Mandarin is a Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O) language. English is also an S-V-O language, but in wh-questions, the question word, such as “who” in “who are you”, is moved to the beginning of the sentence, making it no longer an S-V-O pattern. In Linguistics, this movement is called the “Wh- movement”.
Mandarin doesn’t go through the wh-movement, and all wh-questions still follow the S-V-O order.
In this post, we’ll learn the “Wh-” questions in Mandarin Chinese, and see how they are used in sentences. Study the deck on Skritter here.
If you want to learn about asking yes/no questions first (we recommend this), click here to read the blog.
Below are 10 examples of using Wh- questions in Mandarin Chinese.
Nà shì shéi?
“Who is that?”
Nǐ zǎoshang chīle shénme?
“What did you eat this morning?”
什么时候/什麼時候 shénme shíhou
Bàba shénme shíhou huíjiā?
“When is Dad coming home?”
Tā wèishénme bù xǐhuan hēkā fēi?
“Why doesn’t he like drinking coffee?”
Note: 为什么 serves as an adverbial phrase here and adds more information to the verb 不喜欢.
哪儿 or 哪里 / 哪兒 or 哪裡 nǎr / nǎ’ér or nǎlǐ
Nǐ zhōumò yào qù nǎ’ér?
“Where are you going this weekend?”
Nǐ qù nǎlǐ yùndòng?
“Where do you go to exercise?”
哪 nǎ + measure word
Nǐ xǐhuan nǎ jiàn: hēisè de háishi huīsè de?
“Which one do you like, the black one or gray one?”
Note: 个/個 – For “which”, a measure word (MW) is required in Mandarin. 哪个 is shorten from 哪一个 “which item”.
#7 HOW MANY
几/幾 jǐ + measure word
In general, “几+MW” asks for a small numbers of thing. Since a MW is required for all items in Mandarin, most things are considered countable.
Nǐ jīntiān hēle jǐ bēi chá?
“How many cups of tea have you had today?”
#8 HOW MUCH/MANY
多少 is mostly used when the number in question is expected to be big or more than 10. 多少 is also often used to ask for a price, or how much money one has.
Zhè cì huódòng, yǒu duōshǎo rén cānjiā?
“How many people participated in this event?”
Nǐ píngcháng zěnme qù shàngbān?
“How do you usually get to work?”
#10 HOW COME?
Nǐ zěnme zhème wǎn cái qǐchuáng?
“How come you got up so late?“
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the ways to formulate questions in Mandarin Chinese, with lots of sentences you can start using today.
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