Chinese Calligraphy



Lesson 4

Verbs

As we have already learned in Lesson 2, Chinese verbs are not inflected. Unlike English verbs, verbs in Chinese are not modified to form the past, future or present tense. Chinese verbs do not change in neither tense form. Their exact meaning becomes evident from the context and their position within the sentence. The following examples show you a few new verbs, followed by an object in a regular Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) sentence in the present tense.

Verbs

The verb 有 (yǒu)

Together with the verb 是 (shì), which we already know from Lesson 1, 有 (yǒu) is the most common verb in Chinese. It can be translated in different ways. It is most commonly used to express possessions and existence in the sense of "to have" or "there is/are".

有 (yǒu)

Negating the verb 有 (yǒu)

In Lesson 3 we learned that negating verbs in the present and future tense is done by using the negative particle 不 (bù). This rule is true for all verbs. The verb 有 (yǒu), however, is an exception to this rule. For negating the verb 有 (yǒu), we have to use the negative particle 沒 (méi).

有 (yǒu) negated

The negative particle 沒 (méi) is also used to negate action verbs, if their action is not complete. Optionally you can add the verb 有 (yǒu) after 沒 (méi).

Negative particle 沒 (méi)

Also use the negative particle 沒 (méi), if the action to be negated takes place in the past.

Negative particle 沒 (méi)

Negating resultative and directional verbs

When negating resultative verbs and directional verbs in the present or future tense, the negative particle 不 (bù) occurs between the verb and the resultative ending or directional ending.

Negation

When negating resultative and directional verbs in the past, the negative particle 沒 (méi) occurs before the verb and the resultative ending or directional or ending.

Negation

Using the verb 是 (shì) to express existence

As we already know from Lesson 1, the verb 是 (shì) is mostly used in the sense of "to be". But 是 (shì) can also be used to express the existence of some object, especially in situations where the object covers all of a defined space.

Verb 是 (shì)

The Auxiliary verbs 要 (yào) and 喜歡 (xǐhuān)

As in English you can couple auxiliary verbs as e.g. 要 (to want) and 喜歡 (to like) to main verbs in order to express necessity, ability desire, permission etc.

Auxiliary verbs

The modal verbs 能 (néng), 會 (huì) and 可以 (kěyǐ)

These three modal verbs all mean "can" in English. In Chinese, however, you need to be more distinct.

能 (néng)

能 (néng) is used to express physical ability or the possibility of doing something, similar to the French "pouvoir" or the Spanish "poder".

能 (néng)

會 (huì)

會 (huì) can be translated as "can" or "know how to" and is used to express learned ability, similar to the French "savoir" or the Spanish "saber".

會 (huì)

會 (huì) is also used to express possibility in the future.

會 (huì)

可以 (kěyǐ)

可以 (kěyǐ) can be translated as "can" or "may". It is used to express possibilities or permission to do something. In some situations 可以 (kěyǐ) and 能 (néng) can be used interchangeably.

可以 (kěyǐ)

The modal verbs 得 (děi), 應該 (yīnggāi) and 不必 (bùbì)

得 (děi) is the most common verb for expressing strong obgligation in the sense of "must" or "have to".

得 (děi)

應該 (yīnggāi)

應該 (yīnggāi) or more informally 該 (gāi) is the most common verb for expressing soft obligation in the sense of "ought to" or "should".

應該 (yīnggāi)

不必 (bùbì)

不必 (bùbì) is used to express negative obligation in the sense of "need not" or "do not have to"

不必 (bùbì)

Adverbs

The adverb 也 (yě)

也 (yě) is one of the most frequently used adverbs and most of the time can be translated as "also" and in negated sentences as "either/neither".

也 (yě)

The adverb 都 (dōu)

The adverb 都 (dōu) indicates that the statement of your sentence is true for the entire subject or object.

都 (dōu)

都 (dōu) can also have the meaning of "everything" or "all" and in a negated sentence of "nothing", "anything" or "any".

都 (dōu)

都 (dōu) in a negated sentence is also used to indicate that the negation is not true for the entire subject or object.

都 (dōu)

The adverb 還 (hái)

The adverb 還 (hái) indicates that an action continues, takes place again or that additional information is introduced.

還 (hái)

When 還 (hái) is negated, it can be translated as "not...yet".

還 (hái)

The adverb 只 (zhǐ)

The adverb 只 (zhǐ) means "only".

只 (zhǐ)

The adverb 從來 (cónglái)

The adverb 從來 (cónglái) always occurs in a negated context and is followed by the negation particle 不 (bù) or 沒 (méi). It translates as "never".

從來 (cónglái)

The adverb 總是 (zǒngshì)

The adverb 總是 (zǒngshì) occurs in the affirmative and also in the negated form. In the affirmative it translates as "always" and in the negated form as "never".

總是 (zǒngshì)

As an alternative to 總是 (zǒngshì) you can also use "什麼時候都 (shénmeshíhou dōu) + negation/affirmative" to say "always" or "never".

什麼時候都 (shénmeshíhou dōu)