Posts Tagged ‘ people ’

(#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

(#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

(#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

(#9) Male Female / 男 女

Like english, there are different words describing male and female of different age.

As a gender, male vs female: 男性 vs 女性 nan2 xing4 vs nv3 xing4

Boy vs Girl 男孩 vs 女孩 nan2 hai2 vs nv3 hai2

Man vs Woman 男人 vs 女人 nan2 ren2 vs nv3 ren2

Sometimes you might hear 男生 女生 nan2 sheng1 nv3 sheng1. You can say that it is for teenages or late teens or young adults, and the terminlogy hints a young age, or there is some level of cuteness. You generally dont call an adult man or adult woman 男生 女生 nan2 sheng1 nv3 sheng1,but you can, though, call a man a ‘big boy’ 大男孩 da4 nan2 hai2 if he is child-like.

Rule of thumb is, if the man or woman is an adult, dont bother to decipher if he/she is a young adult, and call him/her 男人/女人 nan2 ren2 / nv3 ren2.


一个男人 yi4 ge4 nan2 ren2 : one man
一个女人 yi4 ge4 nv3 ren2 : one woman

with “一” yi1 as the number one, and “个” ge4 is a counter. In chinese. there are LOTS of counters, and it is one of the beauty of the language. “个” ge4 is the most common of all, but even so it is only used for maybe 10% of all counters’ usage. I’ll list more and explain more in a separate post.

(&1) Third tonal change | 第三声变调

In chinese, as you would already know, there are four tones in pronunciation. Okay, sometimes there is a 5th silent tone but that is beside the point.

Of the four tones, the second and third tones are probably th hardest to pronounce (I don’t know for sure, do correct me if I am wrong), and of which there is an interesting fact to pronounce two third-tone chinese characters when they are side by side.

ǎ ě ǐ ǒ ǒ

When two third-tone chinese characters are side by side, the earlier character will take on a second-tone pronunciation.


Okay, let’s go with an example. I’d used this vocabulary before, but because the focus was not on it, you probably did not catch it.


Scenario 1

可以 ke3 yi3 can

Although it is rightfully pronounced as ke3 yi3, it is really difficult to, so over years of morphosis, all third-tone + third-tone combinations would be pronounced as second-tone + third-tone, which means it is pronounced as ke2 yi3.


Scenrio 2

If it is third-tone + third tone + third tone? Then we have to see how are the characters broken up. If first character is independent, and second, third characters made up one word, then the second character will take the second tone.

我可以 wo3 ke3 yi3 I can

In here, 我 is still pronounced as wo3, and 可以 became ke2 yi3.


Scenario 3

If first, second characters form a word, and the third character is independent, then first, second character will take on second-tone, and the third character retains third-tone.

可以买 ke3 yi3 mai3 can buy

In here, it is pronounced as ke2 yi2 mai3


Scenario 4

If all three characters form a word? Then the first character and second character adopts second-tone, and third character retains third-tone.

九九九 jiu3 jiu3 jiu3 chinese written form for 999

here, it is pronounced as jiu2 jiu2 jiu3

And if it is an entire sentence of third-tones? Let’s come back to that another time. For now, remember the basic rule: when third-tone + third-tone, it is pronounced as second tone-third tone.