Chapter 4:Phrase order in the Chinese sentence

Updated:Sun, Oct 21, 2012 00:06 AM     Related:Chinese Phrase order

The basic phrase order of the Chinese sentence is topic + subject + predicate. Chinese prepositional phrases always occur right before the verb and its objects: subject + prepositional phrase + verb + direct object

 

1. Basic phrase order

The basic order of the Mandarin sentence is

topic + subject + predicate

A 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 objects

In 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 shū

He 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 phrases

Prepositional 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 phrases

The 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 hào

China 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’ phrases

A 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 of

time to the smallest block of time:

一九九八年二月十五日

yī jiǔ jiǔ bā nián èryuè shíwǔ rì

1998 year February 15 --> February 15, 1998

昨天晚上八点钟

zuótiān wǒnshang bā diǎn zhōng

yesterday evening 8 o’clock --> 8 o’clock last night.

6. The relative order of the ‘time when’ phrase and the location phrase

When 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 adverbs

Adverbs 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 negation

Negation 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 phrases

Duration 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 phrase

The 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 shū

that very interesting book

11. Phrase order in questions

In 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?

 

Source:HugChina

 

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