This grammar section is divided into a few sub-sections, and will be described through a few week activities:
SP1. Basic Pattern
SP2. Direct and Indirect Objects
SP3. Prepositional Phrases
SP4. Location and Time Phrases
- Unlike English, verbs in Chinese are not inflected. They are never affected by things such as time or person. This makes memorizing “conjugation tables” unnecessary.
- However, word order is very important in Chinese sentences. Word order is often the only indication in Chinese to tell who is doing what to whom.
- Word order can also vary between the two languages, especially with questions. In Chinese, the basic syntax of a question is the same as that of a statement (read this), whereas in English it usually is not.
SP1 : Basic Pattern
- The sentence structure of Chinese is very similar to English.
- In normal declarative sentences, they both follow the pattern :
Subject + Predicate
Subject + Verb + Object (S-V-O)
1. I drink coffee. wǒ hē kā fēi 。 我 喝 咖 啡 。 Subject Verb Object 2. He went to England. tā qù yīng guó 。 他 去 英 国 。 Subject Verb Object
- As mentioned earlier, verbs are not inflected in Chinese. There is no past tense, future tense, singular form and plural form in Chinese. As the example above, we have the verb ‘drink’, but there is no such thing as drinks, drunk, drank, am drinking, will drink, etc in Chinese.
He ‘drink’ coffee.
I ‘drink’ coffee now.
They drink coffee yesterday.
She ‘go’ England.
She ‘go’ England last year.
I ‘go’ (have been to) England before.
- Instead of conjugating a verb, adverbs (such as tomorrow, right now) and particles are used in Chinese to denote what English does with different verb tenses.
1. He will go to England tomorrow. tā míng tiān qù yīng guó 。 他 明 天 去 英 国 。 Subject Adverbs Verb Object 2. He went to England last year. tā qù nián qù yīng guó 。 他 去 年 去 英 国 。 Subject Adverbs Verb Object 3. He has been to England before. tā qù guò yīng guó 。 他 去 过 英 国 。 Subject Verb Particle Object
- Personally, I think Chinese grammar is much simpler if compared to English.
- There is always a fixed and single form in each word, regardless of time, number, person and etc of the subject.
- Due to the lack of inflectional morphology, Chinese grammar is mainly concerned with how words are arranged to form meaningful sentences.
- Happy learning and have a nice weekend.
24 thoughts on “Chinese Sentence Structure and Word Order I”
Hi Min Min. I am so happy to find your website as I need to brush up my Mandarin for examination purpose. I have finished SP1 – SP5 but I couldn’t proceed further. Can you please tell me how to proceed to SP6 – SP10?
Thanks for visiting my website.
The whole section of sentence structure is not yet complete. Please stay tuned and check back always at
i love this website i think this is going to be my tutor
Thank you for this website.
Can you Please teach me/ tell me how to form question sentences in chinese
nide jiao zhi ma
how is your toe
is this right
want to learn to speak chinese
For your example,
“How is your toe?” could be translated in Chinese as
(nǐ de jiǎo zhǐ zěn me le ？)
Check out my grammar section for questions. So far, I have posted 2 tutorials :
Questions with 吗, and
Questions with Verb-Not-Verb
More to come. Stay tuned.
I think it is more correct to translate your example (“How is your toe?”) as
（“nǐ de jiǎo zhǐ hǎo le ma ？”）
The meaning for “你的脚趾怎么了？” as I mentioned earlier should be “What happen to your toe?”
Sorry for the confusion.
Hi! Thanks for posting this site it’s great!
Just wanted to ask about Dominic’s question:
First, a vocab question,
jiao = toe here, right? Or is it jiao zhi?
If jiao = toe, what does zhi mean? Does it represent something grammatical in the question? What link does it have with le? If this is the case I am confused…
If jiao zhi = toe (seems like this would be correct i.e. ‘foot finger’), why are ending the question with ‘le ma’? Can ‘shen ma’ be used instead?
Note: I am interested in anything you have to answer with! You post and I’ll read…
脚 (jiǎo) means leg.
脚趾 is a word with 2 characters which means toe, and the character 趾 normally is not used in alone.
The word 了 is actually with “好了”, not with “了吗”.
“好了吗?” literally means “ok already?”
Hi! My name leakena. I’m from cambodia.i really want to know clearly chinese grammar structure. So please advice me. Thank you beforehead!
I have written a few lessons about Chinese grammar.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I am always here to help.
I love this website , it is my teacher.
Thanks for visiting my website to learn Chinese.
This is so helpful! Taking Chinese at school and was so lost! This has helped so much. Thank you.
Glad to hear that this helps. 🙂
For, ” He has been to England before”, would it be in English, ” He has been to before England”. ?
Do you mean the English sentence is incorrect?
For direct translation from Chinese to English:
他 去 过 英 国。
He Go Before England.
Thank you. One more wuestion though…
So there is no “has been to” in Chinese, it’s just replaced by go?
In Chinese, we use aspect particles (着, 了, 过) and adverbs (已经) to indicate past tense, future tense etc.
In order to mean “has been to”, we use verb “去” along with particles “过”.
Does google translate really work?
Google translation is not very accurate for long sentences. But you can use it as a dictionary for single and short words or phrase.
What do you call the following sentence pattern? I don’t believe it’s the present nor the past nor the future.
Based on the sentence, it can be translated as
“I was taking airplane to come to China (de). ” (which was happening in the past)
If your concern is about the time of the sentence pattern, I would say that it is past tense.