Archive for February, 2013

(#43) Please hold on / 请稍等

Time for another set phrase and today I’m starting with the more formal phrase before moving to the casual version.

To ask someone to ‘please hold on’ you say 请稍等 qing3 shao1 deng3 and you can use it when you are answering the phone and you need to transfer the line, or you might hear it from waiters and waitresses when they are trying to arrange a table for you.

As mentioned, this is a more formal way of asking someone else to hold on, alternative you can say 等一下 deng3 yi4 xia4.

deng3 as seen in both examples mean ‘wait’, but it has another meaning as ‘etc’, which I will cover in the next entry.

When someone need your help but you need a moment before you can spare your attention, or you saw someone leaving the seat with the umbrella still hanging off the back of the chair, you can ask that someone to ‘hang on’ or ‘hold on’ or ‘wait a moment’ with the phrase 等一下.

You can pair 不好意思 and 等一下 to become 不好意思,请等一下 bu4 hao3 yi4 si4, qing4 deng3 yi4 xia4 to first get the attention by saying ‘excuse me’ and then quickly add on to ask that someone to ‘hang on a moment’.

Do you still remember about 不好意思? Are you still following well? 🙂

(#42) Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow / 昨天,今天,明天

This is a vocabulary post, I probably need not even dedicate a post to it, but well.

This entry tells you what to say if you need to refer to a certain day.

When I was learning new languages, this is one of the first thing that I will check the dictionary for.

今天 jin1 tian1 today
昨天 zuo2 tian1 yesterday
明天 ming2 tian1 tomorrow

前天 qian2 tian1 day before yesterday
后天 hou4 tian1 day after tomorrow

大前天 da4 qian2 tian1 2 days before yesterday
大后天 da4 hou4 tian1 2 days after tomorrow

这个星期 zhe4 ge4 xing1 qi1 this week
上个星期 shang4 ge4 xing1 qi1 last week
下个星期 xia4 ge4 xing1 qi1 next week

这个月 zhe4 ge4 yue4 this month
上个月 shang4 ge4 yue4 last month
下个月 xia4 ge4 yue4 next month

今年 jin1 nian2 this year
去年 qu4 nian2 last year
明年 ming2 nian2 next year

What a lot of new vocabulary. Have fun making new sentences with them.

Suggestions please

I think I’d went through the most fundamental mandarin conversation points, and I can’t think of what else to write about. 😦

If you have any suggestions, do let me know.

(#41) When / 几时,什么时候

Finally we are at the last interrogative, and if you are keeping tabs, the last interrogative is ‘when’.

To say when, you say 几时 ji3 shi2. Individually, 几 can mean ‘a few’ but right here it means ‘how many’. 时 is the same 时 in 时间 shi2 jian1, which means time.

Quick interjection for vocabulary:
时钟 shi2 zhong1 clock
时代 shi2 dai4 generation
时尚 shi2 shang4 fashion

Another way of asking ‘when’ is by saying 什么时候 shen3 me4 shi2 hou4. 时候 sshi hou4 also means time, but it is because the English word ‘time’ is more accommodating, while Chinese is a bit more particular in this case. 时候 shi2 hou4 can more accurately be understood as ‘a general frame of time’, and together with 什么, you are basically asking ‘generally what time frame’.

几时 and 什么时候 can be used interchangeably, if you prefer to say 4 words instead of 2, you can choose the latter.

你几时有空?ni3 ji3 shi2 you3 kong4? When are you free?
你什么时候有空?ni3 shen3 me4 shi2 hou4 you3 kong4? When are you free?

我几时这样说过?wo3 ji3 shi2 zhe4 yang4 shuo1 guo4? When did I say that?
我什么时候这样说过?wo3 shen2 me4 shi2 hou4 zhe4 yang4 shuo1 guo4? When did I say that?

This few posts will be all time relating date related again. Stay tune!

(#40) Happy / 开心,快乐

I had a good weekend and I was in a good mood, hence I thought I can introduce how to use different words and phrases to express happiness.

开心 kai1 xin1 happy, slightly more causal than the word below
快乐 kuai4 le4 just as commonly used, but this word is slightly more formal.

So I can easily say things like:
我很开心 wo3 hen3 kai1 xin1
我很快乐 wo3 hen3 kuai4 le4

If instead I want to say I’m in a good mood, there is no direct translation, but the nearest is 好心情 hao3 xin1 qing2 which directly means ‘good feeling’.

Sometimes if you see certain Taiwanese / chinese drama etc, there is another word that is often translated into ‘happiness’, and the word is 幸福 xing4 fu2. But if I want to be accurate, this Chinese word is closer to the meaning of ‘blissful’. It means the bliss in, for example, love.

But if you are feeling very ‘blessed’, you can say 我很幸福 wo3 hen3 xing4 fu2 instead of I’m happy, even if it fundamentally means a good feeling.

Are you feeling happy?

(#39) Excuse me / 不好意思

Today I’m introducing a set phrase.

It may not enough to know how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ when you are beginning to learn a new language, knowing how to say ‘excuse me’ will come in handy.

When you want to say ‘excuse me’ you say 不好意思 bu4 hao3 yi4 si4.

If you want to pass and someone is blocking your path, you can say 不好意思,请借过 bu4 hao3 yi4 si4, qing3 jie4 guo4 Excuse me, please let me pass.

If you did something slightly wrong, like bumping into someone on the road, you can choose to say excuse me instead of sorry. In this case, it is perfectly well to say 不好意思.

But of course the degree of seriousness is decided by you isn’t it, if you ate ALL the cake I bought, I might want to strangle you, but you might feel only slightly apologetic and only say 不好意思 too. But I can feel you are not that sincere since you didn’t say 对不起 dui4 bu4 qi3 instead.

The broken-down meaning of 不好意思 explained below. It is a little confusing, so as the irresponsible teacher I am, I’ll say, leave it for another time if you want to, not knowing the broken-down meaning doesn’t hurt anyone in this case.

Combined, it means ‘not having a good feeling’, but 意思 does not mean feeling. We should actually break it up into 不 and 好意思. 好意思, when used as this particular 3 character word, means ‘unashamed’. It is mostly a negative word, used when you want to be sarcastic.

You finished all my cake, you are really unashamed eh?

But when used with 不 to become 不好意思, it became a double negative. It basically means ‘not having a good feeling.

(#38) This, that / 这,那

I had used it often but had never introduced it formally, so in devoting this entry to it.

The two characters can be taught together because their usage is identical. We say 这 zhe4 for ‘this’ and 那 na4 for ‘that’.

The following are some examples of usage, you can populate it into other words yourself later on.

这个,那个 (个 ge4)this one, that one
这双,那双 (只 shuang1 )this pair, that pair
这里,那里 (里 li3 )this place/here, that place/there
这样,那样 (样 yang4 )this way/this method, that way/that method
这是,那是 (是 shi4 )this is, that is
这边,那边 (边 bian1 )this side, that side

(#37) How many / 多少

To finish up (at least for now) on ‘how’, I’ll explain more on 多少 duo1 shao3.

I had introduced 多少 in the previous post, and the set phrase 多少钱 too. This post will explain how to further use 多少 to ask questions.

Like explained, 多少 means how little, so when we are asking for quantities as in the number of people or number of items.

It would make you confused if you start questioning why would you ask ‘how little’ in Chinese when you actually want to ask ‘how many’. I can explain that it is just a way of speech, or because the word ‘多’ is already used as ‘how’, or because of the presence of 多, pairing a 少 would nicely mean ‘many-little?’ which sort of reminds you are asking how many or how little. But which ever way you prefer, choose something that helps you remember.

To use 多少, you simply put counters behind it. To ask how many people are there in this place, you can ask 这个地方有多少人? zhe4 ge4 di4 fang1 you3 duo1 shao3 ren2?

If you see me carrying lots of shopping bags, you may want to ask me “Exactly how many pair of shoes did you buy!?” 你到底买了多少双鞋子!? ni3 dao4 di3 mai3 le4 duo1 shao3 shuang1 xie2 zi3?!

Digress: 双 shuang1 is a counter to mean a ‘pair’.

