The grammar of Standard Chinese or Mandarin shares many features with other varieties of Chinese. The language almost entirely lacks inflection, so that words typically have only one grammatical form. Categories such as number (singular or plural) and verb tense are frequently not expressed by any grammatical means, although there are several particles that serve to express verbal aspect, and to some extent mood.
The basic word order is subject-verb-object (SVO), as in English. Otherwise, Chinese is chiefly a head-final language, meaning that modifiers precede the words they modify - in a noun phrase, for example, the head noun comes last, and all modifiers, including relative clauses, come in front of it. This phenomenon is more typically found in SOV languages like Turkish and Japanese.
Chinese frequently uses serial verb constructions, which involve two or more verbs or verb phrases in sequence. Chinese prepositions behave similarly to serialized verbs in some respects,[a] and they are often referred to as coverbs. There are also location markers, placed after a noun, and hence often called postpositions; these are often used in combination with a coverb. Predicate adjectives are normally used without a copular verb ("to be"), and can thus be regarded as a type of verb.
As in many east Asian languages, classifiers or measure words are required when using numerals--and sometimes other words such as demonstratives--with nouns. There are many different classifiers in the language, and each countable noun generally has a particular classifier associated with it. Informally, however, it is often acceptable to use the general classifier ge (simplified Chinese: ?; traditional Chinese: ?) in place of other specific classifiers.
In Chinese, the concept of words and the boundaries between them is not always transparent,[b] and the Chinese script does not use spaces between words. Grammatically, some strings of characters behave as single words in some contexts, but are separable in others. Many English intransitive verbs are translated by verb+noun compounds, such as ( literally "to jump a dance", meaning "to dance",); such items may be regarded as single lexical words, although the two parts can become separated by (for example) aspect markers, and in fact they generally behave grammatically as a verb plus an object. Sometimes the behavior of such compounds is anomalous, however; for instance (; , "to be concerned about") behaves as an inseparable word when the perfective particle le is attached, although it is separable in the phrase (??; ??, literally "concern what about", meaning "to be concerned about what").
Chinese morphemes, or minimum units of meaning, are mostly monosyllabic. Syllables, and thus in most cases morphemes, are represented as a rule by single characters. Some words consist of single syllables, but many words are formed by compounding two or more monosyllabic morphemes. These may be either free or bound - that is, they may or may not also be able to stand independently. Most two-syllable compound nouns have the head on the right, while in compound verbs the head is usually on the left.Loanwords from other languages may be polysyllabic; they are usually written using selected pre-existing characters that have the right phonetic values, for example, (; , "sofa") is written with the characters (?, originally "sand") and (?; ?, originally "to become/to issue"). Native disyllabic morphemes such as (, "spider") have consonant alliteration.
Many monosyllabic words have alternative disyllabic forms with virtually the same meaning, such as ?, "garlic"). Many disyllabic nouns are produced by adding the suffix (?, originally meaning "child") to a monosyllabic word or morpheme. There is a strong tendency for monosyllables to be avoided in certain positions; for example, a disyllabic verb will not normally be followed by a monosyllabic object. This may be connected with the preferred metrical structure of the language.(, literally "big garlic") for (
A common feature in Chinese is reduplication, where a syllable or word is repeated to produce a modified meaning. This can happen with:
Chinese can also be considered a topic-prominent language: there is a strong preference for sentences that begin with the theme, usually "given" or "old" information; and end with the rheme, or "new" information. Certain modifications of the basic subject-verb-object order are permissible and may serve to achieve topic-prominence. In particular, a direct or indirect object may be moved to the start of the clause to create topicalization. It is also possible for an object to be moved to a position in front of the verb for emphasis.
Another type of sentence is what has been called an ergative structure, where the apparent subject of the verb can move to object position; the empty subject position is then often occupied by an expression of location. Compare locative inversion in English. This structure is typical of the verb (?, "there is/are"; in other contexts the same verb means "have"), but it can also be used with many other verbs, generally denoting position, appearance or disappearance. An example:
Chinese is also to some degree a pro-drop or null-subject language, meaning that the subject can be omitted from a clause if it can be inferred from the context. In the following example, the subject of the verbs for "hike" and "camp" is left to be inferred--it may be "we", "I", "you", "she", etc.
