Chinese (Mandarin)/Lesson 1

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Lessons: Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 Search inside this book using Google
Subpages: Examples - Exercises - Stroke Order

Lesson 1: 你好!

It is appropriate to start off the introduction to Chinese with the common greeting 你好 Look up 你好 in Wiktionary ‹nǐ hǎo› (“hello”)。 Below is a dialogue between two people meeting each other for the first time.


Dialogue 1

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
金妮: 你好。 金妮: 你好。
欧文: 你好。 歐文: 你好。
金妮: 我叫金妮。你叫什么名字? 金妮: 我叫金妮。你叫什麽名字?
欧文: 我叫欧文。 歐文: 我叫歐文。
Pīnyīn English
Jīnní: Nǐ hǎo. Ginny: Hello.
Ōuwén: Nǐ hǎo. Owen: Hello.
Jīnní: jiào Jīnní. jiào shénme míngzi? Ginny: I'm Ginny. What's your name?
Ōuwén: jiào Ōuwén. Owen: I'm Owen.

Dialogue 2

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
金妮: 他们是谁? 金妮: 他們是誰?
欧文: 她是艾美,她是中国人。他是东尼,他是美国人。 歐文: 她是艾美,她是中國人。他是東尼,他是美國人。
金妮: 你也是美国人吗? 金妮: 你也是美國人嗎?
欧文: 不是,我是英国人。你呢?你是哪国人? 歐文: 不是,我是英國人。你呢?你是哪國人?
金妮: 我是法国人。 金妮: 我是法國人。

Pīnyīn English
Jīnní: Tāmen shì shéi? Ginny: Who are they?
Ōuwén: Tā shì Àiměi, tā shì Zhōngguórén. Tā shì Dōngní, tā shì Měiguórén. Owen: She is Amy. She's Chinese. He's Tony, an American.
Jīnní: Nǐ yě shì Měiguórén ma? Ginny: Are you also American?
Ōuwén: Bú shì. Wǒ shì Yīngguórén. Nǐ ne? Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén? Owen: No, I'm British. How about you? Which nationality are you?
Jīnní: Wǒ shì Fǎguórén. Ginny: I'm French.


Note: Visit this lesson's Stroke Order subpage to see images and animations detailing how to write the following characters. Audio files of the words are linked from the pīnyīn when available. Problems listening? See media help.

Simplified Traditional (if diff.) Pīnyīn Part of speech English [‍m.‍]
1a.  Look up 你 in Wiktionary  (pro) you (singular, masculine)
1b.  Look up 妳 in Wiktionary   Look up 妳 in Wiktionary  (pro) you (singular, feminine), rarely used in the Mainland
2.  Look up 好 in Wiktionary  hǎo (adj) good
3.  Look up 们 in Wiktionary   Look up 們 in Wiktionary  men (particle) (noun plural marker)
4a. 你们 Look up 你们 in Wiktionary  你們 Look up 你們 in Wiktionary  nǐmen (pro) you all (plural, masculine)
4b. 妳们 Look up 妳们 in Wiktionary  妳們 Look up 妳們 in Wiktionary  nǐmen (pro) you all (plural, feminine)
5.  Look up 我 in Wiktionary  (pro) I, me
6. 我们 Look up 我们 in Wiktionary  我們 Look up 我們 in Wiktionary  wǒmen (pro) we, us
7.  Look up 他 in Wiktionary  (pro) he, him
8.  Look up 她 in Wiktionary  (pro) she, her
9. 他们 Look up 他们 in Wiktionary  他們 Look up 他們 in Wiktionary  tāmen (pro) they, them (masc.)
10. 她们 Look up 她们 in Wiktionary  她們 Look up 她們 in Wiktionary  tāmen (pro) they, them (fem.)
11.  Look up 叫 in Wiktionary  jiào (v) to be named, (lit.) to call
12. 什么 Look up 什么 in Wiktionary  什麽 Look up 什麽 in Wiktionary  shénme (pro) what
13. 名字 Look up 名字 in Wiktionary  míngzi (n) name
14.  Look up 是 in Wiktionary  shì (v) to be (am/is/are)
15.  Look up 谁 in Wiktionary   Look up 誰 in Wiktionary  shéi OR shuí (pro) who, whom
16.  Look up 国 in Wiktionary   Look up 國 in Wiktionary  guó (n) country
17.  Look up 人 in Wiktionary  rén (n) person [ Look up 个 in Wiktionary ‹gè› ( Look up 個 in Wiktionary )]
18.  Look up 也 in Wiktionary  (adv) also
19.  Look up 吗 in Wiktionary   Look up 嗎 in Wiktionary  ma (part) (question particle for yes or no questions)
20.  Look up 呢 in Wiktionary  ne (part) (question particle for known context)
21.  Look up 哪 in Wiktionary  OR něi (pro) what, which
22.  Look up 不 in Wiktionary  (adv) (negates verbs)

