Chinese (Mandarin)/Traditional/Lesson 7

Lessons: Main - Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Subpages: Simplified - Exercises - Stroke Order

Lesson 7: 這是甚麼? What's this?Edit

Text 1Edit

You can check out the translation here



Wáng Míng: Zhè shì shěnme?
Lǐ Hóng: Zhè shì shū.
Wáng Míng: Nà shì shěnme?
Lǐ Hóng: Nà shì gāngbǐ.
Wáng Míng: Nà shì zázhì ma?
Lǐ Hóng: Bù, nà bùshì zázhì. Nà shì zìdiǎn.

Text 2Edit



Wáng Míng shì Zhōngguórén.

Wáng Míng shì xuéshēng.
Shīmìsī shì Měiguórén.
Shīmìsī shì Wángmíng de péngyǒu.
Shīmìsī shì lǜshī.


  • 王明 (Wáng Míng)
  • n. Wang Ming [personal name] [Wang= Family Name, Ming=First name/Personal name]
  • 李紅 (Lǐ Hóng)
  • n. Li Hong [personal name] [Li= Family Name, Hong= First/Personal name]

    Note on Chinese Names: Chinese Names are always presented in the FAMILY-NAME/FIRST-NAME format. The Family name is passed down paternally from the father (In most cases, except in exceptionally cases such as divorce/unknown parentage..etc.). Most family names have only one character. However, there are some dual-character (or more uncommonly mulitple charactered) family names such as 歐陽(ou1yang2); 司徒(si1tu2); 司馬(si1ma3); 諸葛(zhu1ge2)..etc. These family names evolved from originally non-Han family names which have been eventually assimilated into the general Han culture.

    Hence a man called 王明 (Wáng Míng) is addressed as Mr. WANG, not Mr. MING. A lady called 李紅 (Lǐ Hóng) is addressed as Miss/Madam LI.

    However, if the person has a western personal name, it is presented in the PERSONAL-NAME/FAMILY-NAME format, following the Western convention. Hence if 李紅 (Lǐ Hóng) has a western-style personal name of Mary, she is usually introduced as "Mary LI" and not "Li Mary".

  • 這 (zhè)
  • pron. this
  • 是 (shì)
  • v. to be (is/are)
  • 甚麼 (Mainland shěnme
    and Taiwan shěme)
  • pron. what
  • 那 (nà)
  • pron. that
  • 筆 (bǐ)
  • n. pen; a generic term for all pens
  • 鋼筆 (gāngbǐ)
  • n. fountain pen
  • 鉛筆 (qian1bǐ)
  • n. pencil
  • 原子筆 (yuan2zi2bǐ)
  • n. ballpoint pen
  • 毛筆 (mao2bǐ)
  • n. brush (calligraphy pen)
  • 雜誌 (zázhì)
  • n. magazine
  • 報紙 (bao4zhi1)
  • n. newspaper
  • 書本 (shu1ben3)
  • n. book
  • 傳單 (chuan2dan1)
  • n. pamphlet
  • 嗎 (ma)
  • final interrogative particle used
    to form a question sentence
  • 不 (bù)
  • adv. no
  • 字典 (zìdiǎn)
  • n. dictionary
  • 人 (rén)
  • n. person/people
  • 中國人 (Zhōngguórén)
  • n. Chinese (中國:China 人:people)
  • 外國人 (Wai4Guo2rén)
  • n. Foreigners (外:Outside 國:Country 人:People)
  • 日本人 (Ri4ben3rén)
  • n. Japanese (日本:Japan 人:People)
  • 英國人 (ying1guórén)
  • n. British (英國:Britain 人:People)
  • 新加坡人 (xin1jia1po1rén)
  • n. Singaporean (新加坡:Singapore)
  • 美國人 (mei3guórén)
  • n. American
  • 學生 (xuéshēng)
  • n. student
  • 老師 (lao3shi1)
  • n. teacher
  • 校長 (xiao4zhang3)
  • n. principal
  • 史密斯 (Shǐmìsī)
  • n. Smith
  • 美國人 (Měiguórén)
  • n. American
  • 朋友 (péngyǒu)
  • n. friend
  • 律師 (lǜshī)
  • n. lawyer
    • 筆記本/筆記本 (bǐjìběn)
    • 鉛筆/鉛筆 (qiānbǐ)
    • 英國人/英國人 (Yīngguórén)
    • 法國人/法國人 (Fǎguórén)
    • 報紙/報紙 (bàozhǐ)
    • 老師/老師 (lǎoshī)
    • 作家 (zuòjiā)

