Basic Sentences: Word Order in Mandarin Chinese

Updated:Sun, Oct 21, 2012 01:19 AM     Related:Word order

The basic Chinese sentence pattern and word order is Subject+verb+Object, (S-V-O) which is same with English.


As you begin learning Chinese, you will notice a few similarities between the structure of Chinese language and English. Yes, the basic sentence pattern Subject+verb+Object (S-V-O) is same with English. Here are more examples, with the English rendered somewhat literally so that you can see the structure of the Chinese.

Our example of a Subject, Verb, Object sentence is: I eat food, wǒ chīfàn (我吃饭). “Wǒ” is the subject, I, “chī” is the verb, eat, and “fàn” is the object, food. The character fàn (饭) literally means cooked rice or meal but actually refers to food in general!

More examples:

• S-V-O 我姓张。 wo3 xing4 zhang1. I am surnamed Zhang.

• S-Adv-V-O 他也姓张。 ta1 ye3 xing4 zhang1. He is also surnamed Zhang.

• S-V-O-吗 你姓张吗?ni3 xing4 zhang1 ma1? Are you surnamed Zhang?


1. S-V-O 我是美国人。Wo3 shi4 mei3 guo2 ren2. I am American.

2. S-Adv-V-O 他也是美国人。 Ta1 ye3 shi4 mei3 guo2 ren2. He is also American.

3. S-V-O-吗 你是美国人吗? Ni3 shi4 mei3 guo2 ren2 ma1? Are you American?

Easy, but is useful. You can use the sentence pattern when you introduce a friend. Here is example:


Nin2 hao3, wo3 shi4 Peter, ta1 shi4 wo3 de zhong1 guo2 peng2 you ding1 li4.

Hello, I am peter, he is my Chinese friend Dingli.


Nin2 hao3, wo3 shi4 David.

Hello, I am David.


There are also significant difference between Chinese and English concerning word order.

First of all when speaking mandarin you will want to put the time element of any sentence at the beginning of the sentence. Further you will also want to put the people or nouns near the beginning too. For example the English sentence :

Would you like to go to the movies with me tomorrow?

Notice the structure in English. The word “tomorrow” is the last word in English but in Chinese it would be the first word. Further the second last word in English is “me” but in Chinese that needs to be near the begging close to the word “you”. Let’s look at how this sentence would be said in Mandarin Chinese (without changing the words into Chinese for simplicity)

Tomorrow you would like with me to go to the movies ?


ming2 tian2 ni3 yuan4 yi4 he2 wo3 yi1 qi3 qu4 kan4 dian4 ying3 ma1?

Here is another English sentence that we can change into Chinese Grammar :

I am going to America next year with my wife

The Chinese version would be:

Next year I and my wife are going to America


ming2 nian2 wo3 he2 wo3 qi1 zi3 qu4 mei3 guo2

If that seems strange to you don’t worry. You get used to it and it feels totally natural. In fact I sometimes find myself speaking that way in English. I guess that’s how you know you are really getting into the language when your mother tongue begins to be influenced. It’s an interesting phenomenon.




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