In the next example the subject is omitted and the object is topicalized by being moved into subject position, to form a passive-type sentence. For passive sentences with a marker such as ?; , see the passive section.
Adverbs and adverbial phrases that modify the verb typically come after the subject but before the verb, although other positions are sometimes possible; see Adverbs and adverbials. For constructions that involve more than one verb or verb phrase in sequence, see Serial verb constructions. For sentences consisting of more than one clause, see Conjunctions.
With many verbs, however, the indirect object may alternatively be preceded by prepositional g?i (?; ?); in that case it may either precede or follow the direct object. (Compare the similar use of to or for in English.)
In certain situations a direct object may be preceded by the accusative marker b? (?). This generally denotes an action that results in a change of state in the object. For further details of this, see the b? construction section. Such a b? phrase no longer occupies the normal direct object position, but moves in front of the verb. Compare:
The meanings of the above two sentences are similar, but the one with b? may be considered to place more emphasis on what happened to the object. It may also indicate definiteness--"the plate" rather than "a plate". Certain other markers can be used in a similar way to b?, such as the formal ji?ng (?; ?) and colloquial ná (?).
Some verbs can apparently take two direct objects, which may be called an "inner" and an "outer" object. These cannot both follow the verb - typically the outer object will be placed at the start of the sentence (topicalized) or introduced via the b? construction. For example:
Here pí (?, "skin") is the inner object, and júzi (, "tangerine") is introduced via the b? construction as the outer object.
Chinese nouns and other parts of speech are not generally marked for number, meaning that plural forms are mostly the same as the singular. However, there is a plural marker men (?; ?), which has limited usage. It is used with personal pronouns, as in w?men (; , "we" or "us"), derived from w? (?, "I, me"). It can be used with nouns representing humans, most commonly those with two syllables, like in péngyoumén (; , "friends"), from péngyou (, "friend"). Its use in such cases is optional. It is never used when the noun has indefinite reference, or when it is qualified by a numeral.
The demonstrative pronouns zhè (?; ?, "this"), and nà (?, "that") may be optionally pluralized by the addition of xi? (?), making zhèxi? (; , "these") and nàxi? (, "those").
The head noun of a noun phrase comes at the end of the phrase; this means that everything that modifies the noun comes before it. This includes attributive adjectives, determiners, quantifiers, possessives, and relative clauses.
Chinese does not have articles as such; a noun may stand alone to represent what in English would be expressed as "the ..." or "a[n] ...". However the word y? (?, "one"), followed by the appropriate classifier, may be used in some cases where English would have "a" or "an". It is also possible, with many classifiers, to omit the y? and leave the classifier on its own at the start of the noun phrase.
The demonstratives are zhè (?; ?, "this"), and nà (?, "that"). When used before a noun, these are often followed by an appropriate classifier (for discussion of classifiers, see Classifiers below and the article Chinese classifiers). However this use of classifiers is optional. When a noun is preceded by a numeral (or a demonstrative followed by a numeral), the use of a classifier or measure word is in most cases considered mandatory. (This does not apply to nouns that function as measure words themselves; this includes many units of measurement and currency.)
The plural marker xi? (?, "some, several"; also used to pluralize demonstratives) is used without a classifier. However j? (?; ?, "some, several, how many") takes a classifier.
Possessives are formed by adding de (?)--the same particle that is used after relative clauses and sometimes after adjectives--after the noun, noun phrase or pronoun that denotes the possessor.
Chinese relative clauses, like other noun modifiers, precede the noun they modify. Like possessives and some adjectives, they are marked with the final particle de (? ). A free relative clause is produced if the modified noun following the de is omitted. A relative clause usually comes after any determiner phrase, such as a numeral and classifier. For emphasis, it may come before the determiner phrase.
There is usually no relative pronoun in the relative clause. Instead, a gap is left in subject or object position as appropriate. If there are two gaps--the additional gap being created by pro-dropping--ambiguity may arise. For example, ch? de () may mean "[those] who eat" or "[that] which is eaten". When used alone, it usually means "things to eat".
If the relative item is governed by a preposition in the relative clause, then it is denoted by a pronoun, e.g. tì t? (, "for him"), to explain "for whom". Otherwise the whole prepositional phrase is omitted, the preposition then being implicitly understood.
