Mandarin Chinese - Lesson 4
Introduction and Table of Contents: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8542744
Lesson 1: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8543449
Lesson 2: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8546990
Lesson 3: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8559330
How to Teach Mandarin on Duolingo: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/7272741
年 - nián - year
月 - yuè - moon/month
日 - rì - sun/day
天 - tiān - sky/heaven/day
星期 - xīng qī - week
周 (週) - zhōu - week (see notes)
小时 (-時) - xiǎo shí - hour
分钟 (-鐘) - fēn zhōng - minute
以前 - yǐ qián - before/ago
以后 (-後) - yǐ hòu - after
现在 - xiàn zài - now
今天 - jīn tiān today
昨天 - zuó tiān - yesterday
明天 - míng tiān - tomorrow
后天 (後-) - hòu tiān - the day after tomorrow
前天 - qián tiān - the day before yesterday
去年 - qù nián- last year
明年 - míng nián - next year
上个星期 - shàng gè xīng qī - last week
下个星期 - xià gè xīng qī - next week
从来 (從來) - cóng lái - always/all along (in never sentences, for emphasis)
号 (號) - hào - number.../#
又 - yòu - again
再 - zài - again (see notes)
快 - kuài - quick/fast/soon
要 - yào - to want/will/to be going to (do...)
想 - xiǎng - To want
过 (過) - guò - grammatical particle
了 - le - grammatical particle
正在 - zhèngzài - grammatical word
下雨 - xià yǔ - to rain
做 - zuò - to do
上课 (-課) - shàngkè - To start class
下课 (-課) - xià kè - to finish class
上班 - shàng bān - to start work (ie. to start a shift at your job)
下班 - xià bān - to knock off/to finish work
刚刚 (剛剛) - gāng gāng - just (for time)/just then
久 - jiǔ - long (for time)
知道 - zhī dào - To know
应该 (應該) -yīng gāi - should
打算 - dǎ suàn - to intend
图书馆 (圖書館) - tú shū guǎn - library
Listen to pronunciation at www.forvo.com. You can search for simplified and traditional characters separately for more results.
Months in Chinese are made by combining a number with 月, the word for "moon". 比如：一月，二月，三月。。。十一月，十二月 (January, February, March... November, December). If you include a measure word, you're counting the number of months. 比如：一个月， 两个月，三个月 (one month, two months, three months).
Days of the week are made in a similar way, although the number comes after the word for "week". Both 星期 and 周 can be used. The only exception is Sunday, which uses 日 (sun) or 天 (sky; with 星期) instead of the number 7.
星期一 = 周一 = Monday
星期二 = 周二 = Tuesday
星期三 = 周三 = Wednesday
星期四 = 周四 = Thursday
星期五 = 周五 = Friday
星期六 = 周六 = Saturday
星期天 = 星期日 = 周日 = Sunday
I think 星期 is more common, but both are used.
上个星期 and 下个星期 mean "last week" and "next week" respectively. "上" means "above" or "on top" and "下" means "under" or "below", so you'd intuitively expect the meanings of 上个星期 and 下个星期 to be reversed. It might help if you imagine you're looking at a calendar and seeing that last week is on top of the current one. You can express things like "last Monday" (上个星期一) or "next Friday" (下个星期五) the same way.
"天" and "年“ don't require measure words. You can just say "两天" or "两年" to mean "two day" or "two years.
Time + (以/之)前 - This means "before..." or "...ago". 比如："三个星期以前" can mean either "three weeks ago" or "three weeks before".
Time + (以/之)后 - This means either "....later/afterwards" or "in ... (from now)". 比如："两个星期以后" can mean either "in three weeks" or "three weeks later".
All time can be used in Chinese as adverbials without any prepositions.
Years are said by pronouncing each digit of the year before the word 年. 比如：1987 (一九八七年), 2003 (二零零三年), 2015 (二零一五年) etc.
Days of the month are said by saying a number before "日" (sun) or "号" (number).
Dates are made written in Chinese from the largest unit of time to the smallest. Dates are often written using Arabic numerals, especially when talking about years.
"Number + 号" can also be used to write a number in a similar way to "# + number" in English. "二十号" could be mean the twentieth of a month, or it could refer to something that is "number 20".
再过 + time - This means "in another... (from now)". 比如："再过五个分钟" (in another five minutes)
了 is added to a sentence to express a change of state. It's placed either after a verb/adjective or at the very end of the sentence. Sometimes it's taught to be the same as the English past simple tense, and most of the time this is exactly how you can translate. (比如：昨天我去悉尼了; I went to Sydney yesterday). That's not what it expresses however: it indicates something has changed. For example, if I walked outside and it was raining, I could say "下雨了!". This doesn't mean "It rained", but rather "It's now raining (whereas it wasn't before)". If someone said "我有一个朋友了！", it wouldn't mean "I had a friend", but rather "I now have a friend!". The most important thing to remember with 了 is that it indicates some kind of change. Most of the time it can be translated into past tense, but not always. 了 can be used in other situations as well.
