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Grammar: Questions

  1. Yes-no questions
  2. Question words

Yes-no questions

In Chinese there are two ways to change a statement into a yes-no question.

1) Adding a question particle to the end of the sentence

ma(question particle)
A)你会说中文Ni³ hui⁴ shuo¹ Zhong¹ wen² ma?Do you speak Chinese?
B)你有笔Ni³ you³ bi³ ma?Do you have a pen?
C)她走Ta¹ zou³ le ma?Did she leave?
D)他去中国Ta¹ qu⁴ guo Zhong¹ guo² ma?Has he been to China?

2) Repeating the verb by it's negated form

A)你会不会说中文?Ni³ hui⁴ bu hui⁴ shuo¹ Zhong¹ wen²?Do you speak Chinese?
B)你有没有笔?Ni³ you³ mei² you³ bi³?Do you have a pen?

For past tense, the auxiliary verb is used, while the particle is omitted.

C)没有走?Ta¹ you³ mei² you³ zou³?Did she leave?
D)没有中国?Ta¹ you³ mei² you³ qu⁴ guo Zhong¹ guo²?Has he been to China?


In Chinese, there are no words for yes and no, but two ways to answer yes-no questions.

1) Repeating the verb

A)hui⁴Yes, I do
A)不会bu² hui⁴No, I don't
B)you³Yes, I have
B)没有mei² you³No, I haven't
C)走了zou³ leYes, she did
C)mei² (you³) zou³No, she didn't
D)去过qu⁴ guoYes, he has
D)去过mei² (you³) qu⁴ guoNo, he hasn't

2) Using a replacement verb

是的shi⁴ deSo it is
不是bu² shi⁴It isn't
(present tense/imperfect)
没有mei² you³It wasn't
(past tense/perfect)

Question words

The question word is always in place of the unknown part of the sentence. So the word order doesn't change at all.

Exception: is placed on the end of the sentence.

The final particle may be added to the question in order to emphase it.

你在哪里Ni³ zai⁴ na³ li³ a?Where are you?
newhat about
什么shen² mewhat
sha² 话what
哪个na³ ge⁴ / nei³ ge⁴which
哪儿nar³ [N]where
哪里na³ li³where
什么时候shen² me shi² houwhen
何时he² shi² 文when
多久duo¹ jiu³how long (time)
多长时间duo¹ chang² shi² jian¹how long (time)
多久…一次duo¹ jiu³ ... yi² ci⁴how often
多常duo¹ chang²how often
ji³how much, how many (numbers up to 10)
多少duo¹ shao³how much, how many (larger numbers)
为什么wei⁴ shen² mewhy
为何wei⁴ he² 文why
怎么zen³ mehow, how come (why)
怎么样zen³ me yang⁴how
如何ru² he² 文how