For example sentences, see Relative clause -> Mandarin.
Chinese nouns require classifiers called liàngcí (; ; 'measure words') in order to be counted. That is, when specifying the amount of a countable noun,[e] a classifier must be inserted which agrees with the noun. Hence one must say li?ng tóu niú (; , "two head of cattle") for "two cows", with tóu being the measure word or classifier. This phenomenon is common in East Asian languages. In English, some words, as in the cited example of "cattle", are often paired with a noun used much like the Chinese measure word. Bottle in "two bottles of wine" or piece in "three pieces of paper" are further examples. However, certain nouns representing units of measurement, time, or currency are themselves classifiers. These can therefore be counted directly.
Classifiers are generally associated with certain groups of nouns related by meaning, such as tiáo (?; ?) for long, thin objects or animals, like ropes, snakes or fish; b? (?) for objects with handles, like knives or umbrellas; or zh?ng (?; ?) for flat, sheet-like objects like photographs, or fur. While there are dozens of classifiers, which must be memorized individually for each noun, a majority of words use the general classifier gè (?; ?). Many nouns that are associated with other classifiers can also use gè if the speaker chooses. The classifiers for many nouns appear arbitrary. The word zhu?zi (, "table") is a zh?ng noun, probably because a table-top is sheet-like; while y?zi (, "chair") is a b? noun, likely because a chair is moved by lifting something like a handle. Dèngzi (), another word for chair or stool, is a gè noun.
The Chinese personal pronouns are w? (?, "I, me"), n? (?; ?/?[f], "you"), and t? (?/?/?/?, "he; him/she; her/it (animals)/it (inanimate objects)". Plurals are formed by adding men (?; ?): w?men (; , "we, us"), n?men (; , "you"), t?men (///; ///, "they/them"). There is also nín (?), a formal, polite word for singular "you". The alternative "inclusive" word for "we/us"--zán (?) or zá[n]men (; ), referring specifically to the two people "you and I"--is not widely used. The third-person pronouns are not often used for inanimates, with demonstratives used instead.
Possessives are formed with de (?), such as w?de (, "my, mine"), w?mende (; , "our[s]"), etc. The de may be omitted in phrases denoting inalienable possession, such as w? m?ma (; , "my mom").
The demonstrative pronouns are zhè (?; ?, "this", colloquially pronounced zhèi) and nà (?, "that", colloquially pronounced nèi). They are optionally pluralized by the addition of xi? (?). There is a reflexive pronoun zìj? () meaning "oneself, myself, etc.", which can stand alone as an object or a possessive, or may follow a personal pronoun for emphasis. The reciprocal pronoun "each other" can be translated from b?c? (), usually in adverb position. An alternative is hùxi?ng (, "mutually").
Adjectives can be used attributively, before a noun. The relative marker de (?)[g] may be added after the adjective, but this is not always required; "black horse" may be either h?i m? (; ) or h?i de m? (; ). When multiple adjectives are used, the order "quality/size - shape - color" is followed, although this is not necessary when each adjective is made into a separate phrase with the addition of de.
Gradable adjectives can be modified by words meaning "very", etc.; such modifying adverbs normally precede the adjective, although some, such as jíle (; , "extremely"), come after it.
When adjectives co-occur with classifiers, they normally follow the classifier. However, with most common classifiers, when the number is "one", it is also possible to place adjectives like "big" and "small" before the classifier for emphasis. For example yí dà ge x?gu? (; , "one big [classifier] watermelon").
Adjectives can also be used predicatively. In this case they behave more like verbs; there is no need for a copular verb in sentences like "he is happy" in Chinese; one may say simply t? g?oxìng (; , "he happy"), where the adjective may be interpreted as a verb meaning "is happy". In such sentences it is common for the adjective to be modified by a word meaning "very" or the like; in fact the word h?n (? , "very") is often used in such cases with gradable adjectives, even without carrying the meaning of "very".
It is nonetheless possible for a copula to be used in such sentences, to emphasize the adjective. In the phrase t? shì g?oxìng le, (; , "he is now truly happy"), shì is the copula meaning "is", and le is the inceptive marker discussed later. This is similar to the cleft sentence construction. Sentences can also be formed in which an adjective followed by de (?) stands as the complement of the copula.
