Verbs in language are used to help us to express ourselves clearly. Let’s explore some common Chinese verbs to jumpstart our learning. Almost all foreign languages use verbs, and Mandarin Chinese is no exception. When learning Chinese, some essential verbs can help you to make all kinds of sentences in Mandarin.
Whether you have just started to learn Chinese, plan to travel to China for the first time or plan to read some Confucius. We hope to make using verbs in Mandarin Chinese easy.
In this article, we will look at some common and useful verbs to give you a head start in your Chinese language learning. We will mainly focus on verbs that the native English speaker can use to improve their language skills and gain confidence in speaking Chinese in simple conversations and fluently.
Verbal communication helps us to express our feelings. Photo Source: Unsplash
Contrary to other languages Mandarin does not conjugate the verb in at all. Verbs remain in all kinds of communication when written and spoken in their infinitive form. While this is good news for those learning Mandarin Chinese because it means you only have to learn one verb tense: infinitive; which despite how you use It, will not change. While this is a key grammar rule, It is important to note however that word order is important in spoken Chinese as well as reading and writing.
Conjugating the verb with different Chinese verb tenses is something that you can often see in European Languages like Spanish and Italian where the verb changes depending on who is speaking, who you are speaking to or what you are speaking about. You may be shaking your head in horror, but we even do it every day even when we speak in English, for example, I do /you do/ he does / I did etc.
How blissful would it be to be able to use the infinitive form of the verb ( ‘to do’) and be understood? Well! Your wish is granted, with Chinese Mandarin as your second language, it is as easy as that. If you want to speak Chinese, especially as a beginner you may be thinking. “So how do you express time and subject without conjugating the verb?”
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Mandarin includes post-verb Modal and temporal structures, which gives us the chance to add context to the words and phrases that we are trying to communicate. These Modal and temporal structures allow us to provide information on:
You can also expand on these by adding Post Verb suffixes to make sentences richer and more detailed. You can use Post Verb suffixes to express the location, the whole process, and possibility.
The verb ‘to be’ (shì ) is definitely one of the more essential verbs in Mandarin. It is imperative to understand this verb to be able to understand how to read Chinese texts. For this verb as well as all others, you must know when it is ok to use this verb and when it is not. Be aware that direct translation from English may not always provide you with the correct way to say the same thing in Chinese.
There are many ways that we use ‘to be’ in English that do not translate directly to the Chinese ‘shì’. This means that in this case the one verb ‘to be’ as English speakers understand it, is actually a group of verbs in Chinese. It is important to know how to use the verb and not to make this translation mistake when speaking to native Chinese speakers. Here are the examples:
Other verbs although not directly connected to the verb ‘to be’. Are commonly used with the verb as they are qualitative and express a more detailed state in some way.
One of the more essential Chinese verbs is – To be. Photo Source: Unsplash
Action verbs such as have, give, eat, walk, etc. are very useful and essential to learning. One of the learning tips that should also be noted is that in Mandarin, action verbs are used with a particle which gives more precise information. Knowing this when creating your sentences will help you to improve your grammar when you try to speak Chinese.
One of the most important things in life is making yourself understood, in terms of what you want, need or desire. Without knowing how to express this, we would not be able to ask the waiter to hold the cream with our cake or to tell someone that you are a vegetarian.
Learning a language is not only about learning how to speak in general. But it is about learning how to speak to express ourselves and things that are important to us. Different languages can do this in different ways, but despite what language we are speaking we all hope to learn the language well enough to express what is important to us.
Even in a Chinese lesson, you will need to know how to ask your teacher to slow down. Knowing how to express your opinion, feelings, and review of situations is essential to all daily communication in English, Chinese or any other language and culture.
If you do not like something you can say
From this you can then create other sentences, for example:
Here is a list of the main verbs of will or demand:
Here are some related examples:
The verb xiâng is not so easy to understand as it has many meanings, which change depending on how it is used in a sentence. See the examples below:
A related example is:
Nǐ xiǎng qù nǎlǐ? – Where do you want to go?
Although this is a more complex verb once you are able to study examples of how it is regularly used you will be able to master the sentence structure for this verb. Although xiâng is typically pronounced with the third tone, it can change its tone in a sentence.
Dedicate yourself to mastering sentence structure and verbs. Photo Source: Unsplash
As well as knowing how to express yourself when you want to talk about actions, situations or things. It can also be useful to know and memorize some standard phrases that you can use while traveling in China.
Here are a few great examples of words, verbs, and phrases to add to your traveling phrasebook.
Let’s take a look at some of these verbs in action with some practical examples:
To immerse yourself into fluent conversations in Chinese you have to dedicate yourself to mastering sentence structure, verbs, vocabulary and also pay attention to the tonal pronunciation of Mandarin. But you also must be able to master the most common Chinese verbs. Once you understand the structure of a sentence in Chinese, you can carry a Chinese English dictionary with you and create the perfect sentences as you go.
But while studying you can memorize a handful of the most important verbs. Which will support you to have conversations and help you on a get by day to day basis, should you be in living in China. It can also help you to excel in your Mandarin classes London should you be a Chinese language course student. Whatever your lifestyle if you are learning Chinese, dedicating a large chunk of your time to learning about Chinese verbs will empower you to increase your fluency and conversations skill no matter where you are. Ready to embark on the adventure?