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Chinese Language and Script
Grammar of Modern Chinese (Mandarin)


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1. Word Classes
1.1. Nouns (mingci 名词)
1.2. Verbs (dongci 动词)
1.3. Auxiliary Verbs (zhudongci 助动词)
1.4. Adjectives (xingrongci 形容词)
1.5. Numerals (shuci 数词)
1.6. Measure Words (liangci 量词)
1.7. Pronouns (daici 代词)
1.8. Adverbs (fuci 副词)
1.9. Prepositions (jieci 介词)
1.10. Conjunctions
1.11. Particles
1.12. Interjections
1.13. Onomatopes
2. Phrases
2.1. Coordinative Phrases
2.2. Subject-Predicate Phrases
2.3. Verb-Object Phrases
2.4. Endocentric Phrases
2.5. Numeral-Measure Word Phrases
2.6. Complementary Phrases
2.7. Phrase Locality
2.8. Appositive Phrases
2.9. Set Phrases
3. Sentence Elements
Subject (zhuyu 主语)
Predicate (weiyu 谓语)
Object (binyu 宾语)
Attributive (dingyu 定语)
Adverbial adjunct (zhuangyu 状语)
Complement (buyu 补语)
4. Simple Sentences
5. Aspects of Action
6. Special Verb Predicates
7. Comparison
8. Emphasis
9. Complex Sentences


Table 1. Word Classes

1.1. Nouns

Nouns (míngcí 名词) denote names of persons or real and abstract objects. In a sentence, nouns can act as subject, object, noun adjunct, adverbial adjunct, and in some cases also as a predicate.
北京(noun as subject)是中国的(noun as adjunct)首都 (noun as object).(Beijing is the capital of China.)
他明天(adverbial adjunct)要来.(He will come tomorrow.)
我们里边(adverbial adjunct)谈.(We chat inside.)
今天星期日(predicate nominal).(Today is Sunday.)
Nouns can be preceded by an adjunct, be it a noun, an adjective, or numeral-measure word combination. Attributives are standing in front of the modified noun. If the attributive is a noun, it is joined to the modified noun by the particle 的.
姐姐的梳子 (elder sister’s comb)
前边的楼是图书馆.(The building in front is the library.)
红(的)梳子 (red comb)
三本书 (three books)
Some monosyllabic nouns (in subject function or as adverbial adjunct) can be reduplicated to express inclusiveness. The following verb is then often modified by the adverb dōu 都 "all".
人人都知道.(Everyone knows it.)
他天天来.(He comes daily.)
Some often-used monosyllabic nouns are made disyllabic by attaching the suffixes zi 子, tou 头 or ‘r 儿 (only dialect).
桌子,孩子,石头,画儿
Nouns denoting persons can, like personal pronouns, be followed by the plural signifier men 们. In this case, no other signifier for plural forms can be used.
朋友们,学生们, but 四个朋友,学生很多.
In other nouns, a plural can be expressed by adding numerals or other elements, like 都 or 全.
客人都来了.(The guests are all here.)
把东西全放在桌子上.(Put all things on the table.)
Monosyllabic nouns expressing locality, direction and time are following the corresponding noun. They are called directional nouns (fāngwèicí 方位词) and time nouns (shíjiancí 时间词), respectively.
上,下,前,后,左,右,里,外,中,内,间,旁,东,南,西,北
桌子上,院子里,城外,路边,三点后
Most of them can be transformed into disyllabic nouns by attaching the suffixes bian 边 or mian 面, or the prefix 以. Only qián 前 and hòu 后 are preceded by the ancient particle zhi 之.
上边,下面,以后,之前
Some of these directional nouns can be combined to express a comprehensive ("and") or approximate ("around") area. Combinations of the compass points are usual.
上下,前后,左右,内外
东北,西南
里 is only used for "containers", not for countries or else, yet it must be used to indicate an "enclosed" position.
北京在中国的北方.(Beijing is in north China.)
你里边坐.(Sit inside [please].)
茶在杯子里.(The tea is in the cup.)
Directional nouns can be used like normal nouns. The same is true for time indicators.
我以前(adverbial adjunct)学英语.(Before, I learnt English.)
这是以后的(attributive)计划.(These are the plans for later.)
1.2. Verbs

