Who are you?
In Chinese we ask >> You are whom?
whom is an object so it stays at the end.
Who did that? >>
In Chinese we also say: Who did that? because who is the subject.
Train your brain
to get used to the way we build our sentences, before we check in the dictionary. Translate these sentences back into English.
[NOTE] Again, we do not say broke we say break. There is no tense in Chinese grammar. We use specific words to express a certain tense, instead of changing verb forms, etc.
>> Who are you?
>> Why can’t you just come over and drop that?
>> How long do I need to get there?
>> How much does this dress cost?
>> Why did your son break our car parking in the street?
how old has THREE translations, used in different context.
- If the person being asked is a child, less than ten years old, then we ask “ni ji Sui le?”
- If the person being asked is a senior, then we ask “nin duoDa nianji le?” or “nin duoDa SuiShu le?“
- For other people, we use the common question “ni duoDa le?“
nin = ni = you. nin is only used for respectful persons including seniors, or your teacher, a master, etc.
duo = how/many/much;
Da = old/big/great;
Sui = nianji = Suishu = age. nianji and Suishu are more formal expressions than the single character word Sui.
ji = which number under ten.
If we know the number is under ten, but don’t know how many, then we ask ji…otherwise we ask Duoshao (how many).
Put it in other words:
Duoshao: How many
ji: We do not know how many but we know it is a single digital small number.
DuoDa: how old
duoDa = dwarDar;
SuiShu = SwayShoo; nianji = nyanjee;
How many people are there in your family? [You are sure his/her family members are less than ten], we ask like this:
nin(your) jiali(family) you(has) ji(how many) kou(~mouth, a unit word for people) ren(people)?
How much do these apples cost? [You know the price of apple is no more than ten Yuan.] We ask like this:
Zhe(these) pingguo(apple) ji(how many) Kuai(Yuan) qian(money)?
In Chinese this question word [which] functions as either a subject or object.
For example, [Which is yours?] may be translated two ways [Which is yours? as subject], or[Yours is which?, as object]. They are both correct.
Most of time it is at the beginning of a sentence, as a subject.
Which hotel are you staying in?
>> You stay in which hotel?
[We ignored the tense in this question, just say it as a present tense.]
Which house is yours?
>> naDong fangzi Shi nide? [remains the same.]
what = (shenme)shunmuh
what to do = (zenmeBan)dsunmuhBan = how to do
example 1: What can I do for you, sir?
: I can(verb 1) for you(adverbial modifier phrase) do(verb 2) what(object), sir?
example 3: What about us?
: We how to do? [women zenmeBan?]
example 1: Who are you?
>> You are whom(object)?
>> Miss, you want speak to whom(object)?
>> Who(subject) Zai(be at) here? Chu(Out) come(lai)! I have gun!
when/what time = shenme shihou [shunmuh shirHole]
Yes, remember that when and what time has the same translation in Chinese.
In Chinese when/what time are time-specifying adverbial modifiers, so they are always ahead of the verb or adjective.
>> xianzai(ShyanDsai/now) shenme shihou(shunmuh ShirHole/what time) le?
[le indicates a past/perfect tense in Chinese. In this case, even though the time you are asking is right now, it is like we are actually asking how many hours have passed.]
>> ni(nee/you) shenme shihou(when) zhangda(dsungDar/grow up), huoji(hwarJee/buddy)?
[Don’t use this word huoji(buddy) unless your Chinese is good enough and you know the person really well. It’s just in English you don’t call a senior, an officer or a stranger buddy.]
>> hangBan(hungban/flight) Daoda(Dawdar/arrive) ZheGe(DserGher/this) chengShi(tsengShir/city) Shi(Shir/is) shenme shiHou(shunmuh shirHole/what time)?
[a clause functions as the subject.]
or another way of asking:
>> hangBan Shi shenme shiHou Daoda ZheGe chengShi de?
[the subject is a single word flight. We will explain about this structure Shi…de in another lesson. This structure is used to emphasize something.]
why = weishenme/ Wayshenmuh = Ganma / Ganmuh
Why did you marry me in the first place?
