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Mandarin Chinese - Lesson 3

How to Teach Mandarin on Duolingo: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/7272741

Introduction: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8542744

Lesson 1: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8543449

Lesson 2: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8546990

Once again, I'll preface this by saying that I'm no native speaker of Chinese. I may have made mistakes in the texts, whether it be due to a misunderstanding of mine or just a lapse of concentration. I welcome any and all corrections or suggestions.


零 - líng - zero

一 - yī - one

二 - Èr - two

两 (兩) - liǎng - two (see notes)

三 - sān - three

四 - sì - four

五 - wǔ - five

六 - liù - six

七 - qī - seven

八 - bā - eight

九 - jiǔ - nine

十 - shí - ten

点 (點) - diǎn - point/dot

家 - jiā - family

爸爸 - bà ba - dad

妈妈 (媽媽) - mā mā - mum

姐姐 - jiějiě - elder sister

妹妹 - mèi mei - younger sister

哥哥 - gē gē - elder brother

弟弟 - dì dì- younger brother

儿子 (兒-) - Ér zi - son

女儿 nǚ ér - daughter

妻子 - qī zi - wife

丈夫 - zhàngfū - husband

猫 (貓) - māo - cat

狗 - gǒu - dog

马 (馬) - mǎ - Horse

个 (個) - ge - general measure word

位 - wèi - measure word for people (polite)

口 - kǒu - mouth/measure word for people (in a family)

只 - zhǐ - only/just/measure word for small things

匹 - pǐ - measure word for horses

条 - tiáo - measure word for long things

几 - jǐ - a few/how many?

些 - xiē - some

这 (這) - zhè- this/these

那 - nà - that/those

哪 - nǎ- which

比如:- bǐ rú - "For example: ..."

和 - hé - and/with

跟 - gēn - and/with

还 (還) - hái - still/yet

不错 - bù cuò - not bad (in response to "How are you?")/not incorrect

You can look up the pronunciations of words on www.forvo.com. You can do this for many other languages as well.

Numbers between 0 and 10 can just be expressed with a single character (which are the ones listed in the vocabulary. Numbers between 11 and 19 are expressed by adding numbers to the end of "十 " 比如:十一 (eleven), 十二 (twelve), 十三 (thirteen)... 十八 (eighteen), 十九 (nineteen).

Multiples of ten can be expressed by adding numbers before 十 比如: 二十 (20), 三十 (30), 四十 (40), 五十 (50)... 九十 (90).

You can combine the methods to express any number between 0 and 99 比如: 二十一 (21), 二十二 (22), 二十三 (23), 二十九 (29), 三十八 (38), 五十二 (52), 五十五 (55), 九十九 (99).

Just like English speakers, Chinese people often use Arabic numerals to write numbers.

You can express decimals using "点" (point/dot). This works just like English 比如:一点二三四五 (1.2345).

Chinese has something called "measure words", which have no exact English equivalent. They're a type of word, just like nouns, verbs, adverbs etc. You use measure words every time you want to count how many of something there is. For example, if you want to say "five people", you can't just say "五人". You need a measure word to go after the number 比如:五个人. This is sort of equivalent to when we say "two heads of cattle" or "five pieces of paper", although in Chinese measure words are compulsory for every noun. Sometimes they can convey extra information about the quantity of something (比如:"A bottle of..." or "a handful of.."), but usually a noun has a set measure word. For example, "只" is used to describe small things, such as dogs or cats. "条" is used to describe long things, like fish.

个 is a measure word for people and general concepts, but you can use it in place of other measure words (except for those that tell you the quantity of something, like "bottle of"; if you don't need a quantifier in English, you can probably just use 个 in Chinese). If you forget a word's measure word, it's not incorrect to just substitute "个". It won't necessarily sound natural, but it won't be incorrect either.

位 can also be a measure more for people. It is used to show respect to the person or people being referred to. 口 (meaning "mouth") is another measure word that can refer to people. You can use it to refer to people in a family (you can think of it as "mouths to feed").

Here's a list of measure words: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_classifiers


我家有五口人。 - My family has five people.

