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Chinese Grammar

Mar. 31, 2015

Learn Chinese Grammar-”May, Maybe” – how to express possibility

Learn Chinese grammar with examples, get understanding of Chinese language! Here, we will give a simple introduction on how you describe a possible situation and/or action.

1. 可能(kĕnéng)

In a sentence, 可能 is put ahead of “verb (+ noun)” structure, just like “May” in English.

See the following example:

Tā kĕnéng xĭhuan shùxué.
2. 他  可能     喜欢     数学。

He perhaps/may likes math.

Wŏ kĕnéng hĕnkuài cízhí.
3. 我    可能     很快     辞职。

I may soon quit (my job).

bù kĕnéng
4. 不   可能

“cannot, improbable to, unlikely to”.

Here, 不 is put ahead of 可能. It means the situation/action that follows is very unlikely happen. The negative sense is

used toward to 可能 likelihood. This is different from the case when 不 is put behind 可能, which will be explain later in this class.

Tā bù kĕnéng yŏu sānshí suì.
5. 她 不   可能     有    三十  岁。

She cannot be 30 years old.

Wŏmen bù kĕnéng wàngjì zhè chăng bĭsài.
6. 我们       不  可能      忘记    这    场    比赛。

We can never forget this game.

Kĕnéng bù
7. 可能      不

May not, perhaps not

Compared with 不可能 in point 4, 不 is put behind 可能. It means the situation/action that follows is likely to happen in

negative sense. The negative sense is used toward to the situation/action rather than 可能 likelihood.

Tā kĕnéng méiyŏu sānshí suì.
8. 她   可能     没有      三十  岁。

She may not be 30 years old.

*Compared with point 5., it shows a less degree of certainty because, again, negative sense is used toward ‘有’ not ‘可能’.

Wŏmen kĕnéng bú huì wàngjì zhè chăng bĭsài.
9. 我们       可能     不  会    忘记   这    场    比赛。

We may not forget this game.

Learn Chinese Grammar – Basic sentence pattern

As you begin learning Chinese, you will notice a few similarities between the structure of Chinese language and that of English. Yes, the basic sentence pattern “S-V-O” is same as that in English. Here are more examples, with the English rendered somewhat literally so that you can see the structure of the Chinese.

• S-V-O
Wŏ xìng zhāng.
我   姓     张。
I am surnamed Zhang.

• S-Adv-V-O
Tā yĕ xìng zhāng.
他 也 姓     张。
He is also surnamed Zhang.

• S-V-O-吗
Nĭ xìng zhāng ma?
你 姓     张       吗?
Are you surnamed Zhang?

1. S-V-O
Wŏ shì mĕiguó rén.
我  是   美国     人。
I am American.

2. S-Adv-V-O
Tā yĕshì mĕiguó rén.
他 也是     美国   人。
He is also American.

3. S-V-O-吗
Nĭ shì mĕiguó rén ma?
你 是   美国    人    吗?
Are you American?

Easy, but is useful. You can use the sentence pattern when you introduce a friend.

Here is example:

Nínhăo, wŏ shì Peter, tā  shì wŏ de Zhōngguó péngyou Dīng Lì.
A:您好,我   是 Peter,他 是  我  的    中国          朋友       丁力。
Hello, I am peter, he is my Chinese friend Dingli.

Nín hăo, wŏ shì David.
B:您好,   我  是 David。
Hello, I am David.

S-V-O+吗 can express yes-or-no question.


Tā shuō hànyŭ ma?
1. 他  说     汉语   吗?
Does he speak Chinese?

Nĭ chī là ma?
2. 你 吃  辣 吗?
Do you eat spicy food?

However, when we do not need “吗,” if you want to ask question, you should know the below rules.

1). When you meet “X不X” structure, do not use “吗.”

For examples:

Tā shuō bu shuō hànyŭ?
他  说    不   说     汉语?
Does she speak Chinese?

Nĭ chī bu chī là?
你 吃  不  吃 辣?
Do you eat spicy food?

2). When you use question words, do not use “吗.”

For examples:

Nĭ jiào shénme míngzi?
你 叫     什么     名字?
What is your name?

Nĭ chī shénme cài?
你 吃    什么    菜?
What food do you eat?

“什么” is a question word, so you do not need “吗.”

3). When you use “还是”(háishì, or) to express alternative question, do not use “吗.”

For examples:

Tā shuō hànyŭ háishì yīngyŭ?
他  说     汉语    还是    英语?
Does he speak Chinese or English?

Nĭ chī mĭfàn háishì miàntiáo?
你 吃   米饭   还是     面条?
Do you eat rice or noodle?

Further Reading:

Chinese Grammar: “是 (shì)” Sentence (Beginner)

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