Introduction to Chinese grammar

Chinese grammar is quite simple: no gender (male / female), no plural, no conjugation: words are invariable. That's why words place is very important and, as we shall see later, follows a logical order. The context is important to know, for example, if one speaks of one or several things.

The simple phrase in Chinese

In Mandarin Chinese, the simple sentence is built on the model SUBJECT + VERB (+ OBJECT).

Chinese adjectives

But first surprise: fine, wellis what we call an adjectival verb, that means the adjectivegoodalready carries with it the verbto be. So do not add an auxiliary verb to adjectives in Chinese.
The peculiarity of these adjectival verbs (be well, being tired, being content, etc.) is that in the affirmative, they imply a comparison. Thus:我好 Wǒ hǎo, is not a complete sentence. It would mean I'm fine but ...(you're not finefor example to complete the sentence.)

To remove comparison and make a complete sentence, we need to add the adverb hěn.

The phraseI'm fineis written: 我很好 Wǒ hěn hǎo.

But then, this phrase is translated byI'm fine.orI'm very well? In writing, the difference is impossible to do, so there is ambiguity. By cons, when we speak, if the hěn is not accentuated it meansI'm fine.

If hěn is accentuated, it meansI'm very well.

No conjugation

In Chinese, there is no conjugation:
我很好。 Wǒ hěn hǎo. I'm fine.
你很好。 Nǐ hěn hǎo. You are well..
他很好。 Tā hěn hǎo. He is well.

Negative sentence in chinese

To do a negative sentence, we must add the negation before the verb:

我不好。 Wǒ bù hǎo. I'm not well.

CAUTION: is an adverb and in Mandarin Chinese, the adverbs are always put before the verb.

Since it is not an affirmative sentence, the adjectival verb expresses no comparison. It is therefore not necessary to add the adverb hěn.

The interrogative sentence

In Chinese, the yes-no questions (question which can be answered with yes or no and don't give information. ExampleAre you alright?is a yes-no question, butHow are you ?is not), is built in a very simple way:

Sentence + ma ?
Example : 你好吗? Nǐ hǎo ma ? Are you alright?


  1. as it is not an affirmative sentence, the adjectival verb ( hǎofine) does not imply a comparison. So we do not need to add hěn. If we add it, then it means:Are you very well? 你很好吗? Nǐ hěn hǎo ma ?
  2. questions in Chinese has no reversal. The sentence structure is the same:subject + verb + object.

The interrogative particlene

The interrogative particle ne is used to return a question Example :
你好吗? Nǐ hǎo ma ? Are you alright?
我很好,谢谢,你呢? Wǒ hěn hǎo, xièxie, nǐ ne ? I'm fine, thank you, and you?
我不好。 Wǒ bù hǎo. I'm not well.

Warning! The particle ne is not place at the end of a sentence, just after a word, otherwise it takes on another meaning (meaningto be in the process of), but we will see this in more detail in another lesson.

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