    n. notepads
    n. pencil
    n. British people
    n. French people
    n. newspaper
    n. teacher
    n. writer


    In this lesson, we learn how to say "something is something" in Chinese. The first thing you need to know is that the sentence structure of Chinese is very similar to that of English in that they both follow the pattern of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). But unlike many western languages, verbs in Chinese aren't conjugated and noun and adjective endings don't change. They are never affected by things such as time or person


    This sentence means "What's this/that?":

    1. 這是甚麼?(What's this?)
    2. 那是甚麼?(What's that?)

    The sentences, if broken down literally, shows that the ordering of words differs in English and Chinese:

    這/那 甚麼 ?
    this/that is what ?

    The order of the sentences may seem a little bit tricky, but don't worry about that, we will discuss this later.

    A 是 BEdit

    This sentence means "A is B."

    "是" (shì), the equational verb to be, can be used as the English is or equals. When used in a simple Subject-Verb-Object sentence, the subject defines the object. Since Chinese verbs never change, no other forms for shì exist such as was or am in English. Also, articles like a and the are absent in Chinese. They are not translated.

    For example:

    1. 這是書 (zhe4 shi4 shu1): this is (a) book.
    2. 那是雜志 (na4 shi4 za2zhi4): that is (a) magazine.

    A 不是 BEdit

    This sentence means "A is not B." in which shì is negated when preceded by "不" (bu). "不" literally means "no", "not".

    For example:

    • 這不是書 (zhe4 bu2 shi4 shu1): this is not (a) book.

    Now, we come back to the "what's this/that?" questions. We already see that the order is a bit tricky comparing to the English question order. But comparing to the latter pattern "A 是 B", we find the similarity: their orders are identically the same. In fact, like particles, question words make statements into questions without changing the order of the sentence. To make one, simply substitute the QW in for place the subject would be in the answer.


    1. 這是。(This is (a) book.)
    2. 這是甚麼?(This is what?)
    1. 那是雜誌。(That is (a) magazine.)
    2. 那是甚麼?(That is what?)


    "嗎" is a final interrogative particle used to form a question sentence. Adding this character at the end of a statement transforms the sentence into a question.

    Example 1:

    • 這是書 (zhe4 shi4 shu1)。(This is (a) book.)
      • 這是書 (zhe4 shi4 shu1 ma)?(Is this (a) book?)

    Example 2:

    • 這不是雜誌 (zhe4 bu2 shi4 za2zhi4)。(This is not (a) magazine.)
      • 這不是雜誌(zhe4 bu2 shi4 za2zhi4 ma)?(Isn't this (a) magazine?)


    "是" (shi4) can be used to answer a simple yes/no question. In this case, "是" means yes, whilst "不" (bu2) or "不是" (bu2 shi4) means no (literally, not is).

    How to answer yes/no questions correctly in Chinese? Usually, it's the same as in English, but pay attention if the questions are negative, like "Isn't this a book?". In Chinese, you answer to the questions, not the fact. If the question itself is a negative answer, use "不是" or simply "不", vice versa. For example:

    • A: 這不是書嗎?zhe4 bu2 shi4 shu1 ma? (Isn't this (a) book? = This is not a book, right?)
      • B: ,這不是書。shi4, zhe4 bu2 shi4 shu1. (No, this is not (a) book. = You are right; this is not a book.)
      • B: ,這是書。bu4, zhe4 shi4 shu1. (Yes, this is (a) book. = You're wrong; this is a book.)

