Question Words in Mandarin: Day 23

Question Words in Mandarin: How to Ask Questions in Chinese

We all need to ask questions. Questions are a fundamental part of life. They’re also good for making us better at the langauge. “What is this?” A simple sentence which increases your vocabulary in one easy phrase.

Question Words in Mandarin: The Two Types of Question

In Mandarin, there are three types of question. Let’s take a look at them:

Yes/No Questions

These are questions where there is a definite yes/no answer. Simple name for a simple concept. Questions of this sort include:

  • Are you hungry?
  • Do you want to go shopping?
  • Are you Chinese?
  • Do you know the way to San Jose?

These questions can all be answered yes/no. Of course, they might not be answered in a yes/no fashion, but we treat the questions as such because of the possibility. For instance, “Are you Chinese?” The answer could be yes/no, or it could be, “I’m from Shanghai. I moved here when I was five.” Still, the question is structured in the same way. The good news is that this is simple. We use the word ma. The word order does not change otherwise. So, “You are Chinese” is the same as “You are Chinese?” You just add ma on the end.

Question Words in Mandarin: This, or that.

Another straightforward title… Another straightforward grammar point. Use the word ‘bu’. For instance, “chī bu chī” means “eat, or not eat.” That’s a literal translation of “Would you like to eat or not.” It’s also called A-not-A form. So far, we’re learning to ask a range of questions, and we’ve only had to learn two extra words thus far.

Question Words in Mandarin: Asking Wh Questions

Wh questions are the other common type of question. In Mandarin, they work in a similar way to the above -they each have a ‘question word.’ When people say, “Mandarin is the hardest language in the Universe, tell them that the grammar is a lot nicer than Germanic languages.

Examples of question words in Mandarin we might need:

Who – shuí.
What – shénme.
Where – nǎlǐ.
When – shíhòu
Why – gànmá.
How – zěnme.

From what I understand thus far, the sentence structure doesn’t change. So “Where is the station” is “The station is where?” “What is your name?” is “Your name is What?”
Obviously, there will be grammar rules which I don’t know about, and the above might be completely incorrect. But learning question words in Mandarin in a day to the above extent will probably mean being understood by most speakers, even if grammatically incorrect. It’s also attainable by anyone, as it’s only a handful of words.

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