Chinese Grammar Q&A


I have a couple of questions,

The first one is about na4.
 In lesson 8 you say na4 means, “then, so.” In lesson 4 you say na4 means
Does it mean all three – then, so, and that? Or is then, so another tone

Second one is about bu.
 In lesson 8 in the grammar section, you say, “The negative form is made by
 putting bu4 before the verb shi4.” Do you 
mean bu2 instead of bu4?

In lesson 8 you list the tones as dui4buqi3. In lesson 5 you list the tones 
as dui4bu4qi3.

Which one is it?

In lesson 8 you list the tones as yi1ci4. Yet, it sounds to me as if you
are saying the tones as yi2ci4.

Which is it?

I’ve really been enjoying your lessons and learning Chinese.
Thank you for responding,



Nihao Susan,
Thanks for your good questions!

Na4 or na4ge=that (sometimes also pronounced as nei4ge)
na4 or na4me=so, then.
So, na4 can mean ‘that’ and ‘so, then’.

To be more clear, the full word for ‘that’ is na4ge, opposite of zhe4ge (zhei4ge). 
The full word for ‘so or ‘then’ is na4me.

The only other different ‘na’ is na3 pronounced in the third tone and it means ‘which’, as in na3 yi2ge4-which one. (ge4 originally is in 4th tone, it’s either neutral or 4th tone, either way is fine).

about ‘bu’ and ‘yi’.

By default they are pronounced in: bu4-fourth tone, yi1-first tone.
But there is a rule when they change their tones.

Bu4. When it’s placed before the 4th tone, it turns into bu2-second tone., e.g. bu2 shi4, bu2 yao4, etc.

When it’s placed before the 1st, 2nd, 3rd tones, it’s still bu4-fourth tone. E.g. in dui4 bu4 qi3, qi3 is in third tone, so bu4 is still bu4. However, it can also be written as ‘neutral’ tone here. Either way is fine.

Same applies to yi1-one.
When before the fourth tone, it becomes the second tone, eg. yi2 ci4-one time.

But, yi4 qi3-together, yi4 is in the fourth tone.

This is just a very common rule, it will help you to understand why the tone is sometimes different with ‘bu’ and ‘yi’.


Hi, Serge! I am enjoying the lessons (especially the one with the song (lesson 26) — I want to memorize it to sing to my daughter.

Do you have any suggestions for practicing the difference between the second tone and the third? I will keep practicing, but I notice that I do not distinguish well between these two tones.


Dear Karen,
Just keep your voice low when you pronounce the third tone, try not to raise it, it’s basically like a low version of the first tone ( you can cut the raising part, which is similar to second tone and is confusing for you).

For the second tone, rise your voice immediately to the top, don’t hesitate at the bottom, otherwise it will sound like the third tone.

Below are some hints on how to pronounce the Chinese tones:

1st Tone. 
The first tone is level, like the tone of the second syllable of tadaa!
 Someone whisking the drape off the new painting or announcing, with a
flourish, the opening of the school play might say tadaa!

2nd Tone. 
The second tone is rising, like the tone of the surprised question: What?

3rd Tone. 
The third tone goes down and then up, just like the irritated and somewhat 
exaggerated tone used on “So” in the following context: “You
 haven’t given me any reason to do it.” “So? Do it anyway.”

4th Tone. The fourth tone is a falling tone that sounds like the tone on hey in 
“Hey! You there!”


Hi Serge, In lesson 5, after 16 minutes 44 seconds I hear the question Ni shi ta peng you ba? Is this really ba ? why is it not ma ?


Hi Martin,
There is an explanation about this in the lesson transcript. Particle “ba” is used to indicate the possibility of something, when the person who is speaking is not very sure about something + it plays the same role as the question particle “ma”. So whenever you doubt about anything, or not sure about if it’s true or not, then it’s “ba” at the end of the question sentence.
Hope this answer was helpful.


Hi Serge –
In lesson 5, why isn’t “de” used after “ta” in the 4th set of Situational Dialogue 1 for both A & B?
Similarly, why is “de” used after “shi” in part A of the 5th set of Situational Dialogue 1?
Xie xie!


Very good questions, Kori, let me answer these two questions.

