(#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! 🙂

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