过 is often said to be the Chinese equivalent of the English present perfect (I have done...). I think this is actually a very good description: it indicates that the subject has the experience of having done something. The main difference between 过 and present simple in English is that 过 can be used with a time to tell when something happened. For example, You could say "我三年前去过中国" but you couldn't say "I have been to China three years ago". 过 is always placed after the verb.
It gets a bit more complicated than that: if you want to make a sentence with 过 into a question or negative sentence, the grammar is slightly different. 不 isn't used for negation, but rather the structure "没(有) + verb + (过)". Anything in brackets is optional. If you want to ask a question, you'd use the structure "有没有 + verb + (过)" instead of "verb + 不 + verb". You don't have to use this structure if you're just using 吗 however.
A: 你有没有来过美国？ (Have you come to the US?)
B: 我没去过美国。(I've never been to the US; realistically you'd probably just say something shorter, like "没有去" to answer A's question).
Side note: In English we also randomly change the grammar in negative sentences or questions in the present and past simple by needing an auxiliary (e.g. "I didn't go..." and "Did you go...?" instead of "I went not... and "Went you...?").
If you say add "还" to a negative 过 sentence (whether or not "过" is included), it means that something hasn't happened yet, but you expect it to happen in the future. Adding 呢 to the end of the sentence indicates you expect it to happen in the very near future.
我还没有去中国(呢)。- I haven't been to China yet.
The equivalent of present continuous is expressed by the structure "(正)在 + verb..... (呢)". If 呢 is included, it appears at the end of the sentence. This is the same 呢 from "你呢？" (What about you?). Unlike present continuous in English, this structure isn't compulsory if you can use it. Present simple and present continuous have different uses in English, but in Chinese you can choose whether or not to use this structure. You can also choose to omit 正 and/or 呢, which is common in non-formal speech.
你在做什么？ (What are you doing?)
从来 is used in negative sentences to mean "always" or "all along". It emphasises "never". 比如：我从来没去过中国。(I've NEVER been to China).
Chinese has no exact equivalent of "will", but you can choose to express the same thing by saying you want or intend to do something. There are a few ways to do this. 我要去中国 means "I want to go to China", but it could be interpreted as "I will", especially if you add a time (明年我要去中国). If you add 了 to the end of the sentence, it can only express the equivalent of the future tense. 比如：我要去中国了。
快 means "fast", but as an adverb it can mean "soon" (I'll teach you how to use it to modify a verb next lesson). :我快要。。。了" can be used to express the immediate future, similar to "to be about to". "要" can often be omitted. 比如：我快下班了 ("I'm about to finish work" or "I'm about to knock off").
要。。。了 - Future
快(要)。。。了 - Near future
刚刚 is used to expressed that something just happened. 比如：我刚刚下课了。
In formal texts, you might see "将" (jiāng) to express the future tense.
Adverbs normally appear before the subject or verb, but when you're expressing the duration of an action the word order completely changes:
Subject + (verb) + object + verb + 了 + time
You can choose to say the verb twice, but it can be omitted. This structure is used to say that something happened for a certain amount of time. You can see the word order is very different than what you've encountered previously.
我(学习)中文学了二十个星期。- I studied Chinese for twenty weeks.
Credit goes to Ailenus.M for the following: "In the sentence “我(学习)中文学了二十个星期。”, when not omitting 学习, speakers usually drop the second 学; it's redundant to say “我学习中文学了二十个星期”, because identical two verbs occur in one independent sentence."
If you want to say that something's still happening, you add a second 了 to the end:
我中文学了两年了。 - I've been studying Chinese for two years.
If you want to ask someone how long they've been doing something, you need to remember two rules I mentioned in one of the earlier lessons: 1) Question words are always placed where the answer would be and 2) 多 + adjective asks for the extent of that adjective. So:
你中文学了多久了？ - How long have you been learning Chinese?
是。。。的 - This structure can be used to emphasise part of a sentence. 是 appears before the part of the sentence that is emphasised and 的 is at the end.
"是我昨天上课的！- "It was I who went to class yesterday!"... My ability to make exciting examples is limited by the small amount of vocab I've taught.
"我昨天是上课的！" - Class was the thing I went to yesterday.