1) The possessive ‘de’ can be omitted before names of relatives, close friends, your country or something you want to emphasize that it is very close to you, e.g. your beloved car etc.
E.g. wo3 ba4ba4-my father, instead of wo3de ba4ba4. 
wo3 peng2you3-my friend, instead of wo3de peng2you3 

Please note that it is not a mistake if you keep the ‘de’ there. It is just that you can omit it.

2)The ‘de’ used after shi4, e.g. shi4 de, or dui4 de, which means ‘yes, ‘right’, is a not a possessive ‘de’ and it’s used to stress the meaning of the word, it doesn’t carry any meaning by itself here.
 This usage of ‘de’ you will mostly see in shi4 de and dui4 de, also hao3 de-good, ok, ke3yi3 de-fine, ok, will do…etc. It’s used to enhance the meaning and nothing more.



1) In the dialog, lesson 5, “he is in” I don’t see the word shi (is) in the Chinese
 translation. I only see ‘he in ?’. I suppose this might be a grammar thing?

2) ‘yes he is in’ is translated to qing zuo. As far as my understanding is,
 this would be ‘please sit’.. or ‘please do’. 
P.S.Sorry.. yes, he is in.. i misread the text..
 jin was not in the vocabulary. i can assume it’s ‘come in ‘ ?


Nihao Stephen,
1) In English, we always need to use ‘to be’ verb in all circumstances, in Mandarin, there must be a verb in the construction Subject-Verb-Object, but, this verb can vary. Sometimes, this is shi4, sometimes this is zai4 or other verb, in some cases it can even be omitted and it’s fine.

The shi4 is used in Mandarin is more direct and literal meaning, when something or someone IS something or someone, but not when someone IS AT some location (in English you would say He IS at…..and a place). So when someone IS AT a location, the verb zai4 is used (but you still translate as …IS AT…).

E.g. wo3 shi4 Shi3di4wen2-I am Steven. or wo3 shi4 lao3shi1-I am a teacher-very direct and literal meaning, someone is someone/something.

E.g. wo3 zai4 Zhong1guo2- I am in China. Basically, it’s either shi4 or zai4, you can’t use both together (except when you really really want to emphasize something, then….wo SHI4 zai4 Zhong1guo2-I AAMMM in China, this would be an answer to a question if someone doubts if you are really in China or not).

Same goes to the sentence, “I go to China”. It’s NOT wo3 qu4 zai4 Zhongguo. The correct way will be just wo3 qu4 Zhong1guo2.

2) Um, qing3-please, zuo4-to sit, so it’s ‘please sit’.

3) jin4-to enter, to come in.



I have a question about how a possessive particle is used in Lesson 6 Chinese Food, Situation 1.

I understand that de is a possessive particle. When A and B are in the Chinese restaurant, the waitress says:

Ni3hao3, Ni3de Zhong1wen2 shuo1de hen3 hao3!
Hello, your Chinese is very good! ”

De is used after Ni3 (Ni3de) and after shuo1 (shuo1de). Why is it necessary to use de, the possessive particle twice in this sentence? Could you just say Ni3hao3, Ni3de Zhong1wen2 shuo1 hen3 hao3! Ni3men xiang3 chi1 shem2ma?

I took out the de before shuo1.


Dawei, Nihao!
 Thank you for your excellent question, as it gives me the opportunity to explain to you this major grammatical point.

As a matter of fact, the ‘de’ in this sentence is not possessive.
 There are 3 different ‘de’ s in Mandarin Chinese, and they are written using different Chinese characters.

Here they go: 的-possessive de, 得-complement of degree ‘de’ and 地-particle ‘de’ used as adverbial modifier, used to modify the verb in the sentence when there is an adverb preceding it.

So going back to your sentence, nide zhongwen shuo de hen hao(你的中文说得很好)—-> it’s the answer to the question: shuo de zenmeyang?(说得怎么样?) “how (does he) speak it?—>he speaks very well. 

So whenever you need to show the complement of degree, and this is a typical example, “how does someone do something”, “how does it look, taste, goes, flies…whenever you want to describe how something is done”, you will be using verb+de+result of how it was done.