Adverbs and adverbial phrases normally come in a position before the verb, but after the subject of the verb. In sentences with auxiliary verbs, the adverb usually precedes the auxiliary verb as well as the main verb. Some adverbs of time and attitude ("every day", "perhaps", etc.) may be moved to the start of the clause, to modify the clause as a whole. However, some adverbs cannot be moved in this way. These include three words for "often", cháng (?), chángcháng () and j?ngcháng (; ); d?u (?, "all"); jiù (?, "then"); and yòu (?, "again").
Adverbs of manner can be formed from adjectives using the clitic de (?).[h] It is generally possible to move these adverbs to the start of the clause, although in some cases this may sound awkward, unless there is a qualifier such as h?n (?, "very") and a pause after the adverb.
Some verbs take a prepositional phrase following the verb and its direct object. These are generally obligatory constituents, such that the sentence would not make sense if they were omitted. For example:
There are also certain adverbial "stative complements" which follow the verb. The character dé (?)[i] followed by an adjective functions the same as the phrase "-ly" in English, turning the adjective into an adverb. The second is h?o le (, "complete"). It is not generally possible for a single verb to be followed by both an object and an adverbial complement of this type, although there are exceptions in cases where the complement expresses duration, frequency or goal. To express both, the verb may be repeated in a special kind of serial verb construction; the first instance taking an object, the second taking the complement. Aspect markers can then appear only on the second instance of the verb.
The typical Chinese word order "XVO", where an oblique complement such as a locative prepositional phrase precedes the verb, while a direct object comes after the verb, is very rare cross-linguistically; in fact, it is only in varieties of Chinese that this is attested as the typical ordering.
Expressions of location in Chinese may include a preposition, placed before the noun; a postposition, placed after the noun; both preposition and postposition; or neither. Chinese prepositions are commonly known as coverbs - see the Coverbs section. The postpositions--which include shàng (?, "up, on"), xià (?, "down, under"), l? (?; ?, "in, within"), nèi (?, "inside") and wài (?, "outside")--may also be called locative particles.
In the following examples locative phrases are formed from a noun plus a locative particle:
The most common preposition of location is zài (?, "at, on, in"). With certain nouns that inherently denote a specific location, including nearly all place names, a locative phrase can be formed with zài together with the noun:
However other types of noun still require a locative particle as a postposition in addition to zài:
If a noun is modified so as to denote a specific location, as in "this [object]...", then it may form locative phrases without any locative particle. Some nouns which can be understood to refer to a specific place, like ji? (?, home) and xuéxiào (; , "school"), may optionally omit the locative particle. Words like shàngmiàn (, "top") can function as specific-location nouns, like in zài shàngmiàn (, "on top"), but can also take the role of locative particle, not necessarily with analogous meaning. The phrase zài bàozh? shàngmiàn (; ; 'in newspaper-top'), can mean either "in the newspaper" or "on the newspaper".
In certain circumstances zài can be omitted from the locative expression. Grammatically, a noun or noun phrase followed by a locative particle is still a noun phrase. For instance, zhu?zi shàng can be regarded as short for zhu?zi shàngmiàn, meaning something like "the table's top". Consequently, the locative expression without zài can be used in places where a noun phrase would be expected - for instance, as a modifier of another noun using de (?), or as the object of a different preposition, such as cóng (?, "from"). The version with zài, on the other hand, plays an adverbial role. However, zài is usually omitted when the locative expression begins a sentence with the ergative structure, where the expression, though having an adverbial function, can be seen as filling the subject or noun role in the sentence. For examples, see sentence structure section.
The word zài (?), like certain other prepositions or coverbs, can also be used as a verb. A locative expression can therefore appear as a predicate without the need for any additional copula. For example, "he is at school" (?; ?; , literally "he at school").
Comparative sentences are commonly expressed simply by inserting the standard of comparison, preceded by b? (?, "than"). The adjective itself is not modified. The b? phrase is an adverbial, and has a fixed position before the verb. See also the section on negation.
