Posts Tagged ‘ nouns ’

(#29) Counters / 位,只,支,枝

Although counters look like vocabulary where you can look up in the dictionary, but counters are really grammar lessons, but there is no way to cover them all in one entry.


Let’s get to it:

wei4 is a counter for people in a polite form, but then again when you are referring to people, it is always better to be more polite than less so.

老师 yi4 wei4 lao3 shi1 a teacher
路人 yi4 wei4 lu4 ren2 a passerby
客人 yi4 wei4 ke4 ren2 a customer

In all three examples above, you can use 个 ge4 in replacement, less polite, and more sweeping.


zhi1 is used for animals, insects, human limbs, one half of a pair, etc

zi4 zhi1 gou3 a dog
zi4 zhi1 mao1 a cat
蝴蝶 zi4 zhi1 hu2 die2 a butterfly
蚂蚁 zi4 zhi1 ma3 yi3 an ant
zi4 zhi1 shou3 a hand
手臂 zi4 zhi1 shou3 bi4 an arm
zi4 zhi1 jiao3 a leg
zi4 zhi1 xie2 a shoe (a half of a pair)
耳环 zi4 zhi1 er3 huan2 an earring (a half of a pair)


zhi1 sounds the same as 只 zhi1, but it is used differently. It is typically used in long slender items, and in some weapons, and also to represent ‘troops’

yi4 zhi1 bi3 a pencil
yi4 zhi1 qiang1 a gun
部队 yi4 zhi1 bu4 dui4 a troop of army


I hate to do this to you, but let’s get it over and done with, there is another counter pronounced as zhi1, which is 枝. It is used for long slender items, which are made of wood. Digress a little, if you compare 支 with 枝, you will see that the latter has a radical to it, and this particular radical means 木’wood’. But because this blog is not about reading chinese, but about listening and speaking mandarin, I won’t go into details here.

yi4 zhi1 jian4 a stick of arrow
树枝 yi4 zhi1 shu4 zhi1 a stick of twig


That’s all for this lesson, more counters to come in future entries.

(#26) Valentine’s Day / 情人节

In mandarin, we say it is 应景 yin4 jing3, which means during specific activities aligned to the occassion.

Today is Valentine’s Day, so I’ll want to say Happy Valentine’s Day to you.
情人节快乐!qing2 ren3 jie2 kuai4 le4!

Let’s take the opportunity to go through some vocabulary related to this occassion.

我爱你   wo3 ai4 ni3   I love you
男朋友   nan2 peng2 you3   Boyfriend
女朋友   nv3 peng2 you3   Girlfriend
丈夫,妻子   zhang4 fu1, qi1 zi3   (Used as a pair; formal) Husband, wife
先生;太太   xian1 sheng1, tai4 tai4   (Used as a pair; used in introduction) Husband, wife
老公,老婆   lao3 gong1, lao3 po2   (Used as a pair; informal and cute) Husband, wife
恋人   lian4 ren2   Lovers
结婚   jie2 hun1   Marry, married (depending on context)
订婚   ding4 hun1   Engage, engaged (depending on context)
戒指   jie4 zhi3   Ring
玫瑰花   mei2 gui4 hua1   Rose
巧克力   qiao3 ke4 li4   Chocolate
红酒   hong2 jiu3   Red wine
钻石   zuan4 shi2   Diamond

(#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

(#23) ..done it/ ..是 .. 的

I have a hard time trying to name the title for this post because the grammar structure cannot be directly translated into english, but since it is frequently used in daily life, so there is a need to go through the usage here. It is a little like passive voice, but yet not exactly. Bear with me, guys.

Remember? We went through the following example before:
杯子谁打破bei1 zi3 shi4 shui2 da3 po4 de4? directly translated: (The) glass, it is who, broke it?

But for simplicity’s sake let’s assume I’d confessed to the crime:
杯子我打破bei1 zi3 shi4 wo3 da3 po4 de4.   directly translated: (The) glass, it is me, broke it

The grammar structure is Pronoun/Noun + 是/不是 + Pronoun + Verb + 的.

