Common Sentence Structures in Mandarin Chinese

This article presents some of the most commonly used sentence patterns in Mandarin Chinese. Examples of how to use each sentence structure will be given, and pinyin as well as English translations will be provided.

  • What is Learned in This Lesson?

Every language has structures and patterns for forming sentences. Mandarin Chinese is just the same. Needless to say, it is very important to learn the most commonly used Mandarin Chinese sentence patterns. This will help students form complete sentences and make it easier for Chinese language learners, or CSL language learners, to begin to speak fluently and express their opinions, thoughts and daily happenings accurately. Many students know many Chinese words, but lack the ability to use such Mandarin vocabulary fluently in speaking or writing Chinese; understanding how to use common Mandarin sentence structures is a great way to polish up your Chinese and make better use of your Chinese vocabulary.

  • 越来越 (yuè lái yuè)

越来越 means “more and more.” This phrase is very useful. Typically an adjective is placed after the phrase in order to describe what is becoming more and more or what is becoming better. Here are a few example sentences:

你的中文越来越好。(Nǐ de zhōngwén yuè lái yuè hǎo) = Your Chinese is getting better and better.

你的女儿越来越漂亮。(Nǐ de nǚ’ér yuè lái yuè piàoliang) = Your daughter is getter more and more beautiful.

  • A ..(bǐ)

比 () is the character that is used for comparisons in Mandarin Chinese. For those who have yet to learn how to make comparisons in Chinese, this is the most useful character to learn. Used in a sentence, its structure is pretty simple; the structure goes as follows: A 比 B and then an adjective. Have a look at a couple of examples:

今天的天气比昨天的天气热。(Jīntiān de tiānqì bǐ zuótiān de tiānqì rè.) = The weather today is hotter than the weather yesterday.

他的篮球打得比我好。(Tā de lánqiú dǎ dé bǐ wǒ hǎo.) = He plays basketball better than me.

  • 虽然。。。但是 (suīrán…dànshì)

虽然 means “although” or “though” and 但是 means “but” or “however.” This 但是 is placed here for emphasis. Check out a few example usages to get the hang of this commonly used Chinese sentence structure:

虽然老师很严格,但是他心底不坏。(Suīrán lǎoshī hěn yángé, dànshì tā xīndǐ bù huài.) = Although the teacher is very strict, he is good person at heart.

虽然外面在下雨,但是我还是想去打高尔夫球。(Suīrán wàimiàn zàixià yǔ, dànshì wǒ háishì xiǎng qù dǎ gāo’ěrfū qiú.) = Although it was raining outside, I still wanted to play golf.

  • 当。。。的时候 (dāng… de shíhòu)

When you say “when” in Chinese, you must use the enclosed structure of “当。。。的时候.” 当 means “to be” or “to be equal to” in this sense and 的时候 means “time” or “when” in this sense. In spoken Chinese, the 当 is not necessary but it is always good to add for clarity. Notice that the time expression of 时候 comes after the topic of the sentence.

当他来的时候,外面在下雨。(Dāng tā lái de shíhòu, wàimiàn zàixià yǔ.) = When he came, it was raining outside.

  • ….以后 (yǐhòu)

以后 means “after” or “afterwards” in Chinese and is usually placed after the event. For example, Chinese word order goes as follows: We go to the movies after, we can eat. Have a look:

下过雨以后,空气很干净。(Xiàguò yǔ yǐhòu, kōngqì hěn gānjìng.) = After the rain, the air is very clean.

  • 不管 (bùguǎn… hái)

不管 means “regardless of” or “no matter…” and 还 means “still.” Although 还 is not always constructed with 不管, it is still often used together with it and it is good to remember this structure.

不管别人听不听,我还会说。(Bùguǎn biérén tīng bù tīng, wǒ hái huì shuō.) = Regardless of whether or not people are listening, I will still speak.

  • 不可 (fēi… bùkě)

This is one of the most commonly used double negative structures in Mandarin Chinese. It essentially means “must” or “absolutely must” or “need to.” 非 means “not” or “no” and 不可 “not able to”; hence it literally translates as “not not able to.” 非 is placed after the subject of the sentence and 不可 closes out the sentence.

我非批评她不可。(Wǒ fēi pīpíng tā bùkě.) = I absolutely must criticize her.

  • 为主 (yǐ… wéi zhǔ)

This structure best translates as “to be mainly focused on…” or “to mainly value…” This is important if you want to describe the things that are important to you or the things your life is currently concerned with.

他出行以自行车为主。 (Tā chūxíng yǐ zìxíngchē wéi zhǔ.) = He travels mainly by bike.


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