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8.4: Lesson 7 Grammar- Asking why with 怎么 (zěnme)

  • Page ID
    65678
  • Aside from just meaning "how," 怎么 (zěnme) can also be used to ask "why" or "how come."

    Basic Usage

    Structure 

    Similar to the question word 为什么 (wèishénme), questions can also be asked with 怎么 (zěnme).

         Subj. + 怎么 + Verb + Obj. ?

    This has similar connotations to saying "how come" in English. It not only asks why, but expresses some surprise at the situation, and in some cases even disagreement with it.

    Examples 

    • 他怎么还没来?
      Tā zěnme hái méi lái?
      How come he's not here yet?
       
    • 你们怎么打人?
      Nǐmen zěnme dǎ rén?
      How can you hit people?
       
    • 他帮了你,你怎么不说“谢谢”?
      Tā bāng le nǐ, nǐ zěnme bù shuō "xièxie"?
      He helped you. How come you didn't say thank you?
       
    • 你结婚的时候怎么不告诉我?
      Nǐ jiéhūn de shíhou zěnme bù gàosu wǒ?
      How come you didn't tell me when you got married?
       
    • 我们还没开始吃,他怎么已经吃完了?
      Wǒmen hái méi kāishǐ chī, tā zěnme yǐjīng chī wán le?
      We haven't started eating yet. How come he has already finished eating?
       
    • 今天是星期一,你怎么不去上班?
      Jīntiān shì Xīngqīyī, nǐ zěnme bù qù shàngbān?
      Today is Monday. Why aren't you going to work?

    With a Stative Verb 

    Structure 

    When a stative verb (or "adjective") follows the 怎么 (zěnme), it's common that the stative verb will be negated.

         Subj. + 怎么 (+ 不) + Adj.

    Examples 

    • 水怎么不热?
      Shuǐ zěnme bù rè?
      Why is the water not hot?
       
    • 这里的川菜怎么不辣?
      Zhèlǐ de chuāncài zěnme bù là?
      Why is the Sichuan food here not spicy?
       
    • 他亲了你,你怎么不高兴?
      Tā qīn le nǐ, nǐ zěnme bù gāoxìng?
      He kissed you. How come you're not happy?
       
    • 她的小猫死了,她怎么不难过?
      Tā de xiǎomāo sǐ le, tā zěnme bù nánguò?
      Her kitten died. Why isn't she sad?
       
    • 每天工作十二个小时,你怎么不累?
      Měi tiān gōngzuò shí'èr gè xiǎoshí, nǐ zěnme bù lèi?
      Every day you work 12 hours. Why are you not tired?

    "Why So..." Usage 

    Structure 

    One pattern this use of 怎么 (zěnme) frequently appears in is with 这么 (zhème) or 那么 (nàme). (For more on 这么 (zhème) and 那么 (nàme), see adjectives with "name" and "zheme.")

         Subj. + 怎么 + 这么 / 那么 + Adj.

    This use of 怎么 (zěnme) could be translated as either "how" or "why"; the actual meaning sort of falls in the fuzzy region between the two. In any case, it's used to express disbelief: how can (something) be so (adjective)?!

    Examples 

    • 他怎么那么懒?
      Tā zěnme nàme lǎn?
      How can he be this lazy?
       
    • 昨天怎么那么冷?
      Zuótiān zěnme nàme lěng?
      How could it be so cold yesterday?
       
    • 这些人怎么这么吵?
      Zhèxiē rén zěnme zhème chǎo?
      How can these people so loud?
       
    • 北京的空气怎么那么差?
      Běijīng de kōngqì zěnme nàme chà?
      How can the air in Beijing be so bad?
       
    • 你的汉语怎么这么好?
      Nǐ de Hànyǔ zěnme zhème hǎo?
      How is your Mandarin so good?

    [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!

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