More examples:

多少个苹果 duo1 shao3 ge4 ping2 guo3 how many apples
多少个星期 duo1 shao3 ge4 xing1 qi1 how many weeks
多少个朋友 duo1 shao3 ge4 peng2 you3 how many friends
多少只猫 duo1 shao3 zhi1 mao1 how many cats
多少支铅笔 duo1 shao3 zhi1 qian1 bi3 how many pencils

You will be interested to know most of the time you can use 几 ji3 to represent 多少. Important to note that this DOESN’T apply to 多少钱!You can say 几个人,or 几只猫, but never never never 几钱. Ok I made it sound too serious. You won’t get into trouble saying that, just that no one will understand you, ever.

Sorry for super length post. Hope I didn’t kill all of your brain cells.

(#36) How / 多

There was a reason why I inserted a many / 多 lesson in the middle of seemingly nowhere.

Why you compose ‘how’ questions, sometimes you want to know the status of a person, as seen in the 你有没有怎么样 example in the last entry.

Sometimes you want to know how to do something as in the 怎么去 example.

This entry tells you how to ask ‘how’ questions to ask for quantities or amount.

多快 duo1 kuai4 how fast
多忙 duo1 mang2 how busy
多生气 duo1 sheng1 qi4 how angry
多大 duo1 da4 how big
多少 duo1 shao3 how little

That brings me to a set phrase. To ask for a price, you say 多少钱 duo1 shao3 qian2. Of course you can point to something and ask 这个多少钱? zhe4 ge4 duo1 shao3 qian2? to say how much is this, or 那个多少钱? na4 ge4 duo1 shao3 qian2? how much is that.

And let’s revise. If you want to be a bit more polite, since you are pretty much talking to a stranger, you can add a word (hint: two characters) to the front of the sentence to say:

Can I ask how much is this?

Hope you got it correctly, the answer is 请问.

请问这个多少钱? qing3 wen4 zhe4 ge4 duo1 shao3 qian2?

(#35) How / 怎么

We had covered ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ previously, so we are left with 2 more interrogatives.

Today we will go through ‘how’. It is translated as 怎么 in the most basic manner, but when you hear 怎么 in mandarin conversation, it may not necessarily mean ‘how’.

Depending on context, there is different ways to use 怎么zen3 me4. First you need to know 怎么zen3 me4, which is the “root” to the other variations.

The first variation is 怎么样 zen3 me4 yang4 or 怎样 zen3 yang4 for short.

Let me digress and explain the word 样子 yang4 zi3. It means ‘looks’, or ‘appearance’. But it has no direct association with this word 怎么样.

怎么样 is used in situations when you are enquiring on the well-being, or if you want to ask a very general ‘how’.

If I am sick, you can ask me 你怎么样?ni3 zen3 me4 yang4? . If I tripped and fell, you can ask me 你有没有怎么样ni3 you3 mei2 you3 zen3 me4 yang4. In short, is it to ask ‘How are you’ in a concerned manner, or maybe you can understand it as ‘Are you ok?’

If you ask me a question and I’m taking ages to answer, you can ask me 怎么样?? to express ‘How??’ and if I still don’t give you the reply you are waiting for, you can emphasize by saying 到底怎么样?? dao4 di3 zen3 me4 yang4?? which means ‘In the end, how??’

The second variation of 怎样 is when you used it with a verb.

怎么zen3 me4 qu4 How do you go
怎么知道 zen3 me4 zhi1 dao4 How do I know
怎么可以 zen3 me4 ke3 yi3 How can you
怎么zen3 me4 hui4 How would she (but depending on context it might mean ‘why would she…’)
我们怎么zen3 me4 ban4 How~?? (Or you can understand it as ‘what do we do?’)

怎么办 is a set phrase. Depending on tone and expression it can bring across different meanings. It can be directly translated as ‘how-settle’, meaning you are in a fix and can say 怎么办 to ask for help or suggestions how to settle your problem.

Woot. The word 怎么 is seriously far more difficult than I imagine. Thank you for making it thru to this point. Well done! 🙂

(#34) Many / 多


Let’s learn a simple adjective today. To say ‘many’ or ‘a lot’, you say 多 duo1 in Chinese. But usually it is used together with 很 hen3 to become 很多 hen3 duo1. Like I mentioned previously, the character 很 is a modifier that adds some intensity in meaning to the word it modifies. In this case, even if you have no intention to say ‘very-many’, or to exaggerate that there is a lot, in Chinese you still have to say 很多.

