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4.12: Lesson 3 Grammar - The adverb 都 (dōu) for "all" and "both"

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  • The adverb 都 (dōu) is used to express "all" in Chinese. It's common to use 都 (dōu) in a variety of sentences where it would seem unnecessary in English.

    都 (dōu) for "All" 


    Subj. + 都 + [Verb Phrase]

    Remember that 都 (dōu) appears after the subject. A common mistake that English-speaking learners make is to put 都 (dōu) at the beginning of the sentence, since "all" often appears there in English. This isn't good Chinese, so make sure you put 都 (dōu) after the subject and before the verb.


    • 你们都认识 John 吗?
      Nǐmen dōu rènshi John ma?
      Do you all know John?
    • 他们都在上海。
      Tāmen dōu zài Shànghǎi.
      They are all in Shanghai.
    • 明天我们都可以去。
      Míngtiān wǒmen dōu kěyǐ qù.
      Tomorrow we all can go.
    • 我们都要冰水。
      Wǒmen dōu yào bīngshuǐ .
      We all want ice water.

    都 (dōu) for "Both" 

    Chinese doesn't normally use a special word for "both" like English does. It just uses 都 (dōu) as if it were any other number greater than one. Chinese also doesn't have a special pattern like "neither / nor" for the negative case. Just use 都 (dōu) and make the sentence negative.


    Subj. + 都 + [Verb Phrase]

    This pattern should look familiar.


    These examples follow exactly the same form in Chinese as the ones above. The only difference is that here we don't translate 都 (dōu) as "all" in English; we translate it as "both," and for negative cases, we translate it as "neither."

    • 我们两个都爱你。
      Wǒmen liǎng gè dōu ài nǐ.
      The two of us both love you.
    • 你爸爸和你妈妈都是美国人吗?
      Nǐ bàba hé nǐ māma dōu shì Měiguó rén ma?
      Are your father and your mother both Americans?
    • 我和我太太都不吃肉。
      Wǒ hé wǒ tàitai dōu bù chī ròu.
      Neither my wife nor I eat meat.
    • 你们两个都喜欢中国菜吗?
      Nǐmen liǎng gè dōu xǐhuan Zhōngguó cài ma?
      Do you both like Chinese food?
    • 她和她老公都没有工作。
      Tā hé tā lǎogōng dōu méiyǒu gōngzuò.
      Neither she nor her husband has a job.

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

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    Any Questions? 

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