Generally, the complement of degree emphasizes the result of an accomplished action, and the adverbial modifier emphasizes the manner or attitude in which the subject takes or is going to take an action.
 For sentences using the complement of degree, there are 2 possible ways to express:

If the full “verb+object” phrase is used, e.g. shuo1 zhong1wen2(说中文), then you NEED to repeat the main verb shuo1(说) again, right before the complement of degree: 
E.g. ni3 shuo1 zhong1wen2 shuo1 de hen3 hao3!(你说中文说得很好!)- You speak Chinese (speak) very well.–> this is just the rule.

Another example: chi1fan4(吃饭)-to eat, literally “eat rice” (verb+object). 
Ni3 chi1fan4 chi1 de hen3 kuai4!(你吃饭吃得很快!)-you eat “rice” eat very fast. Or just “you eat very fast”.

Second way is, when there is no full verb+object thing, but just an object is there. E.g.
Ni3 zhong1wen2 shuo1 de hen3 hao3!(你中文说得很好!)-you(r) Chinese speak(s) very well. This can be either ni zhongwen or nide zhongwen.

The meaning is slightly different, but almost the same. 
Ni3 fan4 chi1 de hen3 kuai4!(你饭吃得很快!)- You “rice” eat very fast. 
So that was the complement of degree. 

The adverbial modifier is when you place such words as hao3(好)-good, well, kuai4(快)-fast, etc. before the verb.

Sometimes, these words will be doubled, haohao(好好), kuaikuai(快快)…man4man4(慢慢)-slowly.
So basically, it becomes good”ly”, fast”ly”, slow”ly”. etc. But they are placed BEFORE the verb.
 E.g. haohao de shuo!(好好地说!)-speak well (like behave well), a wish that someone needs to speak well, clearly, so we understand him.
 Ni3 man4man4 de shuo1(你慢慢地说!)- you slowly speak!-speak slowly, so I can know what you are saying….
 This type of action hasn’t happened yet.

The action in the complement of degree is the result of the action that already took place.
 You can omit the ‘de’ used as adverbial modifier, you probably know this from qing3 ni3 man4man4 shuo1(请你慢慢说)-please speak slowly. Or, it can also be qing3 ni3 man4man4 de shuo1!(请你慢慢地说!).

So these 3 particles ‘de’ are not the same. 
Hopefully, this will help you in the future to see which one is which.



Nihao Serge! You say, “Wo3men yi4qi3 lai2 fu4xi2 ba” (“Let’s review together!”) What is the purpose of the “lai2″ in this sentence? Is “lai2″ usually included in suggestions of this type? (I recall from lesson 5 that lai2 means “to come.”)



Nihao John,
Rang4 women lai2… is “let us..” construction, sometimes rang4(让) is omitted and there is only lai2(来) left. After lai2(来) there will usually be a verb. E.g. wo3men lai2 he1 cha2 ba!(我们来喝茶吧!)-Let’s have tea!

It’s a suggestion to have tea together. Lai2(来) here does not directly mean “to come”. However, it still implies “that people kind of come together to enjoy a cup of tea”.

So, you are right, you can’t translate it literally into “to come”, but just keep in mind that it’s used in bringing up a suggestion to do something. Another example: Rang4 wo3 lai2 kan4kan4(让我来看看) or wo3 lai2 kan4kan4(我来看看)-let me see!


Nihao, Serge. 
I have just finished lesson 8. I have some grammar questions. The Chinese language does not involve genders, correct? 
In later lessons, will you teach past and future tenses?



Dear Dave,
Let me answer your questions in order:
1) Correct. There are no genders. Chinese is an amorphous language. There are no changes in words, tenses, etc, in the usual way that we are used to with the European languages.

2) Yes, there will be notes about how different time situations can be expressed in Mandarin. But, as I mentioned, there are no tenses as we understand them.

So, you need to guess from the context whether something is in present, future or past. E.g. wo3 chi1fan4-I eat. This can also mean I am eating.
 If you say zuo2tian1 wo3 chi1fan4-Yesterday I eat–this will mean I ate yesterday, etc. In this example, we can tell it’s in the past because there is the word zuo2tian1-yesterday.

Generally speaking, tenses in Mandarin are expressed by using the so-called language markers- particles that are placed before or after the verb.

guo2 is placed after the verb: wo chi1 guo4 (fan4)- I ate.
 Yao4 or hui4—”will”, “going to”. E.g. Wo3 yao4 chi1fan4–I will eat.
These are the major 3 particles for tenses. There is also a particle ‘le’ that can indicate past tense, but more often, it indicates the change in the situation (like something new has happened, a change from not-known to known, etc.)

