhèthis
that
这些zhèxiēthese
那些nàxiēthose

Here are some examples:

这人 (zhè rén): this person

那人 (nà rén): that person

这些人 (zhèxiē rén): these people

那些人 (nàxiē rén): those people

Final thoughts 

We hope that our Chinese grammar wiki guide Part 2 has helped you go through and grasp some more basic grammar points. 

Chinese grammar is not so difficult – and to make it even easier, we’re here to help! If you’re a newbie learner having difficulties learning or understanding a grammatical point, leave a comment below, and we’ll help you solve it! 

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