Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

3.5: Lesson 2 Grammar - Basic sentence order

  • Page ID
    65612
  • In its most basic form, Chinese word order is very similar to English word order. These similarities definitely have their limits, though; don't expect the two languages' word orders to stay consistent much beyond the very basic sentence orders outlined below.

    Subject-Predicate 

    A simple predicate can be just a verb. The most basic word order in Chinese is:

       Subj. + Verb

    You can form very simple sentences with just two words.

    Examples 

    • 你们吃。
      Nǐmen chī.
      You eat.
       
    • 他笑。
      Tā xiào.
      He is laughing.
       
    • 我读。
      Wǒ dú.
      I will read it.
       
    • 你去。
      Nǐ qù.
      You go.
       
    • 你们看。
      Nǐmen kàn.
      Look.
       
    • 你来。
      Nǐ lái.
      You come here!
       
    • 我说。
      Wǒ shuō.
      I'll say it.
       
    • 孩子哭。
      Háizi kū.
      The children are crying.
       
    • 谁要学?
      Shéi yào xué?
      Who wants to study?
       
    • 谁想玩?
      Shéi xiǎng wán?
      Who wants to play?

    Subject-Verb-Object 

    A slightly longer predicate might be a verb with an object. A sentence with both a verb and an object is formed with this structure:

       Subj. + Verb + Obj.

    This is the same as in English, and is commonly referred to as SVO word order. You can express a huge variety of things with this simple structure.

    Examples 

    • 他们吃肉。
      Tāmen chī ròu.
      They eat meat.
       
    • 你喝茶吗?
      Nǐ hē chá ma?
      Do you drink tea?
       
    • 我去学校。
      Wǒ qù xuéxiào.
      I go to school.
       
    • 他说中文。
      Tā shuō Zhōngwén.
      He speaks Chinese.
       
    • 你喜欢孩子吗?
      Nǐ xǐhuan háizi ma?
      Do you like kids?
       
    • 我们要买电脑。
      Wǒmen yào mǎi diànnǎo.
      We want to buy a computer.
       
    • 你们想吃中国菜吗?
      Nǐmen xiǎng chī Zhōngguó cài ma?
      Do you want to eat Chinese food?
       
    • 我爱你和爸爸。
      Wǒ ài nǐ hé bàba.
      I love you and dad.
       
    • 他们要做什么?
      Tāmen yào zuò shénme?
      What do they want to do?
       
    • 你想去什么地方?
      Nǐ xiǎng qù shénme dìfang?
      What place do you want to go to?

    When Things Get Tricky 

    Despite the convenient word order similarities highlighted above, things start to break down as soon as you start adding in such simple sentence elements as the "also" adverb 也 (yě), a time word, or a location where something happened.  A good general rule of thumb to keep in mind is that adverbs, as well as phrases that modify verbs, go right before the verbs they modify.

    [adapted from AllSet Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki, Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA 3.0]

    *     *     *

    Any Questions? 

    If you have any questions about this grammar point, please ask in the class forums!