Chinese Calligraphy

Lesson 8

The question particle 呢 (ne)

The question particle 呢 (ne) is used for abbreviated questions and can be translated as "what about" or "how about".

呢 (ne)

Verb/Adjective + 不/沒 + Verb/Adjective questions

In Lesson 3 we learned that for a yes-no question we can put the question particle 嗎 (ma) at the end of the sentence. Another way of forming yes-no questions is to repeat the verb or adjective. In the following example we compare both ways of forming yes-no questions.

Question repeat

The meaning of the left and the right column is almost identical. You can use both ways of forming a yes-no question. However, in some cases the meaning is slightly different. 你累嗎?, for example, suggests that the speaker already thinks you are tired, whereas 你累不累? is more neutral. The speaker does not necessarily think that you are tired when asking you this question.

Note that for modal verbs indicating strong obligation, e.g. 得 (děi) or 必需 (bìxū), yes-no questions are not possible by repeating the modal verb. You need to place the question particle 嗎 at the end of the sentence instead.

Question repeat

Disyllabic verbs and adjectives

Some verbs and adjectives consist of two characters, e.g. 喜歡 (to like) or 高興 (to be happy). To form a yes-no question out of a sentence containing disyllabic verbs or adjectives you have the following possibilities.

1. In the first occurrence of the disyllabic word you omit the second syllable:

Disyllabic words

2. You repeat the whole disyllabic noun or adjective:

Disyllabic words

3. You put the question particle 嗎 (ma) at the end of the sentence:

Disyllabic words

The question words 多少 (duōshǎo) and 幾 (jǐ)

The question words 多少 (duōshǎo) and 幾 (jǐ) can be translated as "how much" or "how many" and are used to enquire about quantities.

幾 (jǐ)

The question word 幾 (jǐ) usually requires the measure word of the noun. 幾 (jǐ) is used to enquire about a countable amount that is less than ten. The correct word order is: question word (QW) + measure word (MW) + noun (N).

幾 (jǐ)

多少 (duōshǎo)

The question word 多少 (duōshǎo) is used to enquire about non-countable or countable amounts higher than 10. The question word 多少 (duōshǎo) does not require the noun's measure word. The correct word order is: question word (QW) + noun (N).

多少 (duōshǎo)

The question word 為什麼 (wèishénme)

The question word 為什麼 (wèishénme) can be translated as "why" and is used to enquire about the cause or the reason for something. The position of the question word (QW) within the interrogative sentence is before or after the pronoun.

為什麼 (wèishénme)