Proper Nouns

Simplified Traditional (if diff.) Pīnyīn English
1. 金妮 Jīnní Ginny
2. 欧文 歐文 Ōuwén Owen
3. 艾美 Àiměi Amy
4. 东尼 東尼 Dōngní Tony
5. 中国 Look up 中国 in Wiktionary  中國 Look up 中國 in Wiktionary  Zhōngguó China
6. 美国 Look up 美国 in Wiktionary  美國 Look up 美國 in Wiktionary  Měiguó United States
7. 英国 Look up 英国 in Wiktionary  英國 Look up 英國 in Wiktionary  Yīngguó United Kingdom
8. 法国 Look up 法国 in Wiktionary  法國 Look up 法國 in Wiktionary  Fǎguó France

Forming the nationality is usually as simple as adding on  Look up 人 in Wiktionary ‹rén› (“person”) to the country name. 中国 Look up 中国 in Wiktionary ‹Zhōngguó› (“China”) becomes 中国人 Look up 中国人 in Wiktionary ‹Zhōngguó rén› (“a person of Chinese nationality”), and so forth.


Basic Sentences

The sentence structure of Chinese is very similar to that of English in that they both follow the pattern of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Unlike many languages, verbs in Chinese are not conjugated and noun and adjective endings do not change. They are never affected by things such as time or person.

S + V + O

1. 我叫艾美。

Wǒ jiào Àiměi.
I'm called Amy.

Sentences using shì [是]

The equational verb  Look up 是 in Wiktionary ‹shì› (“to be”) can be used as the English is or equals.  Look up 是 in Wiktionary ‹shì› can only be used to equate combinations of nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns. In Chinese,  Look up 是 in Wiktionary ‹shì› (“to be”) is not used with adjectives, as it is in English, as in, "He is cold."

S + 是 + O

1. 我是中国人。

Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.
I am a Chinese person.

2. 她是金妮。

Tā shì Jīnní.
She is Ginny.

3. 她们是英国人。

Tāmen shì Yīngguórén.
They are English.
 Look up 是 in Wiktionary ‹shì› is negated when preceded by  Look up 不 in Wiktionary ‹bù› (“not”).  Look up 不 in Wiktionary ‹bù› is normally 4th tone, but changes to a 2nd tone when it precedes another 4th tone.

S + 不 + 是 + O

1. 他不是东尼。

Tā bú shì Dōngní.
He is not Tony.

2. 我不是美国人。

Wǒ bú shì Měiguórén.
I am not American.


There are no articles in Chinese grammar. While English noun clauses often begin with "a", "an", or "the", Chinese is less verbose.

An example:

  1. 我是中国人。
    Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.
    I am [a] Chinese person.

An "a" appears in the English translation, but the singular and indefinite nature of 中国人 Look up 中国人 in Wiktionary ‹Zhōngguórén› (“Chinese person”) is just inferred in Chinese.

The question particle  Look up 吗 in Wiktionary ‹ma›

Adding the modal particle  Look up 吗 in Wiktionary ‹ma› to the end of a sentence makes a statement into a question. There is no change in word order unlike in English.

The declarative example sentence in #1 is transformed into an interrogative in #2.

1. 她是金妮。

Tā shì Jīnní.
She is Ginny.

2. 她是金妮吗?

Tā shì Jīnní ma?
She is Ginny ?

The question particle  Look up 呢 in Wiktionary ‹ne›

Using the ending modal particle  Look up 呢 in Wiktionary ‹ne› makes a question when the context is already known, similar to saying "How about...?" in English. A common circumstance is when you wish to repeat a question that was just asked for another subject. Simply add  Look up 呢 in Wiktionary ‹ne› to the end of the noun or pronoun to ask "How about this".

1. 我叫东尼, 你呢?

Wǒ jiào Dōngní, nǐ ne?
I'm called Tony. How about you?

2. 艾美是中国人, 他呢?

Àiměi shì Zhōngguórén, tā ne?
Amy is Chinese. How about him?

Question words

Question words like  Look up 哪 in Wiktionary ‹nǎ› (“what”) and  Look up 谁 in Wiktionary ‹shéi› (“who”) also make statements into questions without changing the order of the sentence. In Chinese, each question word appears where its answer would complete the surrounding sentence.

1. 他们是国人?

Tāmen shì guó rén?
What nationality are they? (literally, "They are what country person?")

2. 是美国人?

Shéi shì Měiguórén?
Who is American?

3. 她是

Tā shì shéi?
Who is she? (literally, "She is who?")

Lessons: Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 Search inside this book using Google
Subpages: Examples - Exercises - Stroke Order