Chinese (Mandarin)/Traditional/Lesson 7
Lesson 7: 這是甚麼? What's this?
Wáng Míng: Zhè shì shěnme?
|Wáng Míng shì Zhōngguórén.|
Wáng Míng shì xuéshēng.
VocabularyNote on Chinese Names: Chinese Names are always presented in the FAMILY-NAME/FIRST-NAME format. The Family name is passed down paternally from the father (In most cases, except in exceptionally cases such as divorce/unknown parentage..etc.). Most family names have only one character. However, there are some dual-character (or more uncommonly mulitple charactered) family names such as 歐陽（ou1yang2）; 司徒（si1tu2）; 司馬（si1ma3）; 諸葛（zhu1ge2）..etc. These family names evolved from originally non-Han family names which have been eventually assimilated into the general Han culture. Hence a man called 王明 (Wáng Míng) is addressed as Mr. WANG, not Mr. MING. A lady called 李紅 (Lǐ Hóng) is addressed as Miss/Madam LI. However, if the person has a western personal name, it is presented in the PERSONAL-NAME/FAMILY-NAME format, following the Western convention. Hence if 李紅 (Lǐ Hóng) has a western-style personal name of Mary, she is usually introduced as "Mary LI" and not "Li Mary".
|n. Wang Ming [personal name] [Wang= Family Name, Ming=First name/Personal name]|
|n. Li Hong [personal name] [Li= Family Name, Hong= First/Personal name]|
|v. to be (is/are)|
and Taiwan shěme)
|n. pen; a generic term for all pens|
|n. fountain pen|
|n. ballpoint pen|
|n. brush (calligraphy pen)|
|final interrogative particle used|
to form a question sentence
|n. Chinese (中國：China 人：people)|
|n. Foreigners (外：Outside 國：Country 人：People)|
|n. Japanese (日本：Japan 人：People)|
|n. British (英國：Britain 人：People)|
|n. Singaporean （新加坡：Singapore)|
In this lesson, we learn how to say "something is something" in Chinese. The first thing you need to know is that the sentence structure of Chinese is very similar to that of English in that they both follow the pattern of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). But unlike many western 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
This sentence means "What's this/that?":
- 這是甚麼？(What's this?)
- 那是甚麼？(What's that?)
The sentences, if broken down literally, shows that the ordering of words differs in English and Chinese:
The order of the sentences may seem a little bit tricky, but don't worry about that, we will discuss this later.
A 是 B
This sentence means "A is B."
"是" (shì), the equational verb to be, can be used as the English is or equals. When used in a simple Subject-Verb-Object sentence, the subject defines the object. Since Chinese verbs never change, no other forms for shì exist such as was or am in English. Also, articles like a and the are absent in Chinese. They are not translated.
- 這是書 (zhe4 shi4 shu1): this is (a) book.
- 那是雜志 (na4 shi4 za2zhi4): that is (a) magazine.
A 不是 B
This sentence means "A is not B." in which shì is negated when preceded by "不" (bu). "不" literally means "no", "not".
- 這不是書 (zhe4 bu2 shi4 shu1): this is not (a) book.
Now, we come back to the "what's this/that?" questions. We already see that the order is a bit tricky comparing to the English question order. But comparing to the latter pattern "A 是 B", we find the similarity: their orders are identically the same. In fact, like particles, question words make statements into questions without changing the order of the sentence. To make one, simply substitute the QW in for place the subject would be in the answer.
- 這是書。(This is (a) book.)
- 這是甚麼？(This is what?)
- 那是雜誌。(That is (a) magazine.)
- 那是甚麼？(That is what?)
"嗎" is a final interrogative particle used to form a question sentence. Adding this character at the end of a statement transforms the sentence into a question.
- 這不是雜誌 (zhe4 bu2 shi4 za2zhi4)。(This is not (a) magazine.)
- 這不是雜誌嗎(zhe4 bu2 shi4 za2zhi4 ma)？(Isn't this (a) magazine?)
"是" (shi4) can be used to answer a simple yes/no question. In this case, "是" means yes, whilst "不" (bu2) or "不是" (bu2 shi4) means no (literally, not is).
How to answer yes/no questions correctly in Chinese? Usually, it's the same as in English, but pay attention if the questions are negative, like "Isn't this a book?". In Chinese, you answer to the questions, not the fact. If the question itself is a negative answer, use "不是" or simply "不", vice versa. For example:
- A: 這不是書嗎？zhe4 bu2 shi4 shu1 ma? (Isn't this (a) book? = This is not a book, right?)
A asks if that's a book in a negative way. If the object is not a book, you should nevertheless approve A's saying first. So we use "是" to acknowledge that A is correct, and then say "this is not (a) book" to emphasis A is right; In the case of that is a book, you should deny A's saying first, using "不" (no) to point out A is wrong, then make a new statement by noting that "這是書" (this is (a) book). One more example:
- 他今天晚上不來參加宴會了，對嗎？(He's not going to the party tonight, is he?)
- 不，他肯定要來。(Yes, he's defintely coming.)
- 是 啊，他很忙呢！(No, he's so busy!)
Character "的"(de) indicates that the previous word has possession of the next one. In English it functions like 's or like the word of but with the position of possessor and possessee switched. For example:
- 史密斯的書 <-> Smith's book
- 王明的鋼筆 <-> Wang Ming's pen
- 約翰** (Yuēhàn: John)的朋友** (péngyǒu: friend) <-> John's friend or a friend of John's
- Replace the underline words, and practise.
- Replace the underline words, and then answer the questions with both positive answers and negative answers.
- Translate the following English into Chinese.
- Wang Ming is not a teacher. Wang Ming is a student. Wang Ming is a Chinese. Wang Ming is not an American.
- Smith is a lawyer. Smith is not a writer. Smith is an American. Smith is not a French.
- This is Smith's book. That is Wang Ming's pen.
Read the following article, and then answer the questions in Chinese.
- 你好(nǐhǎo, hello)，我(wǒ, I)是王明。我是學生，我是中國人。這是史密斯。史密斯是我的1 朋友，史密斯是律師。那是史密斯的妻子(qīzi, wife)，安娜(Ana)。安娜是我的英語(yīngyǔ, English language)老師。
- 1."我 的" means "my", we will discuss this in the next lesson.
- Who is "I"?
- What does Smith do?
- Who is Ana?
- What does Ana do?
|Greetings. How to greet people in Chinese?
Translation for the text
|Chinese characters||Sentences breakdown||English translation|
Wang Ming: This is what?
Wang Ming: What's this?
Wang Ming is Chinese.
Wang Ming is Chinese.