Chapter 4:Phrase order in the Chinese sentence
1. Basic phrase orderThe basic order of the Mandarin sentence istopic + subject + predicateA sentence need not have an overt topic. In addition, if the subject is understood from the context of the sentence, it is often omitted from the sentence.The predicate consists of everything in the sentence except for the topic and subject, including the verb, its objects, negation, adverbial modiﬁers, and prepositional phrases.
2. The position of direct and indirect objectsIn the neutral sentence in which nothing is emphasized, the direct and indirect objects of the verb follow the verb. We refer to the verb and its objects as the verb phrase.If there is an indirect object, it precedes the direct object.subject + verb + indirect object + direct object他给我一本书Tp gěi wǒ yī běn shūHe gave (gives) me one book.Most verbs take only a direct object.subject + verb + direct object我看了那些书Wǒ kàn le nà xiē shū.I read those books. The object may also occur before the subject for emphasis. In this position it is topicalized.
3. The position of prepositional phrasesPrepositional phrases always occur right before the verb and its objects.subject + prepositional phrase + verb + direct object他跟他的女朋友吃晚饭Tā gēn tā de nǚ péng you chī wǎnfàn.He eats dinner with his girlfriend.
4. The position of location phrasesThe location phrase is a type of preposition phrase. It always occurs before the verb phrase.subject + location phrase + verb phrase我在家吃饭Wn zài jiā chī fàn.I eat at home.Within the location phrase, the order of constituents is from the largest to the smallest. Letters are addressed following this principle.中国北京朝阳区建国门外大街一号Zhōngguó Běijīng Cháoyáng qū Jiànguó mén wài dà jiē yī hàoChina Beijing Chaoyang District Jianguo Gate Outer Road Number 1 -->Number 1, Jianguo Gate Outer Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
5. The position of ‘time when’ phrasesA phrase that indicates the ‘time when’ a situation takes place occurs at the beginning of the predicate.subject + time when + predicate我每天喝咖啡wǒ měitiān hē kāfēi.I drink coffee every day.subject + time when + predicate他每天跟他的女朋友吃晚饭Tā měitiān gēn tā de nǚ péngyou chī wǎnfàn.He eats dinner every day with his girlfriend.If ‘time when’ is emphasized or contrasted with another time, it may occur before the subject:昨天我不太舒服，今天已经没问题了。Zuótiān wǒ bù tài shūfu. Jīntiān yǐjing méi wèntí le.Yesterday I was a bit uncomfortable. Today it is no longer a problem.Within the ‘time when’ phrase, the order of constituents is from the largest block oftime to the smallest block of time:一九九八年二月十五日yī jiǔ jiǔ bā nián èryuè shíwǔ rì1998 year February 15 --> February 15, 1998昨天晚上八点钟zuótiān wǒnshang bā diǎn zhōngyesterday evening 8 o’clock --> 8 o’clock last night.
6. The relative order of the ‘time when’ phrase and the location phraseWhen a sentence includes both a ‘time when’ phrase and a location phrase, ‘time when’ generally occurs before location.subject + time when + location + verb phrase我每天在家吃饭Wǒ měitiān zài jiā chī fàn.I eat at home every day.
7. The position of adverbsAdverbs occur at the beginning of the predicate, before the verb and any prepositional phrase. Adverbs usually occur after the ‘time when’ phrase.我上个月只看了一个电影Wǒ shàng gè yuè zhǐ kàn le yī gè diànyǐng.Last month I only saw one movie.
8. The position of negationNegation occurs before the verb and any prepositional phrase. It usually occurs after an adverb, though certain adverbs may either precede or follow negation.
9. The position of duration phrasesDuration phrases are time phrases that indicate the length of time that an action occurs. Duration phrases directly follow the verb. Unlike English, there is no preposition associated with the expression of duration in Mandarin.我在中国住了三年。Wó zài Zhōngguó zhù le sān nián.I in China lived three years. --> I lived in China for three years.我昨天晚上睡了八个钟头。Wǒ zuótiān wǎnshang shuì le bā gè zhōngtóu.I yesterday evening slept eight hours. --> I slept for eight hours yesterday.
10. Order within the noun phraseThe main noun in the noun phrase, the head noun, occurs as the last word in the phrase. All phrases that describe or modify the head noun occur before the head noun.那本很有意思的书nà běn hěn yǒu yìsi de shūthat very interesting book
11. Phrase order in questionsIn Mandarin, the order of phrases in questions is identical to the order of phrases in statements. Unlike English and many European languages, Mandarin questions are not characterized by a special question word order.Statement我喜欢他。Wǒ xǐhuan tā.I like him. Content question你喜欢谁？Nǐ xǐhuan shéi?Who do you like?Yes – no question你喜欢他吗？Nǐ xǐhuan tā ma?Do you like him?
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