我买了很多苹果 wo3 mai3 le4 hen3 duo1 ping2 guo3 I bought many apples
花了很多hua1 le4 hen3 duo1 qian2 Spent a lot of money

Look at how 很多 can be used to express ‘many’ and ‘a lot’. But note that it can be used on tangible things and intangible things, but not verbs.

我很喜欢你 wo3 hen3 xi3 huan1 ni3 I like you a lot

我走了很多wo3 zou3 le4 hen3 duo1 lu4 I walked a lot (in English it is omitted, but in Chinese it is directly translated as ‘I walked a lot of roads’. ‘A lot’ that is used here is on the ‘roads’, not on the ‘walked’, saw that?)

A few more examples:

很多朋友 hen3 duo1 peng2 you3 many friends
很多巧克力 hen3 duo1 qiao3 ke4 li4 a lot of chocolates
很多想法 hen3 duo1 xiang3 fa2 a lot of ideas, thoughts
很多意见 hen3 duo1 yi4 jian4 a lot of opinions

If you use it with 了le4, it forms 多了 duo1 le4, and you can use it as a comparison.

多了一个人 duo1 le4 yi4 ge4 ren2 literally it means ‘more-d one person’, converting the adjective into a verb. But there is more unsaid meaning to it. It also says that it used to be one person lesser.

Scenario: a bachelor who had always stayed alone got married, he is not used to the additional person, so over drinks he may say to his friend, 家里多了一个人 jia1 li3 duo2 le4 yi4 ge4 ren2 ‘the house is more-d by one person’ but what he really means is 空间少了一半 kong1 jian1 shao3 le4 yi4 ban4 ‘the space is less-ed by half’

The meaning to the word 多了 may not always be bad, but sometimes it really takes the meaning of saying the additional is not really good.

Use it carefully ya?

(#33) Months / 月份

Since I had covered days of the week, I’ll make it complete by introducing the way to say the months. To say one month, you say 一个月 yi4 ge4 yue4, two months as 两个月 liang3 ge4 yue4, etc etc.

In this particular case, you cannot omit 个 ge4. Not that you should in any other cases, but because it is not a common grammar usage in english, I guess there is a chance you might leave it out in your usage.

But I was saying you shouldn’t omit 个 when you are saying months, because on its own, 一月 yi1 yue4 means January.

I think you can start smiling, because saying months in mandarin is really simple, you just take numbers, and add 月 yue4 to the back. By the way, 月 means the moon, just for your interest.

一月 = Jan
二月 = Feb
三月 = Mar
四月 = Apr
五月 = May
六月 = Jun
七月 = Jul
八月 = Aug
九月 = Sep
十月 = Oct
十一月 = Nov
十二月 = Dec

(As usual, I am not going to excessively go into repeating the numbers in hanyu pinyin. Have you guys memorised it already?)

(#32) Week / 星期,礼拜,周

There are 3 methods to say ‘a week’ in chinese.


星期 xing1 qi1 < used most frequently.

礼拜 li3 bai4 < used in slightly informal situation

zhou1 < used in slightly formal situation. Not that the word is formal, just that you seldom hear it in normal conversations, but more on the news, or in commercials.


To say one week, you add 一个 yi1 ge4 to the front of the word – 一个星期 yi1 ge4 xing1 qi1 and 一个礼拜 yi1 ge4 li3 bai4

But for 一周, you don’t add 个 ge4 to it. There is not much logic to it, you just have to remember 一周 yi1 zhou1 but as a very irresponsible teacher I’ll just say forget this term and stick to the 星期 xing1 qi1,  it will be sufficient to get you around.


To say Monday, Tuesday etc, you just need to be able to count up to 6. On sunday, instead of ‘7’, the word becomes 日 ri4 which previously you would see that it means ‘day’. But in this case, it means ‘sun’.

