What is the right order of words in a Chinese sentence?

Depends on the context, this question could turn into a big topic, or a small one. Generally speaking, if you compose your Chinese sentence by the following rule, it won’t go wrong:

when + where + adj. + who + verb + what

Are you frowning over the above formula? Come on, relax, I’ll show you an example right away. It explains the equation in a much easier way. The order of the words IS different from English and some other languages. Please pay attention to the difference while studying the example. I’ll get into more details after the new words are being studied.

Example – a long sentence:

zuó tiān zài xué xiào nà ge gāo nán hái jiǎn le gè kuà bāo


昨天(when) 在学校(where) 那个(that) 高(adj.) 男孩(who) 捡了(verb) 个 挎包(what).

The tall boy picked up a handbag at school yesterday.

Let’s go through some of the new words that appear in this lesson first:

zuó tiān xué xiào nà ge
昨天 (yesterday) 学校 (school) 那个 (that)
gāo nán hái jiǎn
高 (tall) 男孩 (boy) 捡 (pick up)
kuà bāo chī fàn zuò
挎包 (handbag) 吃饭 (have dinner) 做 (do)
dì di
弟弟 (baby brother)

If you’re focused enough, you might have noticed that in English we put “where” word and “when” word after the verb unless you need to emphasize them. Yet in Chinese, it’s completely reversed. You always put “when” before “where”, and both before verb. For the rest part of the sentence, there’s no difference between the two languages. The correct orders in Chinese could be either of the following:

when + where + adj. + who + verb + what

adj. + who + when + where + verb + what

So please keep in mind to use the right order to structure your Chinese lines if “when” and/or “where” are needed in your expression.

Now, I’d like to show you how to tell time and places. We won’t go too deep inside this, just a few highly useful words that you might need to use frequently:

jīn tiān zuótiān qiántiān
今天(today) 昨天(yesterday) 前天 (the day before yesterday)
míng tiān hòu tiān
明天(tomorrow) 后天(the day after tomorrow)

To tell places, in most cases, you can add “在” before the place to create a “where” phrase:

Such as:

zài xué xiào zài gōng sī zài jiā
在学校 (at school) 在公司 (at the company) 在家 (at home)

Now let’s look at more examples:

1) tā de gē ge qián tiān zài xué xiào chī fàn


His brother had dinner at school the day before yesterday.


2) wǒ jīn tiān zài gōng sī zuò bào gào


I did my presentation in my company today.

* 做报告 means “give presentation”


3) tā de mèi mei zuó tiān zài wǒ jiā rèn shi le wǒ de dì di


Her sister got to know my baby brother at my home yesterday.

Are you happy with what you’ve learned so far? Do you think you’re gaining progress on your Chinese through these lessons? Let me know your thoughts and never hesitate to bring up your suggestions in your comments.

Before you go, could you recognize the following little persons in Chinese? You’ve learned all these words, just for fun, try it …


Have yourself a wonderful weekend and see you next time!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on http://www.verbling.com/teachers/dawei  !  🙂



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