In this example

Noun = 杯子 bei1 zi2 glass
Pronoun = 我 wo3 me
Verb = 打破 da3 po4 broke

You should still recall that 是/不是 shi4/bu4 shi4 is the verb for ‘am’, ‘are’, ‘is’/’am not’, ‘are not’, ‘is not’. You probably can also recall 的 is used as apostrophe-s, but in this case, it is added to the back of a verb, modifying the verb to give it a ‘done-it’ meaning.

By the way, 杯子我打破 bei1 zi3 shi4 wo3 da3 po4 de4 is a sentence form.  During a conversation, you can answer (a little) more concisely with 是/不是 + Pronoun + Verb + 的.

杯子谁打破bei1 zi3 shi4 shui2 da3 po4 de4?  Who broke the glass?
我打破shi4 wo3 da3 po4 de4.  It is me who broke it.

More examples:

苹果我吃. ping2 guo3 shi4 wo3 chi1 de4. It is me who ate the apple.

电视机她关. dian4 shi4 ji1 shi4 ta1 guan1 de4. It is her who switched off the television

谁说shi4 shui2 shuo1 de4? Who said so?

我说! shi4 wo3 shuo1 de4! It is I who said so!

这些苹果妈妈买zhe4 xie1 ping2 guo3 shi4 ma1 ma1 mai3 de4. It is Mother bought these apples.

妹妹妈妈接回来mei4 mei4 shi4 ma1 ma1 jie1 hui2 lai2 de4. It is Mother brought sister home.


New Vocabulary:

  • 苹果 ping2 guo3 apple
  • 电视机 dian4 shi4 ji1 television
  • guan1 shut down, close, switch off
  • xie1 some
  • mai3 buy
  • 妹妹 mei4 mei4 younger sister
  • 接回来 jie1 hui2 lai2 fetch back, brought back

(#17) Want, Don’t want / 要,不要

As seen in the previous post’s examples, to say you ‘want to’, you say ‘要’ yao4. On its own, it means ‘want’, and when used beside pronouns, it becomes clear someone wants something.

我要 wo3 yao4 I want
他们要 ta1 men2 yao4 They want

The usage is similar to English. You can say want + verb, or want + noun, or want + pronoun, but using it with verbs is probably the most commonly used.

吃午餐。wo3 yao4 chi1 wu3 can1. I want to eat lunch.
喝啤酒。wo3 yao4 he1 pi2 jiu3. I want to drink beer.
买新的高跟鞋。wo3 yao4 mai2 xin1 de1 gao1 gen1 xie2. I want to buy new heels.

To express the opposite, add ‘不’ bu4 to the front of ‘要’ and it becomes ‘不要’ bu4 yao4 – don’t want.

不要听!wo3 bu4 yao4 ting! I don’t want to to listen!
忘记做功课。bu4 yao4 wang4 ji4 zuo4 gong1 ke4. Don’t forget to do homework.
你们这么吵。ni3 men2 bu4 yao4 zhe4 me4 chao3. (You guys) Don’t be so noisy.

If you need to ask a question, there is two ways to form it.

吃苹果吗?ni3 yao4 chi1 ping2 guo3 ma1? Do you want to eat apple?

要不要吃苹果?ni3 yao4 bu4 yao4 chi1 ping2 guo3? Do you want or don’t want to eat apple?

In the first case, you simply add a ‘吗?’ ma1 to the end of sentence. Remember ‘你好吗?’ ni3 hao3 ma1?

In the second, even though the translated version sounds weird, it is really how we speak it in mandarin! As you can see, the ‘要不要’ yao4 bu4 yao4, which is directly translated as “want or dont want”, had turned into a “yes or no?” modifier to the sentence.

New Vocabulary:

  • 午餐 wu3 can1 lunch
  • xin1 new
  • 高跟鞋 gao1 gen1 xie2 high heels, stilettos
  • ting1 listen
  • 苹果 ping2 guo3 apple

(#16) Thing / 东西

If you are like me, and like to answer questions in a vague way, this word is for you.