我有一只猫。 - I have a cat.

十一匹马来。 - Eleven horses come.

二 is the normal word for "two", but "二" cannot be used with a measure word. 两 is used to mean "two" before a measure word. 比如:我有两只猫。 (I have two cats; "二只猫" is incorrect).

Yes, the Chinese word for cat sounds like a meow.

几 can mean "(a) few", but it can also be a question word meaning "how many". Unlike 多少 (from the previous lesson), 几 is only used when the expected answer is very low (say, less than ten).

只 can be a measure word, but it can also mean "just" or "only".


A: 你有几个朋友? (How many friends do you have? (expected answer is low))

B: 我只有两个朋友。 (I only have two friends)

When the noun is omitted, the measure word must still be included. "只有两个" could have been an answer to the question in the previous example.

这 and "那" mean "this" and "that" respectively. You may recognise them from "这里/这儿" (here) and "那里/那儿" (there) in the previous lesson. When they refer to a noun, they require a measure word. If the noun is singular, the measure word for that noun is used (I think it's more acceptable and/or common to substitute (个) here). If the noun is plural, 些 is used instead. Chinese nouns do not have singular or plural forms, but plurality can be expressed in other ways.


这个人 - This person (位 can be used to be more respectful)

这些人 - These people

那个人 - That person

那些人 - Those people

那只猫 - That cat

那些猫 - Those cats

那 can also be used at the beginning of a phrase to make the sentences flow better, similar to English "Then...".

哪 means "which". This is the same character from "哪儿/哪里" (where).


哪个人是你爸爸?- Which person is your father?

谁是你爸爸?- Who is your father?

In the previous lesson I mentioned with 哪儿 and 那儿 that using the wrong tone can change the meaning from "where" to "there" or vice-versa. Likewise, using the wrong tone with 那 and 哪 can change the meaning from "that" to "which (one)" or vice-versa.

Officially, the Pinyin of 这 and 那 are "zhè" and "nà" respectively, but many people in the Beijing area will pronounce them as "zhèi" and "nèi" respectively.

马 means "horse", but it's also a common surname in China. If you know a Chinese person whose surname is "Ma", it's probably this character.

和 and 跟 both mean "and", but they can only be used to connect nouns. They can't be used to connect phrases, verbs or adjectives (there are other words for that). They can also mean "with" (比如:"我跟我妈妈去中国" - I'm going to China with my mum). 和 is slightly more colloquial than "跟".

I mentioned in the previous lesson that 的 marks possession. You do not usually use it with people that are close to you, like family members (e.g. 我妈妈 instead of 我的妈妈). It's not incorrect to say 的 though.

Something I forget to mention about 的: a noun doesn't have to follow it. You can just say 你的 (yours), 我们的 (ours), 我爸爸的 (My father's (one)) etc.

The pinyin letter ü makes the same sound as the same German letter. It can also be written as "v" (which is usually how it's typed on a keyboard).

还 means "still" or "yet".


C: 你好!好久不见。你最近怎么样?

B: 我很好。你呢?

C: 不错。

sees friend



A: 对不起,你说什么?

C: 有个朋友在这里。是那个人。

A: 哪个?在这儿人很多。

Friend of C comes

A: 认识你我很高兴。

B: 我也是。你是哪国人?

A: 我是美国人。你是不是中国人?

B: 不是,我是英国人。

A: 你家有多少人?

B: 有五口人。有我丈夫,两个儿子,一个女儿和我。

A: 你的家有很多人!

B: 那你家有几个人?

A: 有我妈妈,两只猫跟我。

May 11, 2015



十一匹马来 sounds unnatural, because it's rare to use a single 来 to mean "come" (which I think is related to the preference for two-character words in Chinese). It's better to say 走来,过来,来了,etc. For this sentence you can say 来了十一匹马 (Here come eleven horses / Eleven horses have come).

You wrote "和 is slightly more colloquial than 跟", but I think it's the opposite. Also, 跟 has the meaning of "follow", so "我跟我妈妈去中国" kind of implies my mom is in charge of the trip (although it depends on the context).

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