Posts Tagged ‘ interrogative ’

(#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! 🙂

(#24) Where / 哪里

Since we have introduced 去 qu4 go,来 lai2 come,走 zou3 walk,接 jie1 fetch – which are some location-related verbs, let’s go through how to say ‘where’ in chinese.

In chinese, we say 哪里 na3 li3, and to use it,  哪里 na3 li3 goes to the back of the question.

你去了哪里ni3 qu4 le4 na3 li3? Where did you go?
你在哪里ni3 zai4 na3 li3? Where are you ?
手机放在哪里shou3 ji1 fang4 zai4 na3 li3? Where did you placed/put the mobile phone?


If we talk about ‘where’, I should mention ‘place’ too. ‘Place’ in chinese is 地方 di4 fang1. On the simplest level, it means ‘place’, so instead of asking :

你去了哪里ni3 qu4 le4 na3 li3? Where did you go?

you can also ask:

你去了什么地方? ni3 qu4 le4 shen3 me4 di4 fang1 ? What place did you go? (It means ‘where did you go’ too)
地方 lao3 di4 fang1. Direct translation: old place; Meaning: The usual place


New Vocabulary:

  • 手机 shou3 ji1 mobile phone
  • 放 fang4 placed/put

(#20) Who / 谁

To say ‘who’, the chinese word is 谁, however you will find that the pronunciation is interesting. We are usually taught that it is pronounced as shui2, but in daily life we actually pronounced it as shei2.

But for simplicity’s sake, I will use shui2 in the explaination in this blog, but like said, it is more likely to be pronounced as shei2 in our daily life, so please do remember the pronunciation shei2 as well.

One bad news.  谁 shui2 may be a simple word, but the usage in chinese is a little hard to predict. I’ll list as many examples as I can and hopefully you can remember some of the common ones.

喂, 请问你找? wei2, qing3 wen4 ni3 zhao3 shui2? Hallo, can I ask who are you looking for?

这个杯子是打破的?zhe4 ge4 bei1 zi3 shi4 shui2 da3 po4 de4? [Directly translated] This glass, by whom is it broken by?
In such scenarios, the word order is noun+interrogative pronoun+verb.

Actually you can say 打破这个杯子? shui2 da3 po4 zhe4 ge4 bei1 zi3? Who broke this glass?
It will be interrogative pronoun+verb+noun in this case. It gets the message across, but honestly, it is a little unnatural.

你是ni3 shi4 shui2? Who are you?

说的?shui2 shuo1 de4? Who said so? / Says who?

? zhao3 shui2? Who are you looking for?

你是我的ni3 shi4 wo3 de4 shui3? Who are you to me?

New Vocabulary:

  • 杯子 bei1 zi3 drinking glass
  • 打破 da3 po4 break Can only be used for items such as cups, plates, drinking glasses, pots etc, where the broken parts are shards. Cannot used this word for items such as toys, limbs, heart etc. However, it can be used on abstract terms, similar to break the silence 打破沉默 da3 po4 chen2 mo4, break the tension 打破僵局 da3 po4 jiang1 ju2.

(#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