"Are they Chinese?"


January 10, 2018

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why do some times i need ma but other times i dont need it to ask a question?


吗 (ma3) is used to indicate a yes/no question (i.e., a question that is answered by 'yes' or 'no'). Basically, take a statement and add 吗 at the end and it becomes a question as to whether that statement is true or false.

For yes/no questions, you can use an alternate structure that repeats the verb along with a negation. This structure makes the 吗 redundant.

Here are some examples of what this means in practice:

她们是中国人。They are Chinese. (statement of fact)

她们是中国人? Are they Chinese? (yes/no question)

她们是不是中国人? Are they Chinese? (also yes/no question)

Questions that are not yes/no questions typically have a question word (e.g., 谁 (shei2, who), 哪里 (na3li3, where), 什么 (shen2me, what) to act as a placeholder noun. These replace the subject or object in the statement sentence, for example

她是?Who is she?

她是我妹妹。She is my younger sister.

This is really complicated and something Duolingo does not teach well, so I would recommend looking into serious grammar books, if you're really interested in learning about the grammar.


I think of ma as "is that correct?" Or "right?" So, you take a statement, and add ma at the end to turn a statement into a yes/no question.


Thanks; I was coming here to ask this too. I think this answer is rather important.


I'm sorry I can't give you ingots for your comment anymore


hey, thank you a lot, hope you're still learning :') good vibes


Thanks for this! But when is 多少 used then? Cause when asking for a phone number duolingo uses 多少 is in that example 什么 then also correct?


And what is the difference between 么 and 吗 isn't it the same? Could I use 么 instesd of 吗 in this sentence?


The same because they are pronounced similarly? No, no, nononononono. No. 什么 ("shenme") is "what." The 么 "me" only goes with with 什. It is in no way interchangeable with the particle 吗 "ma." Chinese has so many identical-sounding homophones, so don't make the mistake that sound-alike means means-alike for individual characters. Context is crucial to distinguishing them, which is why so many "words" in modern Chinese consist of two characters: that way it's more unique. A single tone of a single phoneme by itself can stand for as many as 15 or 20 characters.

Back to the point at hand, you can ask questions by putting "what," as in "what is that?", or you can ask them by putting a declarative sentence and making it interrogative by adding 吗 to the end, as in "you have my phone" --> "do you have my phone?", or any number of other ways described above. But you can't mix and match.


I would have agreed with you a few months ago, but it seems that in some regions the character 么 is indeed used for 吗 and pronounced ma when it is.


吗 should be the right one. If you see someone end a question with 么 instead of 吗, that's just to soften the question sounded.


吗 is ma2. When it used at that case (yes/no question), it is ma(neutral).


explain to me how that works


What do you want to know? Sentence structure? Asking questions?

  1. Subject (Plural) - They
  2. Verb - Are (comes first in English with interrogatives)
  3. Adjective - Chinese
  4. Nominative - people
  5. Interrogative (implies a request for knowledge).


i agree -_- Why are there two?


ok I get it now! Thanks for... being there. :)


Also correct for specificity of describing the subjects, using 都:

  • 他們都是中國人嗎?
  • 她們都是中國人嗎?


Duolingo does not teach the character "都“ in this lesson.


Why do you have to add Ren?


人 means person, so "zhong (中) guó (国) ren (人)" plainly translates to "China-country-person" which is a chinese person, hope i helped


Can't I just say 她们中国人吗?


You are missing a verb.


Can't I omit 是? 她们中国人吗?


No, you cannot omit “是” because it is a verb and the only verb in the sentence.


Is "shì (是)" a conjecture? Im so confused on the appropriate use of 是, is it always added after the pronoun?


”是“ is like a linking verb. It acts as the English equivalent of "to be." Forms of "to be" are "is, are, am."


I'm having problems to pronounce 'rén'. How is it really pronounced? Like 'hun'?


It's telling me to "write this in Chinese." I'm writing the pinyin because I don't have a Chinese keyboard plugin, and it's telling me it's wrong. Sheesh.


How to get 吗 in cangjie keyboard, i only get 马?


why can duolingo not accept traditional chinese?


There is no sound at the sentence


Would the "shi bu shi' structure be more common for this type of question?


Sometimes it sounds like it is saying 'ma' n the first time instead of the neutral tone


What's wrong with my answer? Tamen shi zhong guo ren ma?

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