February 12


Does Chinese have grammar?

By fluentin

February 12, 2014

It is a common perception from people who have never studied Chinese that because it uses individual characters instead of words that Chinese does not have grammar.

Written Chinese is a standard language across all the dialects of Chinese. It has no singular and plural like English, it does not have tenses in the Western language sense, it has no genders (masculine, feminine or neuter) and nouns and verbs never change, there are no changing endings.

You may be thinking, does this mean there is no grammar in Chinese? How can Chinese express all the ideas that Western languages can? Well, Chinese does has grammar. Single characters often have to be joined together to make words, and word order if particularly important. Changing the order of words in a sentence or placing stress on different parts can change the meaning. You can learn all of these principles from practice and from examples.

Chinese has a number of grammatical particles. Although they may not correspond exactly to Western tenses or grammatical ideas, they are still aspects of grammar. When the classical Chinese language was modernized, authors started to write as they speak, and more grammatical particles were introduced, which roughly correspond to nouns, verbs and adjectives.

So, basically, yes Chinese does have grammar, but it doesn’t work in the same way as Western languages. It’s not that difficult to learn though. There are lots of different sentence patterns, and you can get used to hearing them or producing them just like you can with any other language.

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