If there is no standard of comparison--i.e., a than phrase--then the adjective can be marked as comparative by a preceding adverb b?jiào (; ) or jiào (?; ?), both meaning "more". Similarly, superlatives can be expressed using the adverb zuì (?, "most"), which precedes a predicate verb or adjective.
Adverbial phrases meaning "like [someone/something]" or "as [someone/something]" can be formed using g?n (?), tóng (?) or xiàng (?) before the noun phrase, and y?yàng (; ) or nàyàng (; ) after it.
The construction yuè ... yuè ... ?...?... can be translated into statements of the type "the more ..., the more ...".
The Chinese copular verb is shì (?). This is the equivalent of English "to be" and all its forms--"am", "is", "are", "was", "were", etc. However, shì is normally only used when its complement is a noun or noun phrase. As noted above, predicate adjectives function as verbs themselves, as does the locative preposition zài (?), so in sentences where the predicate is an adjectival or locative phrase, shì is not required.
For another use of shì, see shì ... [de] construction in the section on cleft sentences. The English existential phrase "there is" ["there are", etc.] is translated using the verb y?u (?), which is otherwise used to denote possession.
Chinese does not have grammatical markers of tense. The time at which action is conceived as taking place--past, present, future--can be indicated by expressions of time--"yesterday", "now", etc.--or may simply be inferred from the context. However, Chinese does have markers of aspect, which is a feature of grammar that gives information about the temporal flow of events. There are two aspect markers that are especially commonly used with past events: the perfective-aspect le (?) and the experiential guò (?; ?). Some authors, however, do not regard guo zhe as markers of aspect. Both le and guò immediately follow the verb. There is also a sentence-final particle le, which serves a somewhat different purpose.
The perfective le presents the viewpoint of "an event in its entirety". It is sometimes considered to be a past tense marker, although it can also be used with future events, given appropriate context. Some examples of its use:
The above may be compared with the following examples with guò, and with the examples with sentence-final le given under Particles.
The experiential guò "ascribes to a subject the property of having experienced the event".
There are also two imperfective aspect markers: zhèngzài () or zài (?), and zhe (?; ?), which denote ongoing actions or states. Zhèngzài and zài precede the verb, and are usually used for ongoing actions or dynamic events - they may be translated as "[be] in the process of [-ing]" or "[be] in the middle of [-ing]". Zhe follows the verb, and is used mostly for static situations.
Both markers may occur in the same clause, however. For example, t? zhèngzai d? [zhe] diànhuà, "he is in the middle of telephoning someone" (?[?]; ?[?]; 'he [in-middle-of] [verb form] [ongoing] telephone').
The delimitative aspect denotes an action that goes on only for some time, "doing something 'a little bit'". This can be expressed by reduplication of a monosyllabic verb, like the verb z?u (? "walk") in the following sentence:
An alternative construction is reduplication with insertion of "one" (? y?). For example, z?u yi z?u (), which might be translated as "walk a little walk". A further possibility is reduplication followed by kàn (? "to see"); this emphasizes the "testing" nature of the action. If the verb has an object, kàn follows the object.
Some compound verbs, such as restrictive-resultative and coordinate compounds, can also be reduplicated on the pattern t?olùn-t?olùn (?; ?), from the verb t?olùn (; ), meaning "discuss". Other compounds may be reduplicated, but for general emphasis rather than delimitative aspect. In compounds that are verb-object combinations, like tiào w? (; 'to jump a dance', "dance"), a delimitative aspect can be marked by reduplicating the first syllable, creating tiào-tiào w? (), which may be followed with kàn (?).
As mentioned above, the fact that a verb is intended to be understood in the passive voice is not always marked in Chinese. However, it may be marked using the passive marker ? bèi, followed by the agent, though bèi may appear alone, if the agent is not to be specified.[j] Certain causative markers can replace bèi, such as those mentioned in the Other cases section, g?i, jiào and ràng. Of these causative markers, only g?i can appear alone without a specified agent. The construction with a passive marker is normally used only when there is a sense of misfortune or adversity. The passive marker and agent occupy the typical adverbial position before the verb. See the Negation section for more. Some examples:
The most commonly used negating element is bù (?), pronounced with second tone when followed by a fourth tone. This can be placed before a verb, preposition or adverb to negate it. For example: "I don't eat chicken" (?; ?; ; 'I not eat chicken'). For the double-verb negative construction with bù, see Complement of result, below. However, the verb y?u (?)--which can mean either possession, or "there is/are" in existential clauses--is negated using méi (?; ?) to produce méiy?u (; ; 'not have').
