(#19) What, Why / 什么,为什么

To hold a conversation, not only you need to speak sentences, you should be able to ask questions too. Let’s see how to form basic questions using some interrogatives.

In english you would place interrogatives at the front of the question sentence, but in Chinese it is different, you have to put it at the back. To say what, you say ‘什么’ shen3 me4.

这是什么? zhe4 shi4 shen3 me4? What is this?
你要吃什么?ni3 yao4 chi1 shen3 me4? What do you want to eat?
什么?! shen3 me4?! What?!
你说什么?ni3 shuo1 shen3 me4? What did you say?


I’m using this lesson to go through how to say ‘why’. It is ‘为什么’ wei4 shen3 me4. As you can see, the ‘什么’ shen3 me4 is the same word that means ‘what’, why is it so? It is because if we directly translate ‘为什么’ wei4 shen3 me4 it actually says ‘for-what’. Now it makes sense doesn’t it?

‘为什么’ wei4 shen3 me4 is used at the front of the sentence, similar to the english usage.

为什么不可以? wei4 shen3 me4 bu4 ke3 yi3? Why (can) not?
为什么又要打扫?wei4 shen3 me4 you4 yao4 da2 sao3? Why do (pronoun) have to clean again?
为什么你又忘记做功课?ni3 wei4 shen3 me4 you4 wang4 ji4 zuo4 gong1 ke4?Why did you forget to do your homework again?


New Vocabulary:

  • you4again
  • 打扫 da2 sao3 clean
  • shuo1 say
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