Chinese Calligraphy

Lesson 2

Chinese personal pronouns

The following table shows you the personal pronouns in Chinese compared to their English counterparts.


Pronouns Singular

Note that for "he", "she" and "it" only the characters differ in Chinese. The pronunciation stays the same (tā). Have you ever noticed that Chinese tend to mix up "he", "she" and "it" when speaking English? The reason is that "he", "she" and "it" all have the same pronunciation in Chinese.

Apart from that, there is an additional pronoun in Chinese which doesn't exist in English, namely 您 (nín). 您 (nín) is the polite form of 你 (nǐ) and is used in formal situations or for addressing older or respectable persons (similar to "Sie" in German, "Vous" in French or "Usted" in Spanish).


Pronouns Plural

For the plural, three different forms for "they" exist, also depending on who (e.g. male = 他們, female = 她們) or what (e.g. animals, things = 它們) we address. If you are talking of a group of persons containg both male and female members, the male = 他們 has to be used.

Word order

The basic word order in Chinese (just like in English) is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). The following examples use the personal pronouns we just learnt as subject, the verb 是 as verb and a couple of new nouns as object to show you how to form basic sentences in Chinese.

Word Order

The new nouns (Object) in our example are all nationalities. Most nationalities in Chinese consist of the character 國 (country) in the middle and the character 人 (man) at the end of the word. The first syllable of many nationalities is a phonetic transliteration of the first syllable of the country's original name, for example Yīng - guó as in Eng - land or - guó as in Deu - tschland, and even Xībānyá as the original España.

The word for China (中國) consists of the character for middle (中) and country (國), since in ancient times Chinese emperors believed themselves to be the centre of the universe. That's also where the English translation "Middle Kingdom" comes from.

What we also learn from our example sentences is that Chinese verbs (e.g. 是) are not inflected. They do not change their form. So Chinese verbs are much easier to use than English verbs.