E.g. ta1 lai2-he comes or he is coming. Ta1 lai2 le!–He came!–(he already came. The situation has changed from “not seeing him” to “seeing him”).

In lesson 65 PDF, there are many notes about grammar. Actually the whole PDF is explaining the most common grammar constructions in Mandarin Chinese.
Hope this helps.


Hi Serge,
Can you please explain what ‘renminbi’ is, in terms of their currency. Until now I’ve been saying it as the unit instead of just ‘money’.


Ren2min2bi4(人民币) is the name for Chinese currency. Literally, it translates as ”people’s currency”-ren2min2 means ‘people’ and bi4 means ‘currency’. Just like you name a currency ‘dollar’ or ‘pound’. So nothing special, just a name.

When you talk about money in Mandarin, you usually add kuai4 qian2(块钱) after the number. E.g. “ten chinese dollars(units, renminbi etc.) will be shi2 kuai4 qian2(十块钱), where shi2(十) means ‘ten’.

Another way to say ‘ten renminbi’ is shi2 yuan2(十元), where yuan2(元) is yuen,a different name for asian currency unit (compare to yen in Japan and won in Korea which in fact is the same word but different pronunciation). Yuan has a broader meaning and includes all periods of Chinese history, while Renminbi or people’s currency only refers to communist China. Yuan is the same for Taiwan, Hongkong and China, renminbi is only in China. Hope this information is helpful.


I am studying lesson 11, dialog 3 
B asks about ties: “Ni yao ji ge?” 
Why not: “Ni yao ji tiao?”


Thanks for the question. Technically, yes, it should be ji3 tiao2, as tiao2 is a measure word for ties. But…since ge4 is the universal measure word, it can be used with any noun.

Also, on the market, the language will most likely be simpler and you will hear less ‘educated’ or standard Mandarin. So hearing ni3 yao4 ji3ge won’t be a big surprise!
Hope this helps.


Nihao, Serge, and xiexie. In the first sentence of Lesson 12′s Situational Dialogue 1, the “de” is tacked onto the “zhu4″. I thought that the “de” (showing possession) was tacked onto pronouns. Please explain.


Nihao John, Good question. The possessive function of ‘de’ is not the only most common role that ‘de’ plays. As a possessive particle, it doesn’t have to be only a pronoun. It can be any noun, it’s just more typical to follow the pronoun wode, nide, tade- my, your, his, but you can also say dian4nao3 de(电脑的)-computer’s, E.g. dian4nao3 de ji4yi4ti3(电脑的记忆体)-computer’s memory.

To identify and maybe to better understand this ‘de’, try to use an apostrophe after the noun, e.g. computer’s.
It may not sound very native in English (in some cases, the word ‘of’ would be more appropriate instead of the ‘s ), but it will help you get the correct word order in Mandarin.

In lesson 65′s PDF “Grammar Summary”, it says: This construction indicates that the noun after ‘de’ belongs to the noun that comes before ‘de’.

Another usage of ‘de’ is in shi…是……的) construction. This construction is used to emphasize the state or situation of the noun. The emphasized statement is placed between shi4 and de. E.g. Ta1de dian4nao3 shi4 xin1 de(他的电脑是新的)-his computer is new.
 Shi-is xin1-new, de-particle de.

Also, there is an attributive clause with ‘de’. The attributive clause is used to modify a noun preceded by the particle ‘de’. This clause can be formed from a word or a phrase.
E.g. yi2ge hen3 piao4liang4 de zhu4zhai2(一个很漂亮的住宅)-a very beautiful apartment. 
Yige hen piaoliang de……(一个很漂亮的)-a very beautiful…….-a phrase that modifies a noun zhu4zhai2(住宅)-apartment.

So, back to your example. Zhe4 shi4 ni3 zhu4 de zhu4zhai2(这是你住的住宅)-this is……..apartment. Ni3 zhu4 de(你住的)-the one that you live….. modifies the noun zhu4zhai2(住宅). Ni4 zhu4(你住)-you live, the added ‘de’ will change it to ‘the one that you live in’.
Hope this is helpful for you.


Nihao Serge,
I’m on lesson 19 and have 2 questions about where you have placed a couple 
words in sentences.