星期一,星期二, 星期三,星期四, 星期五, 星期六, 星期日 xing1 qi1 ri4

礼拜一,礼拜二, 礼拜三,礼拜四, 礼拜五, 礼拜六, 礼拜 li3 bai4 ri4

周一,周二, 周三,周四, 周五, 周六, 周日 zhou1 ri4

(I won’t post all the hanyu pinyin because I’m sure you get it now. If you don’t, study a bit harder. 🙂 numbers are really simple in chinese, and really helpful. )


(#31) Time / 时间

I am always running short of time, so I always go around telling people, 我很忙 wo3 hen3 man2 I’m very busy,我没空 wo3 mei2 kong4 I don’t have free (time),我没时间 wo3 mei2 shi2 jian1 I don’t have time.


时间 shi2 jian1  time is the theme of this post. First lets see some time-related vocabulary:

空闲 kong4 xian2 free (in terms of time). Actually this two characters are literally translated into free (time)-relax, so the word really takes a relaxed meaning.
忙碌 mang2 lu4 busy. 忙 mang2 on its own means busy, 碌 lu4 have the meaning of a complex and busy movement.


Let’s also go through how to say 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock etc.

It can be written as “1 点”, “2 点”, etc, and will be read as yi4 dian3, liang3 dian3, etc

1 点   yi4 dian3   1 o’clock
2 点   liang3 dian3   2 o’clock
3 点   san1 dian3   3 o’clock
4 点   si4 dian3   4 o’clock
5 点   wu3 dian3   5 o’clock
6 点   liu4 dian3   6 o’clock
7 点   qi1 dian3   7 o’clock
8 点   ba1 dian3   8 o’clock
9 点   jiu3 dian3   9 o’clock
10 点   shi2 dian3   10 o’clock
11 点   shi2 yi1 dian3   11 o’clock
12 点   shi2 er4 dian3   12 o’clock


To say the minute, you say 分 fen1. Therefore 1:10 will be  1 点 1o 分 yi4 dian3 shi2 fen1, and 4:38 will be 4 点 38分 si4 dian3 san1 shi2 ba1 fen1. 11:03 will be  shi2 yi1 dian3 ling2 san1 fen. 

Minutes are simply saying the numbers, plus the 分 fen1.

If you need to say seconds, then it is 秒 miao3. Again just say the numbers, then add the 秒 miao3 behind.


One more element, to say

morning , you say 早上 zao3 shang4
noon, you say 中午 zhong1 wu3
afternoon, you say 下午 xia4 wu3
evening, you say 傍晚 bang4 wan3
night, you say 晚上 wan3 shang4

(please refer to earlier post for the time frames)


Therefore to say 9:45am you say zao3 shang4   jiu3 dian3   si4 shi2 wu3 fen1. 

9:45pm would be wan3 shang4  jiu3 dian3   si4 shi2 wu3 fen1. 


One very last thing to go through. There is a special word to say xx o’clock 30 minute / xx:30. The word is 半 ban4. To say 6:30, you can just say  liu4 dian3 ban4.


It is really simple, but you will need to practice more to be smooth and fluent. Have fun!

(#30) Counting / 两

We had went the chinese numbers in a previous post, do you still remember them?

零,一,二,三,四,五, 六,七,八,九,十.
ling2, yi1, er4, san1, si4, wu3, liu4, qi1, ba1, jiu3, shi2

When we do actual counting, all is the same, except for one exception. 二 er4 is changed into 两 liang3.

It is for all the cases when you are counting with a counter, and also for hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, etc. One more scenario that it is used: specifically for 2 o’clock (not for 12 o’clock)

一个,个,三个 yi1 ge4, er4 ge4, san1 ge4
一位,位,三位 yi1 wei4, er4 wei4, san1 wei4
一只,只,三只 yi1 zhi1, er4 zhi1, san1 zhi1
一支,支,三支 yi1 zhi1, er4 zhi1, san1 zhi1
一枝,枝,三枝 yi1 zhi1, er4 zhi1, san1 zhi1


一百, 百,三百 yi1 ban3, liang3 bai3, san1 bai3 one hundred, two hundred, three hundred
一千, 千,三千 yi1 qian1, liang3 qian1, san1 qian1 one thousand, two thousand, three thousand.
一万, 万,三万 yi1 wan4, liang3 wan4, san1 wan4 (direct translation have no meaning related to this entry)


一点,点,三点 yi1 dian3, liang3 dian3, san1 dian3 one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock