- Introduction to this tutorial
- Lesson 0: Chinese is Simple
- Lesson 1: Say Hello and Introduce Yourself in Chinese
- Lesson 2: Plural and Interrogative Sentence
- Further Lessons
- Comprehensive information for Pinyin on Wikipedia.
Copyright Ning Zhao. All rights reserved. If you want to reproduce the tutorial in any form, please ask for my permission first. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
In Lesson 2 we learnt how to ask “How are you” in Chinese. Now let’s learn some of the most frequently used words in Chinese by learning how to answer this question. The most common answer to this question is of course “I’m fine, thank you. And you?”. “Fine” in Chinese is “hao3″. We have encountered this word in Lesson 1. Remember? “Hello” in Chinese is “ni3 hao3″. Here it is exactly the same “hao3″. Same pronunciation and same written character. The verb “thank” in Chinese is “xie4“. The pronunciation of the initial “x”, could be a little bit challenging to westerners. Here you can hear the pronunciation of the name “Deng Xiaoping“. Pay attention to the second syllable in “Deng Xiaoping” you may get an idea of how to pronounce the “X”. I heard many people, including my darling Dirk, pronounce the “x” in the word “LaTex” exactly like the “x” should be pronounced in Chinese. Not “La-Teks” but “LaTex“! I guess it is a French way of speaking “LaTex”. The combination of “ie” sounds very similar to the word “Yeah!”, just do not emphasize the “ah” part then they sound almost identical. The “4″ in “xie4″ means the fourth tone, which is a falling tone. “Xie4″ as a verb “thank” is usually expressed as “xie4 xie4″ in most occasions. So far you are able to construct the “I’m fine, thank you.” in Chinese on your own. Yes, it is “Wo3 hao3, xie4 xie4 ni3.” In Lesson one we learnt the Chinese word for the verb be/am/is/are. That is “shi4″. Here is the explanation in case you wonder why “I’m fine” is not “Wo3 shi4 hao3.” Well “Wo3 shi4 hao3.” is grammatically perfectly correct. But it means “I am good.”, which usually implicates “I am a good person.” In Chinese “hao3″ can mean “good” or “fine” or “well” or “nice”…. according to the context. In the sentence “Wo3 shi4 hao3.”, the be-verb “shi4″ creates a context for the semantic “I am a good person.” So if we want to say “I’m fine.”, we should avoid the “shi4″ context. This is just a special case, remember it.
Now let’s address the “And you?”. The Chinese equivalent for “and” is “he2″. In Lesson One we have learnt how to pronounce the initial “h”. The “e” in “he2″ sounds like the “ear-” in the English word “earth”, “-ur” in the English word “fur”, just do not emphasize the “r” too much and then they are almost perfect match to the “e” in the Chinese word “he2″.
you and I == ni3 he2 wo3; you and she == ni3 he2 ta1; he and I == ta1 he2 wo3.
you(plural) and we == ni3 men2 he2 wo3 men2; they and we == ta1 men2 he2 wo3 men2; you and they == ni3 men2 he2 ta1 men2.
However, the “And you?” in the sentence “I’m fine, thank you. And you?” cannot be verbatimly mapped to Chinese as “He2 ni3?”. In order to explain this, let’s first investigate the function of the “and” in the short sentence “And you?”. In English, if you want to ask a question based on the semantic of a sentence which is directly prior to the question, you can say “and” plus the word to differ the semantic. This way the question can be compacter. For example, you can say “I have learnt Lesson 2, and you?” instead of “I have learnt Lesson 2, have you learnt Lesson 2?”; or you can say “You have learnt Lesson 2, and Lesson 3?” instead of saying “You have learnt Lesson 2, have you learnt Lesson 3?”; or you can say “Oh great you can speak Chinese! And write?” instead of saying “Oh great you can speak Chinese! Can you write Chinese?”. In Chinese there is a word for exactly this function of “and” in English. It is “ne1″. Now seeing the spelling of this syllable in Pinyin, you should be able to read it on your own. We’ve learnt the pronunciation of “n” in “ni3″ and the pronunciation of “e” in “he2″. Let me repeat the good news: the pronunciation of initials, vowels and compound vowels never changes. If you can speak German you know exactly what I mean. As always, the “1″ in “ne1″ means the first tone, which is a flat tone. Now please try to read “ne1″. Yes! It sounds like the “ner-” in the English word “nerd”, please do not emphasize the “r”. Finally we’ve got the “Fine, thank you. And you?” straight. It is
“Wo3 hao3. Xie4 xie4 ni3. Ni3 ne1?”
You can so say “I’m very well” to answer “How are you?”. Pronunciation of “very” in Chinese is “hen3″. There is nothing new in the “hen3″. We’ve learnt the pronunciation of initial “h” in “Ni3 hao3″ and the pronunciation of the “en” in “men2″ in Lesson 2. “h” and “en” together sounds very similar to the English word “hen”. Like always, the “3″ in “hen3″ means third tone, which first falls and then rises. So now you can also say “Wo3 hen3 hao3, xie4 xie4 ni3. Ni3 ne1?” in Chinese. What if you want to say “I’m not well?” “Not” in Chinese is “bu4″. The “b” as the initial in Chinese always sounds like the “b” in the English “book”. And the vowel “u” always sounds like the “oo” in the English word “bamboo”. The “4″ in “bu4″ means the fourth tone, a falling tone. So,
I’m not well == Wo3 bu4 hao3; I’m not very well == Wo3 bu4 hen3 hao3.
You are not Alice == Ni3 bu4 shi4 Alice. (Here the “bu4″ usually reads “bu2″, but “bu4″ is not wrong. To simplify things, let’s stick to “bu4″ for now. )
Now suppose you see a Chinese friend and say “Hi, ni3 hao3 ma1?”. She says “Wo3 hen3 hao3, xie4 xie4 ni3. Ni3 ne1″? You know you want to say “I’m very well too, thank you.” The Chinese word “ye3″ means “too, also, as well”. The “y” as an initial in Chinese always sounds like the “y” in English words “year”, “yeah”, etc. We have encountered the vowel “e” more than once, in words “he2″ and “ne1″. The “3″ shows the third tone, first falling then rising. The word “ye3″ sounds like the “ye-” in the English word “yes”. “Ye3″ almost always follows directly after the subject in a sentence, if it appears at all. So,
I’m very well too. == Wo3 ye3 hen3 hao3.
He’s also not well. == Ta1 ye3 bu4 hao3.
They are fine, as well == Ta1 men2 ye3 hao3.
The “me too/you too/he too/….” in English has a similar structure in Chinese. Literally “me too” == “wo3 ye3″. But in Chinese we need to attach a verb after the “ye3″. For example:
You are John, me too. == Ni3 shi4 John, wo3 ye3 shi4.
You are very well, they too. == Ni3 men4 hen3 hao3, ta1 men2 ye3 shi4.
Before we end today’s Lesson, let’s learn another very useful word “dou1″. “Dou1″ means “both” and “all”. The “d” as an initial in Chinese always sounds like “d” in the English word “door”. The compound vowel “ou” in Pinyin always sounds like “oe” in the English word “doe”. “Dou” (Pinyin) together sounds just like the English word “doe”. The “1″ in “dou1″ means first tone, the flat tone. So,
We are both well. == Wo3 men2 dou1 hao3.
They are all very well. == Ta1 men2 dou1 hen3 hao3.
Not both of Alice and Betty are well. == Alice he2 Betty bu4 dou1 hao3.
Alice and Betty are both not well. == Alice he2 Betty dou1 bu4 hao3.
They are both Eric. == Ta1 men2 dou1 shi4 Eric.
You are both not well, all of them are not well either. == Ni3 men2 dou1 bu4 hao3, ta1 men2 ye3 dou1 bu4 hao3.
Let me repeat the rule:
“Ye3″ almost always follows directly after the subject in a sentence, if it appears at all.
Homework: Please translate the following sentences into Chinese, speak out loudly and write them in Pinyin.
- A: How is he (We learnt that in Lesson 2.)
B: He’s very well, thank you. And you?
A: I’m very well too, thank you!
B: And Alice?
A: She too. Thanks.
B: Good, we are all well.
A: Not good. Carl is not very well.
- A: Are you John?
B: Yes, I am. (Here “Yes” is also “shi4″ in Chinese, exactly the same “shi4″ we’ve learnt in Lesson One.)
A: Me too!
B: Very good! We are both John!
A: Is he also John?
B: No, he is not John. He is David. (“No” is also “bu4″ in Chinese, the same word for “not”.)
A: Not all of us are John.
B: They are all not John.
(I guess the last two sentences might be a little bit challenging, but it’s fun. Just count on common sense and try to build the sentence….)
- A: How are you and John?
B: We are not very well. Alice and Betty are both not very well either.
You are welcome to post your solutions as comment. My solution will be posted in the next lesson.
In the next lesson we are going to learn the most vital verbs and nouns for life. Important words around eating, coming/going and others. And we are going to touch the topic of how do the Chinese language handle tense. The other day Dirk went to his Chinese colleagues and asked “Shall we go for lunch?” in Chinese. His Chinese colleagues were greatly amazed since Dirk always claimed that he was not good at languages and hardly said “ni3 hao3″ before he met me. After learning next lesson, you will be able to impress your Chinese friends like Dirk did. Thanks to the simplicity of Chinese, you will do even though you think you are clumsy at learning a language.