The first one is in the first new vocabulary. You write: ni xiang qu nali
 lvyou? I’m wondering why you put the verb to travel at the end of the
sentence. Why not place it as such: ni xiang qu lvyou nali?

Or, in the first situational dialogue you place it again at the end: wo
xiang qu Zongguo lvyou. Why not place lvyou before Zhongguo?

The second question I have has to do with the placement of the word nali-where. I 
see that sometimes you place it at the end of sentences, sometime at the 
beginning, and sometimes in other places.
Xiexie ni for your help,


Nihao Sushan! 
Ni xiang qu nali lvyou?-where do you want to go to travel?
Ni xiang qu lvyou nali? ****-still acceptable way to say this question, but it will sound way more casual.

So, for nali, it’s fine to be at the end, however, the 1st sentence is more proper. Just break it down: ni xiang qu nali-where you want to go?–>ni xiang qu nali chifan?-where you want to go to eat?–>ni xiang qu nali xuexi zhongwen?-where you want to go to study Chinese?—>ni xiang qu nali lvyou?-where you want to go to travel?
 ni xiang qu chi fan nali, 
ni xiang qu xuexi zhongwen nali
, These are wrong. So you can see that ‘nali’ doesn’t always fit at the end.

Maybe you have noticed that such words are chi-fan, xuexi-zhongwen etc. have something common in them. They are verb-object.

In fact, lv3-you2 can also be considered such construction, even though we usually do not break it this way, it’s fixed and can not be separated, unlike chi and fan.

So, when you answer: I go to China to travel. You are going to substitute the word ‘nali’ with the concrete place, e.g. Zhonggguo. Wo qu Zhongguo lvyou. Because of the properties of the word lvyou, lv-you where ‘you2′ can be considered as ‘object’ and lv3 as ‘verb’, it cannot take Zhongguo after it.

best tip for using ‘nali’ is using it together with zai4: zai4 nali?-where. E.g. ni xiang lvyou zai nali?, ni xiang chifan zai nali? Ni xiang xuexi zhongwen zai nali? etc.

Usually, zai nali is used at the end of the sentence. E.g. qingwen, canting zai nali?-Excuse me, where is the restaurant?….bla bla bla zai nali?
 When used with the verb qu-to go or any other verb, it may be used in the middle of the sentence, like in ni xiang qu nali lvyou?

In fact, qu nali and zai nali are the same. qu and zai play the same role here. 
E.g. ni xiang qu nali chifan?-where do you want to go to eat?
 Ni xiang zai nali chifan?-where do you want to eat?

Hope this was helpful.



Could you explain the use of zai4 when giving directions and telling events in sequence? Does it take the place of “then” or something?
 Also in what parts of China do they speak only mandarin, or close to mandarin?
 And if one has learned Mandarin fluently, how long does it take or how difficult is it to pick up Cantonese or Shanghainese?


Yes, zai4 is used in xian1…..ran2hou4 zai4…….and it means ‘then’. You can also omit the word ran2hou4: xian1……zai4……

Basically, Mandarin is based on the northern Chinese dialects, so people from North-East of China, Beijing and some other northern provinces speak the dialect which is pure Mandarin, as this is their only dialect, they only speak Mandarin.

People from Shanghai or Guangdong province are bilingual. They are obliged to speak Mandarin and they also speak their own dialect ( Shanghainese or Cantonese).

Some dialects are still quite similar to Mandarin, but some are not, like Cantonese, for example. So it depends. Shanghainese is easier to pick up if you are fluent in Mandarin and live in Shanghai for several years.


Serge- I am trying to figure out the possessive grammar rules for people. Back in lesson 13 it looked like “de” was omitted in relation to family members (Wo taitai, Wo gege, etc) so I decided that you didn’t use “de” to indicate possession with people to whom you were related.

In lesson 24 though, my friend seems to be expressed in two different ways, once with “de” and once without. In dialogue 3 without- “ni nan pengyou” In dialogue 4, with and without – Wode pengyou and ta nvpengyou. Is “de” omitted when you express gender?


