Topic-Comment Sentences in Chinese

In Chinese by Gwilym James

The basic sentence structure in Mandarin is SUBJECT-VERB-OBJECT, commonly known as SVO, however, you can also form sentences using the TOPIC-COMMENT structure. Learn how to use this in today’s lesson.⁠

A Typical SVO Sentence:

你 吃 晚饭 了 吗?
S V O comp Q

A Typical Topic Comment Sentence

晚饭,我 吃 了。

The focus here is on the topic “dinner”, so we put it at the start of the sentence. And then we express our comments on the topic, which is that “I’ve had it”.

The TOPIC-COMMENT structure is used in 2 situations:

1.When we want to focus on one particular thing, we start the sentence with it.

2. When the TOPIC of interest is mentioned previously in the context, and the answer is geared toward what is being expressed about the TOPIC.

The question we asked with SVO “你吃晚饭了吗?” is asking about the dinner. It provides the perfect context to use TOPIC-Comment in answering it. It’s like saying: ““Dinner? Yep! I’ve had it.” 晚饭,我吃了。

The second part of the sentence is always our comments on the topic:

Yújiā kè, yǒu diǎn nán. 😅
Yoga class is a bit challenging.

Yújiā kè, wǒ liúle hěn duō hàn. 💦
Yoga class, I sweat a lot = “I sweat a lot in the class.”

Yújiā kè, zuòwán hǎo shūfu.
Yoga class, finished so feels good = “It feels great after doing the class.”

Your Turn! Answer the following questions with Topic-Comment in the comments!

Nǐ kànguò zhègè diànyǎng ma?

Zhèbēi chá, wèidào zěnmeyàng?
“How’s the taste of this cup of tea?”

Talk about this post on our forum!