Chinese (Mandarin)/Traditional/Lesson 3

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Subpages: Simplified - Exercises - Stroke Order

Lesson 3: An introduction to particles - 第三課:助詞[edit]

The Chinese language employs heavy usage of particles to modify the meaning of characters and sentences. Since Chinese has neither inflections nor tense, the mastery of particles is an absolute must if one is to fully comprehend both written and spoken Chinese. Below, you will find some of the most common particles in everyday Chinese.

The De [的] particle as possessive[edit]

The particle de [的] can be used to indicate possession. It is roughly equivalent to the contraction "X's" in English, where X is the subject.

1. 她的名字是金妮。

Tā de míngzi shì Jīnní.
Her name is Ginny.

The Le/Liăo [了] particle[edit]

Perfect Particle, Completive Particle The 了 particle is used mainly to indicate a completed action (in English, this is the perfect aspect).

Example: 他 走 了。 Tā zŏu le. He has gone.
The "le" here is used to modify 走 (zŏu, to go) into an action which has already been completed.

了 can also be used as an imperative, that is, a command which is issued by the subject Example: 別 再 打擾 我 了! Bié zài dărăo wŏ le! Do not bother me again!
In this instance, le is used in conjunction with bié ("do not") to form an imperative. Note: most imperatives are not formed using this construction.

Finally, 了, as in Liăo (a homographic variant) can be used to indicate the subject's capability in doing such and such.

Example: 我 實在 吃 不 了 了。 Wŏ shízài chī bù liăo le. I cannot possibly eat any more.
At first glance, this sentence may seem a bit daunting as it includes two instances of the le particle, paired side-by-side. However, the first le is understood to be liăo given its placement (bù + le is a nonsensical pairing). Therefore, liăo serves to indicate the capability of eating any further and le emphasizes this assertion.

The Zhe/Zháo [著] particle[edit]

The Zhe/Zháo particle is another particle that you'll frequently encounter in the course of your Chinese studies. Zhe, when added beside a character and thus forming a preposition, is used primarily to indicate an action which is continuous.

Example: 他 睡著覺 時 有人 敲門。 Tā shuìzhe jiào shí yŏurén qiāomén. While he was sleeping, someone knocked on the door.

In addition, Zháo is used to indicate accomplishment.

Example: 我 終於 把 東西 買 著 了! Wŏ zhōngyú bă dōngxī măi zháo le. I've finally been able to buy this item!
The bă (noun) (verb) zháo (le) construction is a particularly useful one and should be studied.