Chinese (Mandarin)/Traditional/Lesson 1

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Lessons: Main - Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Subpages: Simplified - Exercises - Stroke Order

Lesson 1: 你好![edit]

It is appropriate to start off the introduction to Chinese with the common greeting: 你好。 Below is a dialogue between two people meeting each other for the first time.

Dialogues[edit]

Dialogue 1: Characters & Pīnyīn/English[edit]

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

Dialogue 2: Characters & Pīnyīn/English[edit]

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


Pīnyīn English
Jīnní: Tāmen shì shéi? Ginny: Who are they?
Ōuwén: Tā shì Àiměi, tā shì Zhōngguórén. Tā shì Dōngní, shì Měiguórén. Owen: She is Amy. She's Chinese. He's Tony, an American.
Jīnní: Nĭ 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.

Vocabulary[edit]

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.

Traditional (Simplified in parentheses) Pīnyīn Part of speech English [m.]
1. m.=, f.= () (pro) you (singular)
2. hǎo (adj) good
3. () men (n suffix) (pluralizing suffix for pronouns)
4. m.=你們 f.=妳們 (你们) nǐmen (pro) you all(plural)
5. (pro) I, me
6. 我們 (我们) wǒmen (pro) we, us
7. (pro) he, him
8. (pro) she, her
9. 他們 (他们) tāmen (pro) they, them (masc.)
10. 她們 (她们) tāmen (pro) they, them (fem.)
11. jiào (v) to be named
12. 甚麼 (什么) shénme (pro) what
13. 名字 míngzi (n) name
14. shì (v) to be (am/is/are)
15. () shéi OR shuí (pro) who, whom
16. () guó (n) country
17. rén (n) person [个 (個) gè]
18. (adv) also
19. () ma (part) (question particle)
20. ne (part) (question particle for known context)
21. OR něi (pro) what, which
22. (adv) (negates verbs)]

Proper Nouns[edit]

Traditional (simplified in parentheses) Pīnyīn English
1. 金妮 Jīnní Ginny
2. 歐文 (欧文) Ōuwén Owen
3. 艾美 Àiměi Amy
4. 東尼 (东尼) Dōngní Tony
5. 中國 (中国) Zhōngguó China
6. 美國 (美国) Měiguó America
7. 英國 (英国) Yīngguó Britain
8. 法國 (法国) ; Fàguó (in Taiwan) France

Grammar[edit]

Basic Sentences[edit]

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 aren't conjugated and noun and adjective endings don't 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.
Warning icon.png Note that in Chinese you do not need the auxiliary verb to be to use other verbs as in English. While the sentence is translated as "I am called Amy", saying "我是叫艾美" would be considered awkward.

Sentences using shì [是][edit]

Shì, the equational verb to be, can be used as the English is or equals. Shì can only be used to equate combinations of nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns. In Chinese, shì, the "to be" verb, is not used with adjectives, as it is in English, as in, "He is cold."


S + 是 + O



1. 我是中國人。

Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.
I am a Chinese person.

2. 她是金妮。

Tā shì Jīnní.
She is Ginny.

3. 她們是英國人。

Tāmen shì Yīngguórén.
They are English.
Shì is negated when preceded by [不]. is normally 4th tone, but changes to a 2nd tone when it precedes another 4th tone.


S + 不 + 是 + O



1. 他不是東尼。

Tā bú shì Dōngní.
He is not Tony.

2. 我不是美國人。

Wǒ bú shì Měiguórén.
I am not American.

The question particle ma [嗎][edit]

Adding the modal particle ma [嗎] to the end of a sentence makes a statement into a question. There is no change in word order as 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. 她是金妮嗎?

Tā shì Jīnní ma?
Is she Ginny?

The question particle ne [呢][edit]

Using the ending modal particle ne [呢] 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 ne to the end of the noun or pronoun to ask "How about this".


1. 我叫東尼,你呢?

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

2. 艾美是中國人,他呢?

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

Question words[edit]

Like particles, question words make statements into questions without changing the order of the sentence. To make one, simply substitute the QW in for the place the subject would be in the answer.


1. 他們是哪國人?

Tāmen shì nǎ guó rén?
What country are they from?

2. 誰是美國人?

Shéi shì Měiguórén?
Who is American?

3. 她是誰?

Tā shì shéi?
Who is she?
*literal translation. In Chinese, sentences are commonly structured like so, as opposed to in English. In the case of example sentence 3, "Tā shì shéi?" ("She is who?") is used while "Shéi shì tā?" ("Who is she?") is uncommon. As described above, an easy way to find the correct order is by using the response to the question as a template. In this case, the correct form of the response is "Tā shì Jīnní" or "She is Ginny", since the other form "Jīnní shì tā" or "Ginny is she" does not really make sense. Therefore, the question should be worded in the form "Tā shì shéi?", not "Shéi shì tā?".

Lessons: Main - Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Subpages: Simplified - Exercises - Stroke Order