How do you say ‘it’ in Chinese?

Even though strictly speaking there is a character for ‘it’ in Chinese (它), the word ‘it’ is very rarely translated into Chinese. A lot of speakers of European languages often make mistakes because they try to ‘translate it’ into Chinese, when it shouldn’t be translated. This is a linguistic difference that you have to get used to. For example: 你买到了吗? - Did you buy it? 买了 - Yes, I bought it. 你喜欢吗?- Do you like it? 喜欢 - Yes I like it. You do not use 它 You also don’t use 它 Continue Reading

How do verb complements work in Chinese?

Many beginners in Chinese learn phrases like: 我听得懂 Wǒ tīng de dǒng I can understand (when listening) Literally: I hear/listen [and the result is] understanding 我听不懂 Wǒ tīng bu dǒng I can’t understand (when listening) Literally: I listen not understand 我看得懂 Wǒ kàn de dǒng I can understand (when reading) Literally: I look/read [and the result is] understanding 我看不懂 Wǒ kàn bu dǒng I can’t understand (when reading) Literally: I look/read not understand In all of these Continue Reading

Learning Chinese? Don’t Make This Mistake With 是

A lot of learners make mistakes with the character 是 This character often means 'to be, am, is, are' or 'it is so'. BUT it doesn't work exactly the same as the verb 'to be' in English or other languages. When using an adjective to describe something, or talking about a state of being, like being cold/thin, you 
don't use 是 on its own 我是饿 should be 我饿了 wǒ è le or 我很饿 wǒ hěn è I am hungry 他是很胖 should be 他很胖 Tā hěn pàng He is very fat 这件毛衣是黄色 should be 这件毛衣是黄色的 Zhè jiàn Continue Reading

How to make a suggestion in Chinese using 吧


吧 is a grammatical particle in Chinese that is used to make a suggestion or to soften the tone of the sentence. It is always the last character in a sentence. Some examples of making suggestions: 走吧 zǒu ba - let's go 吃饭吧 chīfàn ba - let's eat 休息一下吧 xiūxi yīxià ba - take a rest 便宜一点吧 piányi yīdiǎn ba Can it be a little cheaper? Softening the tone of a sentence or making a concession 好吧 Hǎo ba - alright then 算了吧 Suànle ba- forget it 应该是吧 Yīnggāi shì ba - I think Continue Reading

One phrase in spoken Chinese you need to know: 一下

一下 literally means 'for a short time' For example: 稍等一下 Shāo děng yīxià Wait a moment 看一下 Kàn yīxià Take a quick look Another way of expressing the idea of 'politeness' is to repeat the verb and put 一 in the middle. For example: 试一试 Shì yī shì Give it a try 问一问吧 Wèn yī wèn ba Just ask. However, you will hear 一下 all the time in China in polite requests, and in colloquial speech. 麻烦帮我开一下门 Máfan bāng wǒ kāi yīxià mén Could you help me to open the door? In Continue Reading

Difficult Chinese Characters Explained Simply: 把

The character 把 is a real headache for Chinese learners, but you will get very used to when it is/isn't used and how to use it through exposure and practice. It doesn't have an equivalent in English, and when used as a grammar word, it doesn't have it's own meaning, however the original meaning of the character is something like 'grasp' or 'hold' 把 is used really commonly in Mandarin to emphasise the result or action that you are doing to an object, or the influence that it has. Does Continue Reading

How Does Chinese Work If It Doesn’t Have Tenses?

Chinese doesn't have tenses like European languages do. Unlike in French, Spanish, Russian etc, verbs don't change their form depending on who is doing them, and when they are doing them. 我喜欢 – I like 你喜欢 – You like 他(她)喜欢 – He (she) likes 我们喜欢 – We like 你们喜欢 – You like (referring to more than one person) 他们喜欢 – They like 喜欢 xǐhuan is the verb and it stays the same The Chinese character(s) that represent the verb always look the same, past, present or future. 我昨天走了 Wǒ Continue Reading

Difficult Chinese Characters Explained Simply: 就 and 才 


The two characters 就 and 才 can be very confusing to Chinese learners, and they are used quite often. Let's take a look at how to use them. In the simplest usage, 就 indicates 'earlyness' - meaning is something like 'already?' or 'this early?' and 才 indicates 'lateness' - meaning is something like 'only just now' 你怎么现在就到了? Nǐ zěnme xiànzài jiù lái le? Why have you arrived now? (you're so early, why so early) 你怎么现在才到了? Nǐ zěnme xiànzài cái lái le? Why have you arrived Continue Reading

Difficult Chinese Characters Explained Simply: 的,得 and 地

The three characters 的 得 and 地 are all pronounced 'de', and they're really important in Chinese grammar. But the difference stops there. These characters became common in Chinese when the language became modernised from classical Chinese and more 'grammar' characters started to be used. 得 and 地 are simpler to understand, so let's talk about them first! 得 is used after verbs to give you 'a bit more information about the verb (as a complement for the verb) For example: 你说得对 Nǐ Continue Reading

Le (了) Doesn’t Just ‘Mean’ The Past Tense: How To Use Le in Chinese

A lot of Chinese learners believe that 了 *means* the past tense in Chinese. But that's not quite true… 了 is not a character with a tangible meaning that can be translated To say it refers to the past tense is too simplistic, it has a number of different usages. 了 often indicates that a situation has changed In this case, its meaning could be interpreted as: 'and that's the situation now'. Sometimes it can be used similarly to 'ya' in Spanish, e.g. Ya esta – that's enough Continue Reading