How to ask questions in Chinese (1)

Asking questions might have become your basic needs when you’re learning a new language or culture. To meet your basic need at this stage, I compiled all the commonly used Chinese question sentence patterns for you in two lessons. You’ll happily notice that question sentence patterns in Chinese are actually very easy and straight forward. You don’t need to change orders of words, or forms of words at all.

For questions asking for confirmation, all you need to do is churning out your question as a statement, and then add certain exclamatory particle, such as (ma), in the end and a question mark. Done.

Let’s have a look at the right thinking process to form a question in Chinese first:

nǐ shì Zhōng wén lǎo shī ma


Are you a Chinese teacher?

1) Structure your question as a positive statement first:


“You are a Chinese teacher.”

2) Then add exclamatory particle to the end of the sentence. And a question mark to finish it.


“You are a Chinese teacher ma?”

Another example:

wǎnshang nǐ lái ma?


Will you come tonight?

I’ll show you again how did the question got formed. Please be aware that you need to put “when” before verb in Chinese. We’ll come to this topic in next few lessons.

1) Structure your question as a positive statement first:


“You will come tonight.”

2) Then add exclamatory particle to the end of the sentence. And a question mark to finish it.


“You will come tonight ma?”

Easy, right? As long as you can work out the basic sentence, you’ll be able to turn it into a question. You know what? For a non-English, non-Chinese speaker, to grasp question sentence patterns in English should take longer than that in Chinese. You say Chinese is hard, you really don’t know how hard English is for many Chinese students. 🙂

Now you might wonder exactly how many exclamatory particles you can use to form a question in Chinese. Hmn… not many though, in fact, only a few. The following is all I can think of:

ma la le
le ma de
了吗  (possessive particle: “of”)

Please be aware that they are all with fifth tone (pronounced flatly, softer than first tone).

Also four new words we’ll learn in our examples:

gē ge jiě jie rèn shi
哥哥 (elder brother) 姐姐 (elder sister) 认识 (know)

Well of course, just as in English, you can turn a Chinese sentence into a question by simply adding a question mark in the end. When you say it, raise the tone of the last character or word a bit to imply it’s a question, not a statement. Let’s listen to some examples, with or without exclamatory particles:


nǐ shì Mike de gē ge


You’re Mike’s elder brother.

statement + ?

nǐ shì Mike de gē ge ma


Are you Mike’s elder brother?

statement + ?

nǐ shì Mike de gē ge


You’re Mike’s elder brother?

Another example:


nǐ rèn shi tā de jiě jie


You know her elder sister.

statement + ?

nǐ rèn shi tā de jiě jie


Do you know her elder sister?

statement + ?

nǐ rèn shi tā de jiě jie


You know her elder sister?

“了” and “啦” are used to question whether it has completed or not:

statement +  (or ) ?

tā huí jiā le



tā huí jiā la


Has she gone home? (She’s already at home now?)


OK, now, let’s have a break … are you drinking tea, or coffee? Since it’s a vacation day morning for me, I’d like to have some snack now.

Enjoy your tea, or coffee, or whatever refreshment you’re taking… stay healthy and see you in next lesson!

Welcome to have my face to face lesson on  !  🙂



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