Chinese Calligraphy

Lesson 19

If Clauses with 要是

The rules for forming If Clauses in English are quite strict, e.g. "If it rains, I will take an umbrella"; "If it rained, I would take an umbrella"; "If it had rained, I would have taken an umbrella." In Chinese the tense and the conditional form, apart from a few signal words, become evident from the context. The Chinese equivalent of "if" is "要是" (yàoshì). Unlike the English "if",
"要是" (yàoshì) is sometimes omitted in Chinese conditional clauses. Chinese conditional clauses can often be recognised by the word "就".

要是 (yàoshì)

Here are some examples of Chinese conditional clauses where "要是" (yàoshì) is omitted. From the context it is clear that these clauses are conditional clauses, that's why"要是" (yàoshì) can be left out.

Conditional clauses

Alternative patterns for forming If Clauses

Apart from using 要是 (yàoshì), you can also form If Clauses by using the 要是...的話 (yàoshì huà) pattern or you either use 要是 (yàoshì) or 的話 (de huà). The following examples show you how to use the patterns interchangeably.

If Clauses

Here are some more examples of how to form If Clauses by using the ...的話 pattern.

If Clauses

The 要不是 pattern

The 要不是 (yàobùshì) pattern is used for negated actions which have already ocurred in the past (e.g. If it hadn't rained, I would have gone there).

要不是 (yàobùshì)

If Clauses with 如果

如果 (rúguǒ) and 要是 (yàoshì) are almost identical since they both mean "if". 如果 (rúguǒ) is more formal whereas 要是 (yàoshì) is more often used in spoken Chinese. 如果 (rúguǒ) can also be used in combination with ...的話 ( huà) and without. Also note that in some regions 如果 (rúguǒ) is more frequently used whereas in other regions 要是 (yàoshì) is more common. Just listen to native speakers and you will get a feeling in what situations to use 如果 (rúguǒ) and 要是 (yàoshì).

如果 (rúguǒ)

Expressing "even if"

For saying "even if" in Chinese, use "就是...也" (jiù shì...yě) or "就是...還" (jiù shì...hái).

Even if

Conditional sentences

Here are some examples of how to express actions that might take place (Conditional I) or actions that could have taken place in the past (Conditional II).

Conditional sentences

Indicating "as soon as"

To indicate that as soon as one action is finished, another action will follow, we use the numeral (一) as a marker of sequence.

As soon as

The adverbs , and

These three adverbs have a similar meaning and are often confused. That's why its worth talking about them in greater detail.

The adverb 再

The adverb 再 (zài) has several meanings. One purpose of 再 (zài) is to string two or more events together (first...then).

再 (zài)

The second meaning of 再 (zài) is to perform an action again, once more or not until a particular point of time.

再 (zài)

The adverb 才

The adverb 才 (cái) indicates that an action was or will be performed only after having finished another action.

才 (cái)

The adverb 才 (cái) also indicates that something is less than expected.

才 (cái)

The adverb 就

The adverb 就 (jiù) is used to indicate that an action took or takes place earlier than expected.

就 (jiù)

The adverb 就 (jiù) is also used to indicate the immediacy of the action that follows.

就 (jiù)

The adverb 就 (jiù) can also be used to emphasise a statement.

就 (jiù)

The adverb 就 (jiù) is also used in If Clauses as we learned at the beginning of this lesson.

就 (jiù)