Chinese Sentence Structure

Basic Chinese Sentence Structure

The “most” basic Chinese sentence structure is similar to the structure in English.

Basic Chinese sentence structure: Subject (S) + Verb (V) + Object (O).

Example: He plays ball.

He, 他 tā (This is the subject.)

Play, 打 dǎ, 玩 wán (This is the verb.)

Ball, 球 qiú (This is the object.)

The word “play” in Chinese can be translated to 打 dǎ or 玩 wán. When speaking “playing ball,” we use “打 dǎ,” which literally means “to hit.”

So the correct order will be,

他 (S) + 打 (V) + 球(O)。 Tā dǎ qiú.

 

But when adding time, location and time duration, where would they go? 

“Time” in Chinese sentence structure

  1. Let’s add “time when”:

Subject + Time when + Verb + Object

or

Time when + Subject +  Verb + Object

Example,

He plays ball at 4 this afternoon.

4 o’clock this afternoon is the “time.” It can be placed either right before or right after the subject.

In Chinese, the “time when” is from big to small. E.g., in Chinese, we say today PM 7 o’clock instead of 7 PM today.

To apply the sentence structure Subject + Time when + Verb + Object,

the order will be,

He + today afternoon 4 o’clock + plays + ball.

他      今天 下午 四点                        打          球。

Tā      jīntiān xiàwǔ sì diǎn             dǎ         qiú.

 

“Time when” is referring to a specific point in time. Note the difference between “time when” and “time duration.”

Place “time when” either right before or right after the subject.

 

“Location” in Chinese sentence structure

If you also like to add “location,” you should place it after the subject and time. The structure will look like this, 

Subject + Time when + Location + Verb + Object

If the location contains a smaller area in a location, same idea as time, bigger location first and then smaller.

For instants, the playground in the park.

A park is a bigger place than a playground. So the order in Chinese will be “In the park, the playground.”

 

Example,

He plays ball at the gym in the school at 4 this afternoon.

The correct order in Chinese will be,

He + today afternoon 4 o’clock + in the school at the gym +   play + ball.

他     今天下午四点                          在学校 运动场                         打        球。

Tā     jīntiān xiàwǔ sì diǎn              zài xuéxiào yùndòngchǎng  dǎ       qiú.

“Time Duration” in Chinese sentence structure

When you would like to express an action has been continued for a period of time, you need time duration in the sentence. The structure will look like this,

Subject + Time when + Location + Verb + Object  + Verb + Time duration

We place the time duration at the end of the sentence.

 

Example,

He played ball for three hours at the gym in the school this afternoon.

So the correct order in Chinese will be,

He + today afternoon + in the school at the gym + played + ball + for three hours

他     今天下午                  在学校运动场                       *打球打了            三个小时。

Tā     jīntiān xiàwǔ          zài xuéxiào yùndòngchǎng   dǎqiú dǎle          sān gè xiǎoshí.

*In Chinese, the verb usually repeats before the time duration. 

 

We also include two practice questions at the end of the infographic below. The answers are upsidedown.

Chinese Sentence Structure Simplified Chinese Version Infographic

Chinese Sentence Sturcture Simplified Chinese Version Infographic

 

Chinese Sentence Structure Video

Video Credit: Carol from Growmommy.com

 

Chinese Sentence Sturcture Traditional Chinese Version

Chinese Sentence Sturcture Traditional Chinese Version

 

Can-do checklist

⃞    I can understand the basic Chinese sentence structure and put the parts in the correct order.

⃞    I can recognize when people use “time when”, “location” and/or “time duration” in a Chinese conversation.

⃞    I can place “time when” correctly within a sentence.

⃞    I can place “location” correctly within a sentence.

⃞    I can place “time duration” correctly within a sentence.

⃞    I can correctly place all three of them (time when, location and time duration) within a sentence.

 

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