QUICK CHINESE LESSONS BY THAT’S MANDARIN

LESSON 1

1. To Be | 是 (shì)

 

Our first Quick Chinese Lesson is about one of the most common Chinese words.
It is the verb 是 (shì), which means “to be”. It is equivalent to “am, is, are” in the present tense and “was, were” in the past tense. Use 是 (shì) only with nouns.

STRUCTURE

Pronoun / Noun + 是 (shì) + Noun

老师。
shì lǎoshī.

She is a teacher.

医生。
shì yīshēng.

He is a doctor.

2. Very | 很 ( hěn)

 

But to say things like “You are tall” or “China is beautiful”, you’ll need an adverb. The most common Chinese adverb is 很 (hěn), which literally means “very”.

STRUCTURE

Pronoun / Noun + 很 (hěn) + Adjective

高。
hěn gāo.

You are tall.

好。
hěn hǎo.

I am good.

中国漂亮。
Zhōngguó hěn piàòliang.

China is beautiful.

3. Very | 非常 (fēicháng)

 

What if you want to say “China is very beautiful”? In this case, you can use a “stronger” adverb of degree, such as 非常 (fēicháng), which is a stronger way to say “very”.

STRUCTURE

Pronoun / Noun + 非常 (fēicháng) + Adjective

中国非常漂亮。
Zhōngguó fēicháng piàòliang.

China is very beautiful.

医生。
shì yīshēng.

He is a doctor.

To wrap up, just remember that 是 (shì) is usually followed by a noun, whereas an adverb like 很 (hěn) is usually followed by an adjective.

4. Using 的 (de) with Adjectives

 

In English, it’s common to see phrases like “a beautiful park”, “an interesting person”, “a big room”, etc. You don’t need to put anything between an adjective and a noun in these cases.
In Chinese, things get a bit more complicated. You will need to add 的 (de) between an adjective and a noun, depending on what adjective it is.

STRUCTURE

Pronoun / Noun + 的 (de) + Noun

 

Generally speaking, 的 (de) is not needed if the adjective is made of just one character. If an adjective contains two or more syllables, then you’ll need 的 (de). Just follow this simple rule and you’ll be fine. Let’s have a look at some examples:

1. With adjectives made of more than one character; use 的 (de):

漂亮公园
piàoliang de gōngyuán

a beautiful park

有趣
yǒuqù de rén

an interesting person

2. With adjectives made of only one character; do not add 的 (de):

大房间
dà fángjiān

a big room

5. Simple Sentence Structure

 

If you are a beginner, these four structures will help you avoid making mistakes when you build simple Chinese sentences.

STRUCTURE 1

Subject + Verb + Object

我去学校。
Wǒ qù xuéxiào.

I’m going to school.
Literally: I go to school.

STRUCTURE 2

Subject + Time + Verb + Object

八点去学校。
bā diǎn qù xuéxiào.

I go to school at 8 o’clock.
Literally: I at 8 o’clock go to school.

STRUCTURE 3

Subject + Time + Verb + Object

在家吃晚饭。
zài jiā chī wǎnfàn.

I have dinner at home.
Literally: I at home eat dinner.

STRUCTURE 4

Subject + Time + Verb + Object

八点在家吃晚饭。
bā diǎn zài jiā chī wǎnfàn.

I have dinner at home at 6:30.
Literally: I at 6.30 at home eat dinner.

6. How to Ask Basic Questions

 

Many Chinese learners are told that 吗 (ma) is used at the end to form a question. However, this is not always correct even when creating basic questions.

STRUCTURE

Sentence + 吗 (ma) + ?

吗 (ma) needs to be added at the end of a yes-no question only. For questions like “Where are you?”, “What time is it?”, there is no need to add 吗 (ma).

Let’s have a look at some examples.

1. For yes-no questions; use 吗 (ma):

你喜欢上海吗?
Nǐ xǐhuan Shànghǎi ma?

Do you like Shanghai?

他有中文名字吗?
Tā yǒu Zhōngwén míngzi ma?

Does he have a Chinese name?

2. For other types of questions (who? what? why? where?), do not add 吗 (ma):
你在哪里?
Nǐ zài nǎlǐ?

Where are you?

In our future lessons, we will learn more about different types of questions.
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