Verbs (dòngcí 动词) describe actions, behavior, mental activities, changes or developments, judgments, possession, existence or directions. There are transitive verbs (jíwù dòngcí 及物动词) followed by one or two objects (the first being of personal reference), and intransitive verbs (bù jíwù dòngcí 不及物动词). Verbs are negated by the particle 不 (or méi yǒu 没有) and can be modified by aspect particles attached as suffixes, or by complements following the verb.
吃了(just ate),吃过(already ate),吃着(is eating)
吃完(finished eating),吃不了(not able to eat),洗干净(washed clean)
A further type of modification are adverbs, standing in front of the verb. Reduplication of verbs expresses intensification or attenuation, short and quick actions, attempts or trial, or a sense of being light and relaxed. Disyllabic verbs are repeated according to the formula ABAB. The second part of the reduplication bears no tone pitch. If it is a noun, only the first syllable is repeated. Monosyllabic words can be joined by the word yi 一. The aspect particle le 了 stands before the repetition. Verbs expressing mental activities, change or developments, existence, judgment, possession, or a direction, cannot be reduplicated.
看看 kànkan, 看一看 (just look)
研究研究 yánjiu yánjiu (must/will investigate closer)
下班以后,他常常打打球(球 is a noun)、散散步(步 is a noun).(After class, he usually plays some ball or makes a stroll.)
我看了看.(I just had a look.)
Questions can be created by either putting the question particle ma 吗 at the end of the sentence, or by combining the affirmative with the negative tense of the verb.
看不看?有没有?讨论不讨论?
Nouns and adjectives can be verbalized by adding the suffix huà 化.
机械化(mechanize),现代化(modernize),美化(beautify),绿化(revegetate)
Verbs normally operate as predicates or auxiliary verbs, but they can also be used as subject (in a nominalized function), attributives, objects, complements, and adverbial adjuncts.
节约光荣.(Saving brings glory.)
比赛开始.(Contesting begins.)
她喜欢游泳.(She loves swimming.)
现在开始讨论.(Now begins the discussing.)
请的客人都来了.(The invited guests are all here.)
这是喝的水.(This is drinking water.)
他注意地听着.(He is listening attentively.)
我钦佩地看着她.(I was looking at her admiringly.)
你拿走.(Take it with you.)
我看得见.(I can see it/him.)
The aspect of verbs can be modified by the particles le 了, guò 过, and zhe 着. 了 expresses a completed action, 着 a continuing action, and过 an experience in the past.
他写了一封信.(He wrote a letter [and has finished].)
窗户关着.(The window is closed.)
我看过这本小说.(I read this romance [and know it].)
The verb shì 是 is used to express judgments, existence or classification. 是 cannot be modified by particles or complements, nor can it be reduplicated.
他是工程师.(He is an engineer.)
楼前边是花园.(Before the building is a garden.)
他们是哪个学校的.(They are from that school.)
The verb yǒu 有 expresses possession, existence, inclusion, quantity or a listing. It cannot be reduplicated and is negated as méi yǒu 没有.
她有时间.(She has time.)
村子前边有一条小河.(Before the village is a rivulet.)
一个星期有七天.(One week has seven days.)
这个水果有三公斤.(This fruit has 3 pounds.)
屋子里有桌子,有椅子,有书架.(In the room are a table, chairs, and a bookshelf.)
我没有词典.(I have no dictionary.)
The verb zài 在 expresses an existence or a presence. The object of this verb are usually places. It cannot be modified nor reduplicated.
老师在家.(The teacher is at home.)
墨水在哪里?(Where is the ink?)
他在我这儿.(He is here with me.)
There is actually only a small number of verbs that must have an object. Most transitive verbs can also be used in an intransitive way.
他学习汉语.(He learns Chinese.)
学生学习.(A student [usually] learns.)
The number of verbs commanding two objects is quite small. Most of them conveys a meaning of exchange, like give, send, lend, transmit, ask, answer, teach, etc.
她教我们英语.(She teaches us English.)
他通知大家一件事.(He announces a certain matter to everyone.)
A verb can be the subject of a sentence on condition that the predicate is a adjective (a predicate adjective) or a verb expressing a beginning, an end, or a judgment.
工作紧张(predicate adjective).(Working is strained.)
表演开始(beginning).(The performing begins.)
朗读是好方法(judgment).(Reading aloud is a good method.)
Verbs serving as adjuncts to nouns must be attached by using the particle 的.
我有休息地时间.(I have some time to repose.)
Verbs serving as adjuncts to predicates must be attached by using the particle 地.
他关心地说,你休息吧!(With concern he said, repose a while!)
Verbs of mental activities can be modified by adjuncts of degree.
很喜欢(much loves),非常希望 (urgently hopes),多么爱 (greatly loves),特别怕 (really fears)


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August 8, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail