Chinese Calligraphy

Lesson 13

The progressive form

The progressive marker 在 (zài)

As in English there is also a progressive form in Chinese. The progressive form is used to indicate that the action is currently in progress and to emphasise the action. For marking the action in progress, we use the progressive marker 在 (zài) and optionally the particle 呢. The progressive marker 在 (zài) has about the same function as the present continuous in English.

在 (zài)

The progressive marker 正在 (zhèngzài)

Compared to 在 (zài), the progressive marker 正在 (zhèngzài) aims at emphasising even more that an action is happening right now.

正在 (zhèngzài)

Negating the progressive aspect

There are two ways of negating sentences containing the progressive aspect. The first way is to use the negation 沒(有). 沒(有) does not necessarily indicate that the action is taking place now. In some situations it also means that you want to emphasise that something is not true.


If you use to negate the progressive aspect, then it actually means that the action is taking place now.


In some situations the syntax of Chinese resembles the English gerund and can be translated as such.


Relative clauses

The particle 的 (de) is used to further describe a noun. The noun to be described comes after the particle 的 (de). Such sentences describing a noun can often be translated in the form of relative clauses.
Note that in Chinese the modifier (the description of the noun) always comes before the noun and never after the noun.

Relative clauses

Nouns containing the particle 的 (de)

Some constructions containing the particle 的 (de) and describing the profession of people are used as individual nouns. However, such nouns are not used in official situations but only informally.


The question word 誰的 (shéi de)

The question word 誰的 (shéi de) can be translated as "whose" and is used to enquire who a person or object belongs to.

誰的 (shéi de)

Positional nouns

Positional nouns such as 上 (shàng) or 下 (xià) are used to indicate the position or direction of a person or an object.

Positional nouns have a base form, e.g. 上 (shàng), and various suffixes to it - 上頭 (shàngtóu), 上面 (shàngmiàn) and 上邊 (shàngbiān). All of these three suffixes to 上 (shàng) have the same meaning, namely "over". The choice of the suffix depends on the region of China and on the preferences of the speaker. The following tables show you some positional nouns which can be used with three different suffixes.

Positional nouns

Note that the base form of positional nouns (e.g. 上) always has to follow a noun, e.g. 桌子上 (on the table). The base form and the suffix of positional nouns (e.g. 上面) can either follow a noun, e.g. 桌子上面 (on the table) or can be used as a modifier, e.g. 上面有飛機 (there is a plane above).

Here are examples how to use the positional nouns of our table above.

Positional nouns

The character 內 (nèi)

Apart from the positional noun 裡 (lǐ) and the preposition 在 (zài), there is another character describing "in", namely 內 (nèi). The following examples show you in which context you use 內 (nèi).

內 (nèi)

Describing the position of a person or object

In the following examples we use animals and a tree to describe all possible positions in Chinese.


Indicating that you want to go/come/see another person

Note that persons cannot act as positional nouns. If you want a person to act as a location word, you must follow the person with a location indicator (e.g. 這裡/這兒 or 那裡/那兒).


Dealing with the word "whether" in Chinese

In English the word "whether" is used for indirect questions as a choice between alternatives. In Chinese the word "whether" does not exist in this context and must be omitted.


The conjunctions 因為 (yīnwèi)...所以 (suǒyǐ)

For answering the question word 為什麼 (wèishénme), we are using the conjunction 因為 (yīnwèi) and 所以 (suǒyǐ).


If the subject of the 為什麼 (wèishénme) clause and the 因為 (yīnwèi)...所以 (suǒyǐ) clause is identical, you can leave away the subject in the 因為 (yīnwèi)...所以 (suǒyǐ) clause.


If the subject of the 因為 (yīnwèi)...所以 (suǒyǐ) clause is identical, you can either leave away the subject in the 因為 (yīnwèi) clause or in the 所以 (suǒyǐ) clause.


When forming such sentences, in many cases it is also possible to either omit 因為 (yīnwèi) or 所以 (suǒyǐ).


Another way of saying "because (of)", "in order to", "since" is 為了 (wèile).

為了 (wèile)