>> ni(nee/I) dangshi(dungshir/at the time/in the first place) weishenme(Wayshunmuh/why) qu wo(true woh/marry me)?
[Again, since in Chinese we do not have a way of expressing certain tense by changing the form of a verb, we add certain words to express tenses. And the word Dangshi is one of these words. It indicates a time in the past but not specific time.]
>> women(wohmen/we) Weishenme(Wayshunmuh/why) Buneng(Booneng/can’t) Jin(Jin/enter) ZheGer(DserGer/this) gongyuan(gongywan/park)?
[Why is a typical adverbial modifier, and it always stay after the subject, and before the predicate. Even though the word Bu(not) is also a typical adverbial modifier, Bu tends to stay closer to the predicate, while why stays close to the subject.]
>> Zhetiao(Dser tyao/this) gou(go/dog) Ganma(Ganmar/why) ba(bar/~get) jiali(jarly/home) Nong(make) de yituanzao(Yeetwandsao/such a mess)?
tiao: a unit word for long objects, like a dog, or a rope…yes, Chinese have many many unit words for various objects, this is one of the differences between English and Chinese. It is not very necessary in many cases but we cannot do anything about it. It’s just like in English we do a lot work to express certain tense, while in many cases it’s just too much.
de: indicates a complement following it. [such a mess] is a complement.
how: zenmeYang[dsenmuh Yung] / ruhe[rooher]
This word alwasy functions as an adverbial modifier, therefore its location is restricted to be between the subject and predicate[verb or adjective].
>> ni(nee/you) yiGeren(yeeGerren/by yourself) zenme(dsenmuh/how) Qu(True/go) zhongguo(dsonggwar/China)?
[You may want to ask: since (by yourself) and (how) are both adverbial modifiers, can I change their orders here? The answer is yes but we tend to say like this.]
>> ni(you) hao(fine) ma?
[We see this phrase again, to help you to memorize it because obviously it is very important to remember. But —
please remember that in China we never greet people this way! We say “hello”, we say “Good morning”, we ask “Have you eaten?” but we do not ask “how are you?” everyday.]
[So should I just forget about this sentence at all? No, when we have not seen someone for a long time, and we meet again, we ask him/her “ni hai hao ma?” (Is everything good?)]
>> ni(nee/you) zenme(dsenmuh/how) neng(can) NaYang(Naryung/like that) shuo(shwar/say about) wo(woh/me)? wo(woh/I) dangshi(dungshir/at the time) huaiYun(hwhyYwen/pregnant) le.
[Just like in English, many sentences have multiple verbs, like this one: can say about…In this case, we need to relocate the adverbial modifiers to be ahead of certain verbs.]
>> ni(nee/you) zenme(dsenmuh/how) jiang(Jung/~get) haizimen(haidsmen/children) Dai(Dai/raise) de(leading a complement) Zheme hao(Dsermuh hao/so well) de?
[there are two de in this sentence. The first de indicates a complement, while the second de indicates a structure (Shi…de), which emphasizes the object/phrases after Shi. But where is this Shi? Well, unfortunately, it is omitted. We could also say like this: ni Shi zenme jiang haizimen Dai de Zheme hao de?]
where = narli /narly
In Chinese this question word mostly functions as either subject or object.
[Where are you?]
[You Zai (be at) where (object)?
[Where is there a bathroom?]
[Where has a bathroom?][as subject]
How many and How much have the same translation: Duoshao[Dwarshao]
In Chinese this question word mostly functions as an attributive modifier, sometimes it is an object when the actual object is omitted. This is no different from English.
[How many seats do you have?]
>> [You have how many seats]
[seat is an object, and how many is its attributive modifier.]
[How much is this?(bargaining)],
the actual object money is omitted in English but if we want to say it in Chinese, the question needs to be reconstructed as
[This is/requires how much money?]
How many employees have you fired?
>> You(ni/nee) have fired(jieGule/jayGoole) how many(Duoshao/Dwarshao) employees(yuangong/ywanGong)?
How much is this dress?
>> Zhe(Dser/this) tiao(tyao/measure word) qunzi(trends/dress) duoshao(Dwarshao/how much) qian(chan/money)?
next lesson: phrase