东西 dong1 xi1 is ‘thing’ in chinese. If someone ask me what did I ate, I will simply say “东西”. If I went shopping and someone asked me what I bought, I will say I bought “东西”.

But it is still a little rude, so try not to use it with an annoyed expression.

On its own, 东 dong1 means ‘East’ and 西 xi1 means ‘West’. Then how did ‘East-West’ came about to mean ‘thing’?

The origins of this phrase is quite unknown. However I was taught that it is because in Chinese, the East side is known as the ‘Earth’ side, the West side is known as the ‘Gold’ side. North side and South side are respectively ‘Fire’ and ‘Water’. When ancient Chinese wanted to say generically say they bought a ‘thing’, they say East and West because ‘earth’ and ‘gold’ is something that can be carried in a basket, but not ‘fire’ and ‘water’.

Quite abstract huh?

Anyway, to represent a ‘thing’, you can loosely use 东西 dong1 xi1. It generally cannot be used to represent people, but, that is not a hard and fast rule. Don’t worry about it now, to begin with, let’s contain the usage to represent a ‘thing’.

我要去吃点东西 wo3 yao4 qu4 chi1 dian3 dong1 xi1 I am going to eat some thing.

这是什么东西?! zhe4 shi4 shen3 me4 dong1 xi1 ?! What is this thing?!

我没空!我在做东西wo3 mei2 kong4, wo3 zai4 zuo4 dong1 xi1. I’m not free, I’m doing (some) things.

下班后,要不要去喝点东西xia4 ban1 hou4, yao4 bu4 yao4 qu4 he1 dian3 dong1 xi1? After work, (do you) want to drink some thing?


New Vocabulary:

  • 我要 wo3 yao4 I want
  • dian3 Some. A bit. (There are other usages, which we will go through in later lessons)
  • 什么 shen3 me4 what
  • kong4 Free (as in time). (Other usages in later lessons)
  • 没空 mei2 kong4 Literally it means ‘don’t have free (time)’. Hence it means ‘not free’.
  • 下班 xia4 ban1 Get off work
  • hou4 after
  • 要不要 yao4 bu4 yao4 ‘want to?’

(#10) Nationality / 国籍

In this post, I am going to introduce how to say American, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Filipino, Russian, Thai and Vietnamese in Chinese. The selection is totally random, let me know if you want me to translate other nationalities.

美国 mei3 guo2 America
美国人 mei3 guo2 ren2 American

The word 人 ren2 is the basic character for human, people, person in Chinese. But usually it is paired or matched with other characters to form words. It is seldom used on its own.

So ‘America’ is 美国 mei3 guo2 and to say ‘American’, you just need to add a 人 ren2 to the end of ‘America’ to form 美国人 mei3 guo2 ren2

It is so simple that I’m not going to explain further. The following is a list of countries and nationalities.

America 美国 mei3 guo2 > 美国人 mei3 guo2 ren2
England 英国 ying1 guo2 > > 英国人 ying1 guo2 ren2
France 法国 fa3 guo2 > 法国人fa3 guo2 ren2
German 德国 de2 guo2 > 德国人 de2 guo2 ren2
Japan 日本 ri4 ben3 > 日本人 ri4 ben3 ren2
Korea 韩国 han2 guo2 > 韩国人 han2 guo2 ren2
Norway 挪威 nuo2 wei1 > 挪威人nuo2 wei1 ren2
Philippines 菲律宾 fei1 lv4 bin1 > 菲律宾人 fei1 lv4 bin1 ren2
Russian 俄罗斯 er2 luo2 si1 > 俄罗斯人 er2 luo2 si1 ren2
Thailand 泰国 tai4 guo2 > 泰国人 tai4 guo2 ren2
Vietnam 越南 yue4 nan1 > 越南人 yue4 nan2 ren2