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Mandarin Chinese - Lesson 4 - Present Tense

TseDanylo
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中文 - 课数四 - 现在时

Zhōngwén - kè shù sì - xiànzài shí


你好!In this lesson, we will be learning how to make sentences in Chinese. On the surface with its characters and tones, Chinese looks like a very difficult language, but after this lesson you'll realise that Chinese grammar is comparable with Esperanto and as you learn you'll realise that verbs are only the tip of the iceberg!


走吧!Let's go!

Pronouns

Here are the singular pronouns:

  • 我 - I (Wǒ)
  • 你 - You (sg.) (Nǐ)
  • 他 - He (Tā)
  • 她 - She (Tā)
  • 它 - It (Tā)

Note that he, she, it sound the same but have different characters.

To make the pronouns plural add the character "们" (men).

  • 我们 - We (Wǒmen)
  • 你们 - You (pl.) (Nǐmen)
  • 他们 - They [for males] (Tāmen)
  • 她们 - They [for females] (Tāmen)
  • 它们 - They [for objects] (Tāmen)

Verbs

As I said, verbs don't change in Chinese.

  • 我是 - I am (Wǒ shì)
  • 你是 - You are (Nǐ shì)
  • 他是 - He is (Tā shì)

As we can see where English has three forms, Chinese has only one. This also works for tenses (but we use a few words to show time, whether the action is complete, ongoing, etc. We will look at how this works in a future lesson.)

Here are a list of common verbs:

  • 是 - to be (shì)
  • 有- to have (yǒu)
  • 在 - to be (located) (zài)
  • 喜欢 - to like (xǐhuan)
  • 懂 - to understand (dǒng)
  • 要 - to want (yào)
  • 知道 - to know (something) (zhīdào)
  • 认识 - to know (someone) (rènshi)
  • 去 - to go (qù)
  • 来 - to come (lái)
  • 吃 - to eat (chī)
  • 喝 - to drink (hē)
  • 买 - to buy (mǎi)
  • 做 - to do/make (zuò)
  • 看 - to look at (kàn)

Negatives

With the exception of 有, to negate a verb (in the present and future tense), we put "不" (bù) before the verb:

  • 我吃桃 - I eat a peach (Wǒ chī táo)

  • 吃苹果 - I don't eat an apple (Wǒ bù chī píngguǒ)

To make 有 negative we put "没" (méi) before it:

  • 我有猫 - I have a cat (Wǒ yǒu māo)

  • 有狗 - I don't have a dog (Wǒ méi yǒu gǒu)


Particles

While Mandarin Chinese doesn't have tenses, little words called particles can be used. Here are the two most common for the present tense:

"在" (zài) is used to refer to an action that was/is/will be in progress. Think of it as "-ing" like in English. It goes before the verb:

  • 喝水 - You are drinking water (Nǐ zài hē shuǐ)

The negative form of 在 is "没在" (méizài).

  • 没在喝牛奶 - You are not drinking milk (Nǐ méi zài hē niúnǎi)

Note that the particle is negative, not the verb here.

"着" (zhe) is similar to 在 but refers to a continuous static action. Think of it this way, 在 is used for an action that has an end (e.g. making dinner, eating food, going to work) while "着" refers to an action that is ongoing, but doesn't have a set time to end (e.g. gazing at the starts, listening to the music, staring at that cat that always poops on your front lawn). It can also be used to describe how an action was done. This particle always goes after the verb:

  • 她看孩子 - She was looking at the child (Tā kàn zhe háizi)

The negative form of 着 is "没 [verb] 着" (méi [verb] zhe).

  • 猫 - She was not looking at the cat (Tā méi kàn zhe māo)

Word taught in this lesson:

  • 我 - I (Wǒ)
  • 你 - You (sg.) (Nǐ)
  • 他 - He (Tā)
  • 她 - She (Tā)
  • 它 - It (Tā)
  • 我们 - We (Wǒmen)
  • 你们 - You (pl.) (Nǐmen)
  • 他们 - They [for males] (Tāmen)
  • 她们 - They [for females] (Tāmen)
  • 它们 - They [for objects] (Tāmen)
  • 是 - to be (shì)
  • 有- to have (yǒu)
  • 在 - to be (located) (zài)
  • 喜欢 - to like (xǐhuan)
  • 懂 - to understand (dǒng)
  • 要 - to want (yào)
  • 知道 - to know (something) (zhīdào)
  • 认识 - to know (someone) (rènshi)
  • 去 - to go (qù)
  • 来 - to come (lái)
  • 吃 - to eat (chī)
  • 喝 - to drink (hē)
  • 买 - to buy (mǎi)
  • 做 - to do/make (zuò)
  • 看 - to look at (kàn)
  • 不 - not (bù)
  • 没有 - doesn't/don't have (méiyǒu)
  • 桃 - peach (táo)
  • 苹果 - apple (píngguǒ)
  • 猫 - cat (māo)
  • 狗 - dog (gǒu)
  • 在 - particle Used for a continuous action that has a clear end (zài)
  • 没在 - negative of 在 (méizài)
  • 牛奶 - milk (niúnǎi)
  • 水 - water (shuǐ)
  • 着 - particle Used for a continuous action that has no clear end (zhe)
  • 没 [verb] 着 - negative of 着 (méi [verb] zhe)

Also thank you to Enzfj2 for pointing this out.

To do is generally 作, which is synonym and homophone (zuò) to 做, but is used more frequently, at least in Mandarin

在 (zài) may indicate not only some action in progress, but also presence (existence) of somebody/something at some place: 他在学校 tā zài xuéxiào he is at school


That's all for now!

目前为止就这样了!

Mùqián wéizhǐ jiù zhèyàngle!


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7 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/EmperorIguana42

I've recently started learning Chinese as I already knew some (I learnt a little months ago) and these lessons are very helpful! I'd recommend the app Chineseskill as well if you wanted a Duolingo-style app. Next step is to actually get Chinese on Duolingo :D

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TseDanylo
TseDanylo
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I love ChineseSkill!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frnnh

HelloChinese is good as well, even better.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/garpike
garpike
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I don't think 犬 is ever used in isolation in contemporary vernacular Mandarin (it's fine in Classical Chinese, however). The normal spoken word is 狗 (gou3).

(Also, you have typed 轍 instead of 著 in two places.)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TseDanylo
TseDanylo
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Sorry, I learned a mix of Mandarin and Taiwanese and I tend to mix them up a bit. I'll fix that typo too :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Enzfj2
Enzfj2
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To do is generally 作, which is synonym and homophone (zuò) to 做, but is used more frequently, at least in Mandarin

在 (zài) may indicate not only some action in progress, but also presence (existence) of somebody/something at some place: 他在学校 tā zài xuéxiào he is at school

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TseDanylo
TseDanylo
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Thank you. I added it to the post.

1 year ago
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