For negation of a verb intended to denote a completed event, méi or méiy?u is used instead of bù (?), and the aspect marker le (?) is then omitted. Also, méi[y?u] is used to negate verbs that take the aspect marker guo (?; ?); in this case the aspect marker is not omitted.
In coverb constructions, the negator may come before the coverb (preposition) or before the full verb, the latter being more emphatic. In constructions with a passive marker, the negator precedes that marker; similarly, in comparative constructions, the negator precedes the b? phrase (unless the verb is further qualified by gèng (?, "even more"), in which case the negator may follow the gèng to produce the meaning "even less").
The negator bié (?) precedes the verb in negative commands and negative requests, such as in phrases meaning "don't ...", "please don't ...".
The negator wèi (?) means "not yet". Other items used as negating elements in certain compound words include wú (?; ?) and f?i (?).
In wh-questions in Chinese, the question word is not fronted. Instead, it stays in the position in the sentence that would be occupied by the item being asked about. For example, "What did you say?" is phrased as n? shu? shé[n]me (?; ?, literally "you say what"). The word shénme (; , "what" or "which"), remains in the object position after the verb.
Other interrogative words include:
Disjunctive questions can be made using the word háishì (; ) between the options, like English "or". This differs from the word for "or" in statements, which is huòzh? ().
Yes-no questions can be formed using the sentence-final particle ma (?; ?), with word order otherwise the same as in a statement. For example, n? ch? j? ma? (; ; 'you eat chicken MA', "Do you eat chicken?").
An alternative is the A-not-A construction, using phrases like ch? bu ch? (, "eat or not eat").[k] With two-syllable verbs, sometimes only the first syllable is repeated: x?-bu-x?hu?n ( ?; ?, "like or not like"), from x?hu?n (; , "like"). It is also possible to use the A-not-A construction with prepositions (coverbs) and phrases headed by them, as with full verbs.
The negator méi (?; ?) can be used rather than bù in the A-not-A construction when referring to a completed event, but if it occurs at the end of the sentence--i.e. the repetition is omitted--the full form méiy?u must appear.
For answering yes-no questions, Chinese has words that may be used like the English "yes" and "no" - duì (?; ?) or shì de () for "yes"; bù (?) for "no" - but these are not often used for this purpose; it is more common to repeat the verb or verb phrase (or entire sentence), negating it if applicable.
Second-person imperative sentences are formed in the same way as statements, but like in English, the subject "you" is often omitted.
Orders may be softened by preceding them with an element such as q?ng (?, "to ask"), in this use equivalent to English "please". See Particles for more. The sentence-final particle ba (?) can be used to form first-person imperatives, equivalent to "let's...".
Chinese makes frequent use of serial verb constructions, or verb stacking, where two or more verbs or verb phrases are concatenated together. This frequently involves either verbal complements appearing after the main verb, or coverb phrases appearing before the main verb, but other variations of the construction occur as well.
A main verb may be preceded by an auxiliary verb, as in English. Chinese auxiliaries include néng and nénggòu (? and ; , "can"); huì (?; ?, "know how to"); kéy? (, "may"); g?n (?, "dare"); k?n (?, "be willing to"); y?ngg?i (; , "should"); bìx? (; , "must"); etc. The auxiliary normally follows an adverb, if present. In shortened sentences an auxiliary may be used without a main verb, analogously to English sentences such as "I can."
The active verb of a sentence may be suffixed with a second verb, which usually indicates either the result of the first action, or the direction in which it took the subject. When such information is applicable, it is generally considered mandatory. The phenomenon is sometimes called double verbs.
A complement of result, or resultative complement (?; ?; ) is a verbal suffix which indicates the outcome, or possible outcome, of the action indicated by the main verb. In the following examples, the main verb is t?ng (?; ? "to listen"), and the complement of result is d?ng (?, "to understand/to know").
Since they indicate an absolute result, such double verbs necessarily represent a completed action, and are thus negated using méi (?; ?):
The infix de (?) is placed between the double verbs to indicate possibility or ability. This is not possible with "restrictive" resultative compounds such as jiésh?ng (, literally "reduce-save", meaning "to save, economize").
