Chinese (Mandarin)/Lesson 1

Lessons: Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 Search inside this book using Google
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Lesson 1: 你好!

It is appropriate to start off the introduction to Chinese with the common greeting 你好   ‹nǐ hǎo› (“hello”)。 Below is a dialogue between two people meeting each other for the first time.


Dialogue 1

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
金妮: 你好。 金妮: 你好。
欧文: 你好。 歐文: 你好。
金妮: 我叫金妮。你叫什么名字? 金妮: 我叫金妮。你叫什麽名字?
欧文: 我叫欧文。 歐文: 我叫歐文。
Pīnyīn English
Jīnní: Nǐ hǎo. Ginny: Hello.
Ōuwén: Nǐ hǎo. Owen: Hello.
Jīnní: jiào Jīnní. jiào shénme míngzi? Ginny: I'm Ginny. What's your name?
Ōuwén: jiào Ōuwén. Owen: I'm Owen.

Dialogue 2

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
金妮: 他们是谁? 金妮: 他們是誰?
欧文: 她是艾美,她是中国人。他是东尼,他是美国人。 歐文: 她是艾美,她是中國人。他是東尼,他是美國人。
金妮: 你也是美国人吗? 金妮: 你也是美國人嗎?
欧文: 不是,我是英国人。你呢?你是哪国人? 歐文: 不是,我是英國人。你呢?你是哪國人?
金妮: 我是法国人。 金妮: 我是法國人。

Pīnyīn English
Jīnní: Tāmen shì shéi? Ginny: Who are they?
Ōuwén: Tā shì Àiměi, tā shì Zhōngguórén. Tā shì Dōngní, tā shì Měiguórén. Owen: She is Amy. She's Chinese. He's Tony, an American.
Jīnní: Nǐ yě shì Měiguórén ma? Ginny: Are you also American?
Ōuwén: Bú shì. Wǒ shì Yīngguórén. Nǐ ne? Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén? Owen: No, I'm British. How about you? Which nationality are you?
Jīnní: Wǒ shì Fǎguórén. Ginny: I'm French.


Note: Visit this lesson's Stroke Order subpage to see images and animations detailing how to write the following characters. Audio files of the words are linked from the pīnyīn when available. Problems listening? See media help.

Simplified Traditional (if diff.) Pīnyīn Part of speech English [‍m.‍]
1a.     (pro) you (singular, masculine)
1b.         (pro) you (singular, feminine), rarely used in the Mainland
2.     hǎo (adj) good
3.         men (particle) (noun plural marker)
4a. 你们    你們    nǐmen (pro) you all (plural, masculine)
4b. 妳们    妳們    nǐmen (pro) you all (plural, feminine)
5.     (pro) I, me
6. 我们    我們    wǒmen (pro) we, us
7.     (pro) he, him
8.     (pro) she, her
9. 他们    他們    tāmen (pro) they, them (masc.)
10. 她们    她們    tāmen (pro) they, them (fem.)
11.     jiào (v) to be named, (lit.) to call
12. 什么    什麽    shénme (pro) what
13. 名字    míngzi (n) name
14.     shì (v) to be (am/is/are)
15.         shéi OR shuí (pro) who, whom
16.         guó (n) country
17.     rén (n) person [   ‹gè› (   )]
18.     (adv) also
19.         ma (part) (question particle for yes or no questions)
20.     ne (part) (question particle for known context)
21.     OR něi (pro) what, which
22.     (adv) (negates verbs)

Proper Nouns

Simplified Traditional (if diff.) Pīnyīn English
1. 金妮 Jīnní Ginny
2. 欧文 歐文 Ōuwén Owen
3. 艾美 Àiměi Amy
4. 东尼 東尼 Dōngní Tony
5. 中国    中國    Zhōngguó China
6. 美国    美國    Měiguó United States
7. 英国    英國    Yīngguó United Kingdom
8. 法国    法國    Fǎguó France

Forming the nationality is usually as simple as adding on    ‹rén› (“person”) to the country name. 中国   ‹Zhōngguó› (“China”) becomes 中国人   ‹Zhōngguó rén› (“a person of Chinese nationality”), and so forth.


Basic Sentences

The sentence structure of Chinese is very similar to that of English in that they both follow the pattern of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Unlike many languages, verbs in Chinese are not conjugated and noun and adjective endings do not change. They are never affected by things such as time or person.

S + V + O

1. 我叫艾美。

Wǒ jiào Àiměi.
I'm called Amy.

Sentences using shì [是]

The equational verb    ‹shì› (“to be”) can be used as the English is or equals.    ‹shì› can only be used to equate combinations of nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns. In Chinese,    ‹shì› (“to be”) is not used with adjectives, as it is in English, as in, "He is cold."

S + 是 + O

1. 我是中国人。

Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.
I am a Chinese person.

2. 她是金妮。

Tā shì Jīnní.
She is Ginny.

3. 她们是英国人。

Tāmen shì Yīngguórén.
They are English.
   ‹shì› is negated when preceded by    ‹bù› (“not”).    ‹bù› is normally 4th tone, but changes to a 2nd tone when it precedes another 4th tone.

S + 不 + 是 + O

1. 他不是东尼。

Tā bú shì Dōngní.
He is not Tony.

2. 我不是美国人。

Wǒ bú shì Měiguórén.
I am not American.


There are no articles in Chinese grammar. While English noun clauses often begin with "a", "an", or "the", Chinese is less verbose.

An example:

  1. 我是中国人。
    Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.
    I am [a] Chinese person.

An "a" appears in the English translation, but the singular and indefinite nature of 中国人   ‹Zhōngguórén› (“Chinese person”) is just inferred in Chinese.

The question particle    ‹ma›

Adding the modal particle    ‹ma› to the end of a sentence makes a statement into a question. There is no change in word order unlike in English.

The declarative example sentence in #1 is transformed into an interrogative in #2.

1. 她是金妮。

Tā shì Jīnní.
She is Ginny.

2. 她是金妮吗?

Tā shì Jīnní ma?
She is Ginny ?

The question particle    ‹ne›

Using the ending modal particle    ‹ne› makes a question when the context is already known, similar to saying "How about...?" in English. A common circumstance is when you wish to repeat a question that was just asked for another subject. Simply add    ‹ne› to the end of the noun or pronoun to ask "How about this".

1. 我叫东尼, 你呢?

Wǒ jiào Dōngní, nǐ ne?
I'm called Tony. How about you?

2. 艾美是中国人, 他呢?

Àiměi shì Zhōngguórén, tā ne?
Amy is Chinese. How about him?

Question words

Question words like    ‹nǎ› (“what”) and    ‹shéi› (“who”) also make statements into questions without changing the order of the sentence. In Chinese, each question word appears where its answer would complete the surrounding sentence.

1. 他们是国人?

Tāmen shì guó rén?
What nationality are they? (literally, "They are what country person?")

2. 是美国人?

Shéi shì Měiguórén?
Who is American?

3. 她是

Tā shì shéi?
Who is she? (literally, "She is who?")

Lessons: Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 Search inside this book using Google
Subpages: Examples - Exercises - Stroke Order