    A asks if that's a book in a negative way. If the object is not a book, you should nevertheless approve A's saying first. So we use "是" to acknowledge that A is correct, and then say "this is not (a) book" to emphasis A is right; In the case of that is a book, you should deny A's saying first, using "不" (no) to point out A is wrong, then make a new statement by noting that "這是書" (this is (a) book). One more example:

    • 他今天晚上不來參加宴會了,對嗎?(He's not going to the party tonight, is he?)
      • ,他肯定要來。(Yes, he's defintely coming.)
      • 啊,他很忙呢!(No, he's so busy!)


    Character "的"(de) indicates that the previous word has possession of the next one. In English it functions like 's or like the word of but with the position of possessor and possessee switched. For example:

    1. 史密斯的書 <-> Smith's book
    2. 王明的鋼筆 <-> Wang Ming's pen
    3. 約翰** (Yuēhàn: John)的朋友** (péngyǒu: friend) <-> John's friend or a friend of John's


    1. Replace the underline words, and practise.
      1. 史密斯是美國人
        • 英國人
        • 法國人
      2. 這不是雜誌
        • 筆記本*
        • 鉛筆
    2. Replace the underline words, and then answer the questions with both positive answers and negative answers.
      • Example:
      • 史密斯是法國人嗎?
        • 是,史密斯是法國人
        • 不,史密斯不是法國人
      1. 那是雜誌嗎?
        • 鋼筆
        • 鉛筆
        • 報紙*
      2. 王明是學生嗎?
        • 律師
        • 老師*
        • 作家*
    3. Translate the following English into Chinese.
      1. Wang Ming is not a teacher. Wang Ming is a student. Wang Ming is a Chinese. Wang Ming is not an American.
      2. Smith is a lawyer. Smith is not a writer. Smith is an American. Smith is not a French.
      3. This is Smith's book. That is Wang Ming's pen.

    Further readingEdit

    Read the following article, and then answer the questions in Chinese.

    你好(nǐhǎo, hello),我(wǒ, I)是王明。我是學生,我是中國人。這是史密斯。史密斯是我的1 朋友,史密斯是律師。那是史密斯的妻子(qīzi, wife),安娜(Ana)。安娜是我的英語(yīngyǔ, English language)老師。
    1."我 的" means "my", we will discuss this in the next lesson.


    1. Who is "I"?
    2. What does Smith do?
    3. Who is Ana?
    4. What does Ana do?

    Useful phrasesEdit

    Greetings. How to greet people in Chinese?
    • 你好!(nǐhǎo): Hello!
    • 嗨!(hài): Hi!
    • 幸會 (xìng huì) Great to meet you!
    • 你吃過飯了嗎?(nǐ chī guò fàn le ma?): Have you had your meal? (This is a casual greeting between friends etc. But it doesn't mean you are asked to a dinner! Another derivation of this phrase commonly used in Beijing is "你吃了嗎?")
    • 再見。(zàijiàn): Goodbye
    • 拜拜。(bāibāi): Bye-bye
    • 回頭見。(huítóu jiàn): See you later.

    Translation for the textEdit

    Chinese characters Sentences breakdown English translation
    Text 1


    Text 1

    Wang Ming: This is what?
    Li Hong: This is book.
    Wang Ming: That is what?
    Li Hong: That is pen.
    Wang Ming: That is magazine (final interrogative particle)?
    Li Hong: No, that not is magazine, this is dictionary.

    Text 1

    Wang Ming: What's this?
    Li Hong: This is a book.
    Wang Ming: What's that?
    Li Hong: That's a pen.
    Wang Ming: Is this a magazine?
    Li Hong: No, that's not a magazine. That's a dictionary.

    Text 2

    史密斯是王明 的 朋友。

    Text 2

    Wang Ming is Chinese.
    Wang Ming is student.
    Smith is American.
    Smith is Wang Ming's friend.
    Smith is lawyer.

    Text 2

    Wang Ming is Chinese.
    Wang Ming is a student.
    Smith is American.
    Smith is Wang Ming's friend.
    Smith is a lawyer.

    Lessons: Main - Pron. - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
    Subpages: Simplified - Exercises - Stroke Order