Chinese Question Particles: 呢 ne and 吗 ma

For beginners, 呢 ne and 吗 ma probably are the first two question particles you will learn. What is their difference?

 

 

Chinese Question Particle: 呢 ne

For “呢 ne”, we call it “bounce back questions.” This means that “呢” is used in a question responding to another question.

Example 1

high-five greeting

A: 你今天好吗? Nǐ jīntiān hǎo ma?

      (A: how are you today?)

    B: 我很好,你呢? Wǒ hěn hǎo, nǐ ne?

      (B: I am fine. How about you?)

 

After B answers A’s question, he asks “你呢nǐ ne,” which means how about you. It makes the question bouncing back to A. A may answer “我很好 Wǒ hěn hǎo” as well.

 

Example 2

Chinese food

A: 我喜欢吃中国菜,你呢? Wǒ xǐhuān chī zhōngguó cài, nǐ ne?

(A: I like eating Chinese food. How about you?)

 

 

 

Same as examples 1, A says a statement and would like to know if the person she is talking to if they are the same or opposite opinion. So the question bounces back to the topic of food.

 

Example 3

teacher dad job

A: 你妈妈是老师,你爸爸呢? Nǐ māmā shì lǎoshī, nǐ bàba ne?

(A: Your mom is a teacher; what about your dad?)

 

Example 4

China pin   Japan pin

A: 我知道你去过中国好多次,日本呢? Wǒ zhīdào nǐ qùguò zhōngguó hǎoduō cì, rìběn ne?

(A: I know you have been to China many times, how about Japan?)

 

 

Chinese Question Particle: 吗 ma

For “吗 ma,” we call it “yes/no questions.” This means that the “吗” question will be used when the answer is yes or no.

When you form a yes or no question sentence with “吗 ma,” the sentence should come from a statement sentence. For instance,

Here is a statement sentence,

他喜欢绿色。
Tā xǐhuān lǜsè.

He likes green.

 

When you add “吗 ma” at the end of the sentence, it becomes,

他喜欢绿色吗?
Tā xǐhuān lǜsè ma?

The translation becomes: Does he like green (color)?

 

Let’s see couple of more examples!

  • 李友 常常 看 电影。 (Statement)
    Lǐ yǒu chángcháng kàn diànyǐng.

      Li You often watches movies.

李友 常常 看 电影 吗? (Question)
     Lǐ yǒu chángcháng kàn diànyǐng ma?

     Does Li You often watches movies?

  • 数学 很难。
    Shùxué hěn nán.

      Math is difficult.

数学 很难 吗?
      Shùxué hěn nán ma?

      Is Math difficult?

 

Example 1

tea pot

A: 你喜欢喝茶吗? Nǐ xǐhuān hē chá ma?

      (A: Do you like drinking tea?)

    B: 我很喜欢! Wǒ hěn xǐhuān!

      (B: Yes, I like it!)

 

Example 2

unhappy

A: 他喜欢吃中国菜吗? Tā xǐhuān chī zhōngguó cài ma?

       (A: Does he like Chinese food?)

B: 不,他不喜欢。 Bù, tā bù xǐhuān.

       (B: No, he does not.)

 

Example 3

teacher

A: 你妈妈是英文老师吗?Nǐ māmā shì yīngwén lǎoshī ma?

      (A: Is your mom an English teacher?)

B: 是的,她是高中英文老师。 Shì de, tā shì gāozhōng yīngwén lǎoshī.

       (B: Yes, she is. She is a high school English teacher.)

 

 

Example 4

A: 你去过中国吗? Nǐ qùguò zhōngguó ma?

      (A: Have you been to China before?)  

    B: 我没去过。 Wǒ méi qùguò.

       (B: No, I have not been there.)

 

 

Chinese Question Particles 呢 ne 吗 ma Practice Questions

1. A: My surname is Li. How about you?

2. A: Is your older sister a college student?

    B: No, she is not. 

3. A: Do you like her?

    B: Yes, I do.

4. A: I am studying Chinese. How about you?

    B: I am studying Latin. 

 

Try those questions and find the answers in the infographics below. We have answers for both simplified and traditional Chinese versions.

 

Chinese Question Particles 呢 ne 吗 ma Simplified Chinese Version Infographic

Chinese Question Particles 呢 ne 吗 ma Simplified Chinese Version Infographic

 

 

Chinese Question Particles 呢 ne 吗 ma

Traditional Chinese Version Infographic

Chinese Question Particles 呢 ne 吗 ma Traditional Chinese Version Infographic

 

 

Can-do Checklist

Use the “can-do” list to check if you learned this grammar.

⃞    I understand when to use the question particle “呢 ne.”

⃞    I understand when to use the question particle “吗 ma.”

⃞    I can use both “呢 ne” and “吗 ma” correctly in sentences.

⃞    I can orally answer both “呢 ne” and “吗 ma” questions correctly in conversation.

⃞    I can answer both “呢 ne” and “吗 ma” questions correctly in written form.

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