To negate the above construction, de (?) is replaced by bù (?):
With some verbs, the addition of bù and a particular complement of result is the standard method of negation. In many cases the complement is li?o, represented by the same character as the perfective or modal particle le (?). This verb means "to finish", but when used as a complement for negation purposes it may merely indicate inability. For example: shòu bù li?o (, "to be unable to tolerate").
The complement of result is a highly productive and frequently used construction. Sometimes it develops into idiomatic phrases, as in è s? le (; , literally "hungry-until-die already", meaning "to be starving") and qì s? le (; , literally "mad-until-die already", meaning "to be extremely angry"). The phrases for "hatred" (; ?, "to rise up") as a complement of result, but their meanings are not obviously related to that meaning. This is partially the result of metaphorical construction, where kànbùq? () literally means "to be unable to look up to"; and duìbùq? (; ) means "to be unable to face someone".), "excuse me" (; ; ), and "too expensive to buy" (; ; ) all use the character q? (
Some more examples of resultative complements, used in complete sentences:
Double-verb construction where the second verb, "break", is a suffix to the first, and indicates what happens to the object as a result of the action.
Another double-verb where the second verb, "understand", suffixes the first and clarifies the possibility and success of the relevant action.
A complement of direction, or directional complement (?; ?; ) indicates the direction of an action involving movement. The simplest directional complements are qù (?, "to go") and lái (?; ?, "to come"), which may be added after a verb to indicate movement away from or towards the speaker, respectively. These may form compounds with other verbs that further specify the direction, such as shàng qù (, "to go up"), gùo lái (; , "to come over"), which may then be added to another verb, such as z?u (?, "to walk"), as in z?u gùo qù (; , "to walk over"). Another example, in a whole sentence:
If the preceding verb has an object, the object may be placed either before or after the directional complement(s), or even between two directional complements, provided the second of these is not qù (?).
The structure with inserted de or bù is not normally used with this type of double verb. There are exceptions, such as "to be unable to get out of bed" (?; ?; or ?; ?; ).
Chinese has a class of words, called coverbs, which in some respects resemble both verbs and prepositions. They appear with a following object (or complement), and generally denote relationships that would be expressed by prepositions (or postpositions) in other languages. However, they are often considered to be lexically verbs, and some of them can also function as full verbs. When a coverb phrase appears in a sentence together with a main verb phrase, the result is essentially a type of serial verb construction. The coverb phrase, being an adverbial, precedes the main verb in most cases. For instance:
Here the main verb is zh?o (?, "find"), and b?ng (?; ?) is a coverb. Here b?ng corresponds to the English preposition "for", even though in other contexts it might be used as a full verb meaning "help".
Here there are three coverbs: zuò (? "by"), cóng (?; ?, "from"), and dào (?, "to"). The words zuò and dào can also be verbs, meaning "sit" and "arrive [at]" respectively. However, cóng is not normally used as a full verb.
A very common coverb that can also be used as a main verb is zài (?), as described in the Locative phrases section. Another example is g?i (?), which as a verb means "give". As a preposition, g?i may mean "for", or "to" when marking an indirect object or in certain other expressions, such as w? g?i n? d? diànhuà for "I'll give you a telephone call" (; ; 'I to you strike telephone').
Because coverbs essentially function as prepositions, they can also be referred to simply as prepositions. In Chinese they are called jiè cí (; ), a term which generally corresponds to "preposition", or more generally, "adposition". The situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that location markers--which also have meanings similar to those of certain English prepositions--are often called "postpositions".
Coverbs normally cannot take aspect markers, although some of them form fixed compounds together with such markers, such as g?nzhe (; 'with +[aspect marker]'), ànzhe (, "according to"), yánzhe (, "along"), and wèile ( "for").
Serial verb constructions can also consist of two consecutive verb phrases with parallel meaning, such as h? k?f?i kàn bào, "drink coffee and read the paper" (; ; 'drink coffee read paper'). Each verb may independently be negated or given the le aspect marker. If both verbs would have the same object, it is omitted the second time.