Here's some insight from Ailenus.M:
"In my humble opinion, when it's a normal sentence that people actually say to emphasize that I did go to class yesterday (I did not play truant), it usually requires a 了 here, as in 我昨天是上了课的. It's not wrong to say things like “我昨天是上课的”, but in this sentence 上课 is adjectivized by the 的, which works as an adjective marker. In this way, this sentence functions as a subject–linking verb–predicative adjective sentence, emphasizing that the state of being in class is what I was in yesterday, which is approximately the meaning you pointed out. However, this way of saying stuff, “我是……的”, such as “我是爱你的” instead of “我爱你”, is a little bit unusual in daily colloquialisms... It sounds very “文艺”, like a line from a young adult romance novel..."
When this structure emphasises an adverb, it expresses the past tense (even if the adverb isn't one of time). When you're saying when you did something in the past, 是。。。的 is often a good way to do this:
比如："我是昨天上课的" - I went to class yesterday.
又 and 再 both mean "again", but "又" is used when the action took place in the past and 再 is used when the action will take place in the future.
你什么时候再来？ - When will you come again?
"又。。又。。。" can also be used to mean "both...and..." for adjectives. Remember how I said 和 only means "and" for nouns? You can use 又 to mean "and" for adjectives, although you need to use two of them.
我又高兴又累。- I am (both) happy and tired.
"...的时候" can be added to the end of a phrase to mean "When...". You can think of this as meaning "At the time of..." if you try to translate it more literally. 比如："我去中国的时候。。。" (When I went to China).
Remember "点" from the last lesson? 一点 can be used to mean "a little". In northern China, this may be pronounced as "yì diǎr" instead of "yì diǎn". "Yì diǎr" is transcribed as "一点儿".
Here's something written by Ailenus.M about the pronunciation:
"When the word 一 is used not as a numeral, but as part of a set phrase (mostly adverbial), it is pronounced yì or yí instead of yī, such as yìdiǎnr for 一点儿 “a little (bit)” and yíhuì for 一会 “soon”. This is actually how most Chinese pronounce these words, but, interestingly, for some reasons, in the dictionary the only legitimate pronunciation for 一 is yī as you wrote. However, it would sound very weird if a person actually says yīdiǎnr or yīhuì."
You can hear the difference here:
想 and 要 both mean "to want", although 想 is only used before a verb. You can also say "想要", which is similar to just 想.
My brain is exhausted after writing all this. This lesson was roughly 2800 words. I'm sure I've made lots of stupid mistakes, so feel free to point them out.
Edit (15/05/2015): I fixed a few mistakes pointed out to me by Tara668: I fixed the Pinyin of "星期", changed "二是号" to "二十号", fixed the translation of "二十个星期", changed "你什么时候在来" to "你什么时候再来", in addition to fixing various English typos.
Edit (16/05/2015): I made a few changes suggested to me by Ailenus.M, and I directly quoted his explanations into this lesson. Read the comments for his full answer. I'm also adding a Table of Contents to the Introduction.
Thank you very much for doing this! A few typos are spotted, but they're nothing serious!
(1) “上个星期 - shàng gè xīng qí - last week
“下个星期 - xià gè xīngqí - next week”
I believe you corrected the pinyin for 星期 to xīngqī but forgot to change these two.
(2) “星期天 = 星期天 = 周日 = Sunday”
I think you meant to write “星期天 = 星期日 = 周日 = Sunday”, right?
(3) Also, I burst into laughter when seeing “我快要。。。了”...
(4) In the sentence “我(学习)中文学了二十个星期。”, when not omitting 学习, speakers usually drop the second 学; it's redundant to say “我学习中文学了二十个星期”, because identical two verbs occur in one independent sentence.
In my humble opinion, when it's a normal sentence that people actually say to emphasize that I did go to class yesterday (I did not play truant), it usually requires a 了 here, as in 我昨天是上了课的.
It's not wrong to say things like “我昨天是上课的”, but in this sentence 上课 is adjectivized by the 的, which works as an adjective marker. In this way, this sentence functions as a subject–linking verb–predicative adjective sentence, emphasizing that the state of being in class is what I was in yesterday, which is approximately the meaning you pointed out. However, this way of saying stuff, “我是……的”, such as “我是爱你的” instead of “我爱你”, is a little bit unusual in daily colloquialisms... It sounds very “文艺”, like a line from a young adult romance novel...
(6) I notice that you marked the pinyins for 一点 and 一点儿 as yīdiǎn and yīdiǎnr (yes, it should actually be transcribed as yīdiǎnr but not yīdiǎr) respectively. It is not wrong, though, but when the word 一 is used not as a numeral, but as part of a set phrase (mostly adverbial), it is pronounced yì or yí instead of yī, such as yìdiǎnr for 一点儿 “a little (bit)” and yíhuì for 一会 “soon”. This is actually how most Chinese pronounce these words, but, interestingly, for some reasons, in the dictionary the only legitimate pronunciation for 一 is yī as you wrote. However, it would sound very weird if a person actually says yīdiǎnr or yīhuì. I first noticed this interesting phenomenon when I was in primary school, and I told my Chinese teacher that we'd all been mispronouncing the character 一 for our entire lives after I saw that only yī is the legal pronunciation when flipping through the dictionary.
