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3.3.4: The "all" adverb "dou"

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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 learners make is to put 都 (dōu) at the beginning of the sentence (as "all" often appears there in English). This isn't good Chinese - make sure you put 都 (dōu) after the subject and before the verb.


    • 你们 认识 John 吗 ?Nǐmen dōu rènshi John ma?Do you all know John?
    • 他们 在 上海 。Tāmen dōu zài Shànghǎi.They are all in Shanghai.
    • 明天 我们 可以 去 。Míngtiān wǒmen dōu kěyǐ qù.Tomorrow we all can go.
    • 你们 用 wiki 吗 ?Nǐmen dōu yòng wiki ma?Do you all use the wiki?
    • 我们 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 爱 你 。Wǒmen liǎng gè dōu ài nǐ.The two of us both love you.
    • 你 爸爸 和 你 妈妈 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 不 吃 肉。Wǒ hé wǒ tàitai dōu bù chī ròu.Neither my wife nor I eat meat.
    • 你们 两个 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 没有 工作。Tā hé tā lǎogōng dōu méiyǒu gōngzuò.Neither she nor her husband has a job.

    Sources and further reading


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