Hi Joseph,
Generally speaking, the possessive “de”(的) can be omitted if you relate closely to the person or even the object! Of course relatives fall into this category, so you will say wo ma(我妈)-my mom, wo ba(我爸)-my dad…etc. Wo nvpengyou(我女朋友)-my girlfriend. Wo pengyou(我朋友)-my friend or wo de pengyou(我的朋友)-both alright.

Actually, it’s acceptable both ways, with or without the “de”. It’s not a very big issue if you, for example, say wode baba(我的爸爸)-my dad, or wode mama(我的妈妈)-my mom, wode nanpengyou(我的男朋友)-my boyfriend…etc. All these are equally correct. But, of course, saying wode ba or wode ma will be wrong (except certain circumstances, e.g. wode ma ya!(我的妈呀!)-mama mia!-but this is an idiom ).

So, when something or someone can relate to you, you CAN omit the “de”. No, it’s not related to the gender.

I mentioned that other objects will work too. For example, you can say wo che(我车)-my car, since, you know, cars can be something we love more than wives:), or, another example, wo shou3ji1 mei2 dian4 le(我手机没电了)-my phone’s battery is dead (my phone has no power).

Some expressions are pretty fixed. E.g. wo3 guo2(我国)-my country, wo jia1(我家)-my home, my family…
but, it’s fine to say, wode guo2jia1(我的国家)-my country, or wode jia(我的家).

The omission of this “de” just makes your relations with that person or object more intimate, personalized.
Hope this helps!


Hi Serge, 
Can you explain the deal with “de” being used with colors? 
“Zhe ge dongxi shi shenme yanse de”
Why not just “Zhe ge dongxi shi shenme yanse”
Also, you have 橘黃色 for orange. I’ve seen it elsewhere as 橙色. Are they simply synonyms? If so, which is more commonly used?
 Thanks a lot.



Nihao Steven,
1) It’s a grammar construction shi……de, ‘de’ is added at the end for more emphasis, without it, you can say either: zhege dongxi shenme yanse? or zhege dongxi shi shenme yanse, both will be perfectly fine. 
It’s more common to use ‘de’ in answering, e.g. hong2se4 de chen4shan1-red shirt, instead of hongse chenshan or hong chenshan. Because ‘de’ is commonly added after adjectives.

However, the latter two are also perfectly right.
 So that’s why it’s better if you ask: zhe4 jian4(measure word) chen4shan1 shi4 shenme yanse de? And answer: shi4 hong2se4 de, or the full sentence: zhe jian chenshan shi hongse de.
 However, it’s wrong if someone asks: zhe jian chenshan shi shenme yanse, and you answer: shi hongse, or zhe jian chenshan shi hongse. The ‘de’ at the end here must be added. Otherwise, shi hongse will mean “it’s red, it’s colour red”, ‘red’ here is not an adjective.

The only other way of saying this example without ‘de’ will be zhe jian shi hongse(de) chenshan.(with or without ‘de’ both ok).

Hope you can make some conclusions out of this.

2)juhuangse and chengse both fine, I think, juhuangse is used more in Taiwan and chengse in Mainland China, otherwise exactly the same.


hi Serge
, I was wondering if you could clear up the word “fangjia”. You have it listed as “taking a vacation” but my Chinese teacher keeps saying that this means specifically, “To get time off from work” or the boss “gives you time off”.

He says that the way to take a vacation in the sense of “we are on vacation now” is “dujia”. So could you please explain a bit the difference between xiūjià, fàngjià and dujia. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Feichang ganxie ni!



Hi Greg,
Your Chinese teacher is right. Fangjia(放假)means to get time off work or school or when the boss or the school gives you this time off. It’s the most common word with the meaning “to have a holiday or vacation”

So in most cases, when you talk about a vacation or holidays it’s fangjia. That’s why I have chosen this word, not dujia(度假) or xiujia(休假).

The words fangjia, dujia and xiujia all have similar meaning in English, but in Chinese they have some stylistic differences.

To better understand the differences between these three words, you need to look up the meanings of fang in fangjia, du in dujia and xiu in xiujia.

Fang4 means to let someone go, set someone free etc. So fang4jia4 means that you have been granted a holiday or a vacation from your company or school. And in most cases it’s true, because all of us work or study somewhere, so that’s why in the context of lesson 37 I used the word fangjia. Ni shenme shihou fangjia?-When do you have a vacation?