When 一点 is pronounced yīdiǎn (一 works as a numeral), it means “one o'clock”, and yìdiǎn means “a little (bit)” (一 works as part of a set phrase).
Thank you again for such helpful lessons!
Update. Actually, the pronunciation of 一 varies. All three yī, yí, and yì can be found even when signifying numbers, as in 一百 yìbǎi “one hundred”, 一次 yícì “one time (once)”, 一辆车 yíliàng chē (one car), etc. Also, the phrase 一会 when without the r-ending retroflexion (i.e., not 一会儿, but just 一会), is usually yíhuì. However, when with the r-ending retroflexion, 一会儿 is sometimes pronounced yìhuǐr, as in “我一会儿就到” (I'll arrive soon) and “一会儿开会” [(we will hold) a meeting soon]. The legal pronunciation that appears on the dictionary is nevertheless yīhuìr, even though few Chinese actually say it like this.
I got the rule!
The canonical tone of 一 is the first tone (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū, and ǖ), as indicated on the dictionary. It is used when alone, in the final position of a word, as an ordinal numeral, and in a series of numbers. Examples: 说法不一 “opinions vary; different in explanation” (final position), 一、二、三 “one, two, three” (in a series of numbers), 第一 “first” (ordinal numeral), 一中 “no. 1 middle school” (ditto), 一号 “no. 1” (ditto), 一九八四 “1984; nineteen eighty-four” (in a series of numbers), etc.
When followed by a fourth-tone (à, è, ì, ò, ù, and ǜ) character, it becomes the second tone (á, é, í, ó, ú, and ǘ) yí. Examples: 一件 “one piece (of clothing); one item”, 一样 “(the) same”, etc.
When followed by a character of tones other than the fourth, it becomes the fourth tone yì. Examples: 一天 “one day”, 一年 “one year”, 一本 “one (book)” [Note: The 一 in 一本 can be pronounced yī, but if it is, it works as an ordinal numeral, and 一本 yīběn is an abbreviation for 第一类本科 “the first (kind of) undergraduate (program), a type of the Chinese tertiary education], etc.
Thanks again for doing these. (I can't believe how fast you've been turning them out!)
I noticed that your pinyin is different for 星期 (week) from what I'd learned. I went to google translate, and it agreed with you (xīngqí) but I double checked a couple of my sources (thinking I'd just leared the tone wrong) but FluentU and Yong Ho's book "Beginner's Chinese" tells me xīng qī. Do you (or does anyone here) know if that's a regional difference or if there's some other reason for that variance?
PS- I know you don't need characters clarified with English or pinyin, and in general when I comment on your posts, I'm just doing that for other people who might want/need to see it.
Because my keyboard can't type most of the tones for pinyin and because I think the numbers look ugly, I've been copying the characters into Google Translate and then copying the Pinyin trancsript back. I've been trying to correct it when it gives me wrong tones, but it looks like I missed that one. Now that you mention it, I vaguely recall seeing a similar mistake in one of the earlier lessons that I meant to fix...
Thanks for the corrections.
I did a few years of Chinese in school, although that was pretty much useless. I did a term of an introductory Chinese reading and writing course (surpassing everything I did in school in nine weeks) and decided I wanted to continue doing Chinese if I could, so in my summer holidays I studied on my own using the first two volumes of the New Practical Chinese Reader textbook series and using the FSI Chinese course. At the start of the academic year I took a placement test and got placed into second year Chinese. My speaking and listening were, and to some degree still are, undeveloped, but I did very well on the written test. The lectures were in Chinese so I got good listening practice. I'm now towards the end of the first semester of third year uni Mandarin, and I also started a Cantonese course (taught in Mandarin) this semester.
"我为学习要去那儿" is not incorrect, but a more idiomatic expression could be ”我去那儿学习“. Also, I think it's more common to ask "你去图书馆干什么？“(What are you going to do in the library?) than "你为什么要去图书馆?", but the latter is perfectly okay too.
As a native Chinese speaker, I enjoy reading your Chinese lessons. Because you know, native speakers are often unaware of the grammatical rules in their language, so it's interesting to see everything explained explicitly. :)
While you're waiting, you should definitely give ChineseSkill a try. The app comes with all the basics one need, such as Pinyin, Strokes, Tones and phrases. It's also free!