Consecutive verb phrases may also be used to indicate consecutive events. Use of the le aspect marker with the first verb may imply that this is the main verb of the sentence, the second verb phrase merely indicating the purpose. Use of this le with the second verb changes this emphasis, and may require a sentence-final le particle in addition. On the other hand, the progressive aspect marker zài (?) may be applied to the first verb, but not normally the second alone. The word qù (?, "go") or lái (?; ?, "come") may be inserted between the two verb phrases, meaning "in order to".
Another case is the causative or pivotal construction. Here the object of one verb also serves as the subject of the following verb. The first verb may be something like g?i (?, "allow", or "give" in other contexts), ràng (?; ?, "let"), jiào (?, "order" or "call") or sh? (?, "make, compel"), q?ng (?; ?, "invite"), or lìng (?, "command"). Some of these cannot take an aspect marker such as le when used in this construction, like lìng, ràng, sh?. Sentences of this type often parallel the equivalent English pattern, except that English may insert the infinitive marker "to". In the following example the construction is used twice:
Chinese has a number of sentence-final particles - these are weak syllables, spoken with neutral tone, and placed at the end of the sentence to which they refer. They are often called modal particles or y?qì zhùcí (?; ?), as they serve chiefly to express grammatical mood, or how the sentence relates to reality and/or intent. They include:
This sentence-final le (?) should be distinguished from the verb suffix le (?) discussed in the Aspects section. Whereas the sentence-final particle is sometimes described as an inceptive or as a marker of perfect aspect, the verb suffix is described as a marker of perfective aspect. Some examples of its use:
The two uses of le may in fact be traced back to two entirely different words. The fact that they are now written the same way in Mandarin can cause ambiguity, particularly when the verb is not followed by an object. Consider the following sentence:
This le might be interpreted as either the suffixal perfective marker or the sentence-final perfect marker. In the former case it might mean "mother has come", as in she has just arrived at the door, while in the latter it might mean "mother is coming!", and the speaker wants to inform others of this fact. It is even possible for the two kinds of le to co-occur:
There is a construction in Chinese known as the shì ... [de] construction, which produces what may be called cleft sentences. The copula shì (?) is placed before the element of the sentence which is to be emphasized, and the optional possessive particle de (?) is placed at the end of the sentence. For example:
If an object following the verb, is to be emphasized in this construction, the shì precedes the object, and the de comes after the verb and before the shì.
Sentences with similar meaning can be produced using relative clauses. For example, "yesterday was the time he bought food" can be said zuóti?n shì t? m?i cài de shíji?n (; , literally "yesterday is he buy food DE time"). These may be called pseudo-cleft sentences.
Two or more nouns may be joined together by the conjunctions hé (?, "and") or huò (? "or"); for example d?o hé ch? (, "knife and fork"), g?u huò m?o (, "dog or cat").
Certain adverbs are often used as correlative conjunctions, where correlating words appear in each of the linked clauses, such as búdàn ... érqi? ( ... ; 'not only ... (but) also'), su?rán ... háishì ( ... ; ...; 'although ... still'), y?nwèi ... su?y? ( ... ; ...; 'because ... therefore'). Such connectors may appear at the start of a clause or before the verb phrase.
Similarly, words like jìrán (, "since/in response to"), rúgu? () or ji?rú () "if", zh?yào ( "provided that") correlate with an adverb jiù (?, "then") or y? (?, "also") in the main clause, to form conditional sentences.
In some cases, the same word may be repeated when connecting items; these include yòu ... yòu ... (?...?..., "both ... and ..."), y?bi?n ... y?bi?n ... (......, "... while ..."), and yuè ... yuè ... (?...?..., "the more ..., the more ...").
Conjunctions of time such as "when" may be translated with a construction that corresponds to something like "at the time (+relative clause)", where as usual, the Chinese relative clause comes before the noun ("time" in this case). For example:
Variants include d?ng ... y?qián (?...; ?... "before ...") and d?ng ... y?hòu (?...; ?..., "after ..."), which do not use the relative marker de. In all of these cases, the initial d?ng may be replaced by zài (?), or may be omitted. There are also similar constructions for conditionals: rúgu? /ji?rú/zh?yào ... dehuà (//..., "if ... then"), where huà (?; ?) literally means "narrative, story".