Usually, it’s an official holiday, like in China we have 7 days of in October-National Day and 7 days off in May-Labour Day. In this case, the government grants you this vacation. So this is fangjia.

Now, du in dujia means a process, to spend, to pass(duguo). So du4jia4 emphasizes the process, maybe even the place, where and how you are having your vacation. Usually it’s used together with the verb “to go”-Qu. E.g. Women fangjia le, ni xiang qu nali dujia?-We have holidays, where do you want to go for a vacation? Du miyue-to have a honeymoon-another example. E.g. Women qu Taiguo dujia-we are going to spend our holidays in Thailand. So I would translate dujia as “to spend holidays or a vacation”

Xiu1 in xiu1jia4 is from xiuxi-to rest, to take time off. Xiujia is very close in meaning to fangjia, but it doesn’t emphasize that you need to be granted this vacation. It’s usually a vacation that you are legally entitled to. Let’s say your annual leave- nianxiu, etc. You can chose the time to spend this vacation by yourself, it’s not an official holiday. E.g. Wo meinian you san tian de xiujia- I have there days of vacation every year.

Now let’s make a sentence with all three words within one sentence.

Wo laoban gei wo fangjia, suoyi wo you jitian de xiujia, wo jueding qu Xiaweiyi dujia.-My boss gave me a vacation, so I got several days off, I decided to spend my vacation in Hawaii.



Hello, I saw your explanation of the word ba at the end of the sentence, I
understand that but what about when it is used in the middle of the
, sorry if i missed where you have already answered this question,


Nihao Richard,

When you see a particle ba used in the middle (the ba1 particle, not the grammatical one, which is preposition ba3), It’s usually used in the spoken language to help you break some longer sentences into smaller parts and it allows you to pause a little before continuing your story. It’s usually used when someone is trying to tell a story. Not really common, but in lesson 247, in the dialogue, you can hear it.

Now, it just occurred to me that you might actually be asking about the other ba3 preposition, that plays really important role in Chinese grammar, and it’s totally different from the ba1 at the end of the sentences, that’s purely intonational.

Yes, it was discussed numerous times and here are the lessons to read: Lesson 34 (grammar notes at the end) and Lesson 65.

The 把 bǎ construction is used to indicate what one does to a particular object, or how one does it. Verbs used in the 把 bǎ construction take complex forms, and are verbs of action attached to resultative words, directional words or other elements. The attached elements refer to the direct object of the sentence. For instance, in 我 把 酒 喝 完了wǒ bǎ jiǔ hē wán le I finished the wine the resultative word finish refers to the wine, but not to the action of drinking. I finished drinking would be expressed by the simple utterance 我 喝 完 酒 了wǒ hē wán jiǔ le.

Passive construction with 被 bèi (just for comparison)

The passive construction with 被 bèi indicates how a particular object (abstract or physical) is dealt with or disposed of by somebody or something. The verbs in these constructions take complicated forms. They are verbs of method of action, plus other elements. Most of the elements that are attached to the main verbs in 被 bèi sentences are similar to those used in the 把 b
ǎ construction. For instance, 书 已 经 被 他 借 走 了 shū yǐjīng bèi tā jiè z ǒu le the book has been borrowed by him. In 把 bǎ sentences this will be 他 已经把书借走了tāyǐjīng bǎ shūjiè zǒu le he has already borrowed the book.

To understand this preposition ba3 better, imagine that it’s a verb that means to ‘grab’. But this verb is not the final result of the action, it’s only a tool for doing something else, a second action. E.g. When you say ‘Give me the book’.

You can use 2 ways of saying it in Mandarin Chinese: 1) gei3 wo3 shu1(给我书) or using ba3, 2) ba3 shu1 gei3 wo3(把书给我). If you think of ba3 as ‘to grab’, but not very literally ‘to grab’, just some sort of pre-action in order to conduct the main action. So it will be grab the book (and) give (it) to me. The “grab” here is like preposition ba3.

You can not leave the sentence unfinished by just saying: ba3 shu1…….it will sound incomplete. ba3 shu1 ‘what’? —> ba3 shu1 gei3 wo3(把书给我)! So the second, main verb is the one that carries all the meaning and ba3 doesn’t carry any meaning, it just indicates that someone is going to do something with the thing that he/she takes. This thing can be either tangible or some abstract, like a concept or idea.