ni hao = hello.
ni hao ma? = are you fine? = How are you?
You just add a particle ma[muh] at the end of a statement, and it becomes a yes or no question, very simple.
[tah Shwhy muh?]
He is very handsome. = ta hen Shuai.
[tah hen Shwhy.]
Pay attention that we have a word [hen], which means [very] in English, however, in most cases, [hen] is added just as a tradition, it does not mean [very]. It’s just like in English, [Thanks.] is more or less the same as [Thanks a lot.]. It does not really mean you thank him very much. It’s more about the sound of tone. We will see more examples about this word later on.
From now on, we are going to show you two versions of pinyin. One is like ta, ma…which is official pinyin, another is more English like pinyin, like tah, muh…it is Luo version, sort of invented by me, Julian Luo.
The official pinyin will enable to type Chinese into your computer, while the Luo version is more like English, and easier to pronounce.
Do you speak English?
In Chinese we ask like this:
You Hui(are able to/can) speak English ma?
Why do we add the word [Hui/can]?
Because your question is about a skill, a talent. When we say something like this, we need to add a word [Hui] before the verb/skill.
Other skills include: swimming, driving, riding a bike, etc.
Also we will see more examples like this in the following courses. Let’s just move on for now.
Another word to be noted: Shuo = speak / say.
Are you an American?
-Yes, I am an American.
How do we say this in Chinese? Please try to choose between 1 and 2.
You are American ma?
Yes, I am American.
You are an American ma?
Yes, I am an American.
Are you our tour guide for today?
– No, I am not. He is. I am just your driver.
How do you say it in Chinese?
: No, I not am. He is.
: I just am your driver.
A number of words are relocated to the front of the objects they modify in this sentence.
Here below you can have a taste of this LUO version simplified pinyin.
ni(nee/you) Shi(are) women(our) jintian(jintyan/today) de(indicating a modifying relationship) daoyou(dowyo/tourist guide) ma(muh)?
>>Ta(tah/he/she/it) cai(tsai/~really) Shi(is).
>>wo(woh/I) zhi(dsir/only) Shi(Shir/am) ninde(neend/your) siji(Sirjee/driver).
My son is only 4. Can you take him in?
We say like this:
My son [cai] four years old.
You can [ba] him(Ta) take in ma?
- The word Ta means he/she/it/her/him, which means as the listerner, you would not know if TA in the speaker’s words is male or female, man or animal! This is confusing to you and you will have to ask again to figure out if the person is male or female.
- As a matter of fact, the same thing happens when we learn English. In Chinese, Meimei = younger sister, jieJie = elder sister but in English you just call them sister, there is no single word for Meimei or jieJie. It’s also confusing for us because we would need to ask again to figure out if the sister is older or younger. We don’t have single-word translation for these words: sister, brother, uncle, and aunt!
- So when you have to introduce your brother, sister, unclue or aunt to a Chinese person, you need to think about the relation first. We will learn more about this kind of tips in my books.
- Translation in this kind of situation may not be accurate because there is no exact word for words like Ta, sister and brother in either English or Chinese. Just get used to it, and guess, or ask to clarify.
- cai(tsai) is one of the words that are hard to translate. Here it means [only]. The dictionary may tell you other meanings. You will have to learn these words when you communicate with Chinese locals and learn in the right environment. I don’t think any translator can explain to you with simple answer, so you need to figure out yourself. We learned this group of words out of classroom too.
- There is a word [ba] used in the rebuilt sentence. It means [~get] but ba is a preposition in Chinese. There is no preposition in English which meaning is similar to [get]. We use this preposition to relocate an object ahead, adding a preposition [ba] to form an adverbial modifier, to emphasize this object.
move on for now
Ask a negative question
Can’t you just do it now?
There is a big difference between English and Chinese regarding how to answer a negative question like this, take a look:
Can’t he do it now?
– Yes, he is preparing the tools right now.
[This is how you answer this type of negative question.]
While in Chinese, we need to answer like this:
– No, he is preparing the tools right now.
– Yes, he is too busy at the moment so he can’t…
Why do we answer like this? Just read below and you will figure out:
…Yes, you are right. He is too busy and cannot do it now.
…No, you are wrong. He can do it now, and actually he has already started the work.
Possible answers in Chinese are like this:
No,(you are wrong) I like it, and I am gonna try it now.
Yes, (you are right) it is just too tight for me. I am gonna try that one I think.
