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3.1.1: Basic sentence order

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    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.


    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.


    Subject Verb Translation
    你们Nǐmen 吃。chī. You eat.
    他Tā 笑。xiào. He laughs.
    我Wǒ 读。dú. I read.
    你Nǐ 去。qù. You go.
    你们Nǐmen 看。kàn. You look.
    你Nǐ 来。lái. You come here!
    我Wǒ 说。shuō. I speak.
    孩子Háizi 哭。kū. Children cry.
    谁Shéi 要 学?yào xué? Who wants to study?
    谁Shéi 想 玩?xiǎng wán? Who wants to play?


    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.


    Subject Verb Object Translation
    他们Tāmen 吃chī 肉。ròu. They eat meat.
    你Nǐ 喝hē 茶 吗?chá ma? Do you drink tea?
    我Wǒ 去qù 学校。xuéxiào. I go to school.
    他Tā 说shuō 中文。Zhōngwén. He speaks Chinese.
    你Nǐ 喜欢xǐhuan 孩子 吗?háizi ma? Do you like kids?
    我们Wǒmen 要 买yào mǎi 电脑。diànnǎo. We want to buy a computer.
    你们Nǐmen 想 吃xiǎng chī 中国 菜 吗?Zhōngguó cài ma? Do you want to eat Chinese food?
    我Wǒ 爱ài 你 和 爸爸。nǐ hé bàba. I love you and dad.
    他们Tāmen 要 做yào zuò 什么?shénme? What do they want to do?
    你Nǐ 想 去xiǎng qù 什么 地方?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.

    Don't worry; the more complicated Chinese structures aren't hard, they're just different! (If Chinese word order were really the same as English word order, that would be just a little too convenient, wouldn't it?)

    This page titled 3.1.1: Basic sentence order is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by .

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