One common mistake that a lot of beginner Chinese learners make is how to say ‘and’ in Chinese.
It’s natural, when you’re trying to speak Chinese, to use your native language as a point of comparison and to try to ‘translate’ what you’re trying to say into Chinese.
However, because there are so many differences between the two languages, this can often cause problems, and ‘and’ is just one of those words that can trip you up if you treat it the same way as in English, and the result is often that dreaded ‘foreigner Chinese’, where you sound very unnatural because you’re not putting words together correctly.
There are different ways to express ‘and’ in Chinese, or to connect two different parts of a sentence together, depending on the situation.
In this post, I’ll explain some of the most common ones.
Connecting two nouns together
If you want to connect together two nouns, then you can use 和 hé to mean ‘and’.
wǒ xǐhuan píngguǒ hé xiāngjiāo
I like apples and bananas
Both ‘apples’ and ‘bananas’ are nouns. The word order here is exactly the same as the English sentence, and 苹果 and 香蕉 simply mean ‘apples’ and ‘bananas’, there’s no distinction between singular and plural here.
Another character than can come between two nouns and mean ‘and’ is 跟 gēn, which literally means ‘with’.
píngguǒ gēn xiāngjiāo dōu shì shuǐguǒ
Apples and bananas are both fruits
Here, 都 means ‘both’, so the word order is ‘apples and bananas both are fruits’.
Connecting two verb phrases together
Here is an example of a common mistake that an English speaker learning Chinese might say.
wǒ xǐhuan kànshū
hé xǐhuan guàngjiē
I like reading and I like shopping
In this situation, you can’t use 和 to connect the two parts of the sentence together because the two parts are both verb phrases.
Instead, you could use 也 yě, which literally means ‘also’.
Here’s how you could say it.
wǒ xǐhuan kànshū, yě xǐhuan guàngjiē
I like reading and I like shopping
Or, you could also say:
wǒ xǐhuan kànshū hé guàngjiē
I like reading and shopping
Here the verbs are not in full phrases, so 和 is acceptable, but once you have 和 ‘and’ and 喜欢 ‘like’ together, you know you’re making a mistake.
Using 而且 érqiě (furthermore)
Another way that you can say ‘and’ when connecting two phrases with verbs in them is by translating ‘and’ as 而且 érqiě, which literally means something like ‘furthermore’.
tā ài tán gāngqín, érqiě tā hěn huì tán
He loves playing the piano, and he is very good at it.
Common mistake – using 和 not 而且
Here’s another common mistake among Chinese learners.
wǒ xǐhuan zhōngguó
hé wǒ xiǎng qù nàbiān liúxué
In this case, the person is trying to say ‘I like China, and I want to study (abroad) there’, but they have just translated ‘and’ as 和 hé and used it to connect the two parts of the sentence.
We can correct this sentence by using 而且 instead of 和, because the two parts of the sentence are both ‘full phrases’, so it would be:
wǒ xǐhuan zhōngguó, érqiě wǒ xiǎng qù nàbiān liúxué
I like China, and I want to study (abroad) there.
Sometimes you can miss out the ‘and’ in Chinese
Sometimes, Chinese doesn’t even need a word for ‘and’ like English does, and you can simply split up the two parts of the sentence you want to connect together and say them separately.
So, to take the same example, we could say:
wǒ xǐhuan zhōngguó, wǒ xiǎng qù nàbiān liúxué
I like China, (and) I want to study (abroad) there.
There is no word for ‘and’, and we can use a comma or a full stop to divide up the two parts of the sentence. If you were saying the sentence out loud, you would pause in between the two parts, to make the meaning clear.
As you continue to listen to Chinese, you can pick up on how native speakers connect different parts of what they are saying together. When do they use 和, 也 or 而且, and when do they use another phrase or simply pause.
If you are also learning to read Chinese, you can also pay attention to how different parts of a sentence are connected together. Analysing and applying what you have found to the way you speak Chinese is the key to avoiding this very ‘foreign sounding’ mistake!