I heard that in Japanese and Korean languages, their answers are similar to our Chinese answers.
- Don’t you want to try it first?
- No, I like it, and I am gonna try it now.
- Yes, it is just too tight for me.
- I am gonna try that one I think.
>> ni(nee) bu(don’t) xiang(want) xian(first) shiyishi(have a try) ma(a question symbol)?
>> bu(no), wo(I) ting(rather) xihuan(like) ta(it), wo(I) xianzai(now) jiu(~at once) shi chuan(wear) yixia(~indicating a short period of time and a light tone).
>> Shi–a(Shir-ah/yes…the particle a added to the word Shi indicates an agreement here), Dui wo laishuo(Dway woh laishwoh/for me (dui…laishuo = for)) youxie(yosheah/somewhat) tai jin(too tight) le(a particle often goes after the word tai).
>> wo xiang(shyung/I think) wo haiShi(I should instead) ShiyiShi(ShiryeeShir / have a try) Na(Nar/that) jian(Jan/measure word for clothes, here we use a measure to indicate a clothing) haole(howle/ haishi…haole = instead).
Please try to read this conversation for a number of time, and see how far you go. It is difficult of course, just get the idea what a normal conversation based on official pinyin is like. I am sure most of the pinyin words are impossible to pronounce…I have no idea why the Chinese government created pinyin like this decades ago. If you are curious, check the English words in brackets on Google Translate, and you will hear the actual sounds of the pinyin words, probably. Don’t worry about the pronunciation for now. We will work on that later.
- You ShibuShi a student? = Are you a student?
- You are a student, ShibuShi? = You are a student, aren’t you?
[ShibuShi = are or aren’t/is or isn’t/was or wasn’t]
These two sentences show that we can put the rhetorical question words either right after the subject, or after the object.
zhidao [to know]
>> zhiBuzhidao [Bu=not; know or don’t know]
Kanjian [to see]
>> KanmeiKanjian [mei = haven’t; have or haven’t seen]
xueDao [to learn]
>> xuemeixueDao [have or haven’t learned]
1: You youmeiyou(have or have’t) see the UFO? (not seen)
First of all, in Chinese we cannot change a verb to indicate a tense. We just add certain words to do the job. In this case, youmeiyou indicates a perfect tense.
>> ni(you) dangshi(at the time) Zai(at) Anfa(crime) Xianchang(scene), DuibuDui(right or not right)?
>> We can replace [DuibuDui] with [ShibuShi](yes or no),
Or we can ask like this:
>> ni Dangshi ZaibuZai(at or not at) crime scene?
>> ni Shi yiGe(you are a) jianaDaren(Canadian), DuibuDui(right or wrong)?
>> ni ShibuShi yiGe jianaDaren?
>> ni Shi yiGe jianaDaren ma?
>> ni Shi yiGe jianaDaren, ShibuShi (yes or no)?
All four translations are correct.
>> Dulun(ferry) ganggang(just) liKaile(left/departed), ShibuShi(right or not right)?
ganggang(just), yiJing(already), Dangshi(at the time)…are some words we need to add to indicate a past tense or perfect tense.
In addition to that, pay attention to this word liKaile(left/departed). le is a word indicating a past tense in Chinese, added after the verbs, just like -ed.
>> mama, ni gei wo(you for me) mai Nazhi(buy that) xiao Tuzi(small rabbit), haoBuhao(ok or not ok)?
haoBuhao is a word to use when we ask for a permission, or suggestion. When you bargain in China, you may need to use this word.
gei has two main meanings in Chinese: 1. to give; 2. ~ for. I typed ~ to indicate it is just a close translation, not exactly the same. Whenever you want to say do something for someone, you say
gei someone do something; or
Wei someone do something.
Again, if you find pinyin words like “gei wo mai Nazhi xiao Tuzi” are difficult to read, buy my books. They are written in both official pinyin and the English-like pinyin.
>> Baba, wo xiang(I want) jinwan(tonight) yaoqing wode nanpengyou(invite my boyfriend) lai(come) jiali(home), keBukeyi(may or may not/can or cannot)?
As you can see, in addition to the most frequently used rhetorical questions ShibuShi and DuibuDui, we can also say keBukeyi in a permission /suggestion question.
Note that in Chinese we do not say “invite somebody to come”, we just say “invite somebody come”. When [to] links two verbs, it does not get translated.
words: Baba = Dad/daddy; Mama = Mom/mommy;
If you want a confirmation, ask like this:
next lesson:special questions