Lesson 1

It is appropriate to start off the introduction to Chinese with the common greeting: 你好。 Below is a dialogue between two people meeting each other for the first time.


Dialogue 1

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
金妮: 你好。 金妮: 你好。
欧文: 你好。 歐文: 你好。
金妮: 我叫金妮。你叫什么名字? 金妮: 我叫金妮。你叫什麽名字?
欧文: 我叫欧文。 歐文: 我叫歐文。
Pīnyīn English
Jīnní: Nǐ hǎo. Ginny: Hello.
Ōuwén: Nǐ hǎo. Owen: Hello.
Jīnní: Wǒ jiào Jīnní. Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi? Ginny: I’m Ginny. What’s your name?
Ōuwén: Wǒ jiào Ōuwén. Owen: I’m Owen.

Dialogue 2

Simplified Characters Traditional Characters
金妮: 他们是谁? 金妮: 他們是誰?
欧文: 她是艾美,她是中国人。他是东尼,他是美国人。 歐文: 她是艾美,她是中國人。他是東尼,他是美國人。
金妮: 你也是美国人吗? 金妮: 你也是美國人嗎?
欧文: 不是,我是英国人。你呢?你是哪国人? 歐文: 不是,我是英國人。你呢?你是哪國人?
金妮: 我是法国人。 金妮: 我是法國人。
Pīnyīn English
Jīnní: Tāmen shì shéi? Ginny: Who are they?
Ōuwén: Tā shì Àiměi, tā shì Zhōngguórén. Tā shì Dōngní, tā shì Měiguórén. Owen: She is Amy. She’s Chinese. He’s Tony, an American.
Jīnní: Nĭ yě shì Měiguórén ma? Ginny: Are you also American?
Ōuwén: Bú shì. Wǒ shì Yīngguórén. Nǐ ne? Nǐ shì nǎ guó rén? Owen: No, I’m British. How about you? Which nationality are you?
Jīnní: Wǒ shì Fǎguórén. Ginny: I’m French.


Simplified Traditional (if diff.) Pīnyīn Part of speech English [‍m.‍]
1a. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ni.mp3″] nǐ (pro) you (singular, masculine)
1b. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ni.mp3″] nǐ (pro) you (singular, feminine)
2. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-hao3.mp3″] hǎo (adj) good
3. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-men.mp3″] men (particle) (noun plural marker)
4a. 你们 你們 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ni3men.mp3″] nǐmen (pro) you all (plural, masculine)
4b. 你们 妳們 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ni3men.mp3″] nǐmen (pro) you all (plural, feminine)
5. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-wo3.mp3″] wǒ (pro) I, me
6. 我们 我們 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-wo3men.mp3″] wǒmen (pro) we, us
7. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ta1.mp3″] tā (pro) he, him
8. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ta1.mp3″] tā (pro) she, her
9. 他们 他們 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ta1men.mp3″] tāmen (pro) they, them (masc.)
10. 她们 她們 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ta1men.mp3″] tāmen (pro) they, them (fem.)
11. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-jiao4.mp3″] jiào (v) to be named, (lit.) to call
12. 什么 什麽 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-shen2me.mp3″] shénme (pro) what
13. 名字 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ming2zi.mp3″] míngzi (n) name
14. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-shi4.mp3″] shì (v) to be (am/is/are)
15. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-shei2_shui2.mp3″] shéi OR shuí (pro) who, whom
16. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-guo2.mp3″] guó (n) country
17. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ren2.mp3″] rén (n) person [个 (個) gè]
18. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ye3.mp3″] yě (adv) also
19. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ma.mp3″] ma (part) (question particle)
20. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ne.mp3″] ne (part) (question particle for known context)
21. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-na3_nei3.mp3″] nǎ OR něi (pro) what, which
22. [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-bu4.mp3″] bù (adv) (negates verbs)

Proper Nouns

Simplified Traditional (if diff.) Pīnyīn English
1. 金妮 Jīnní Ginny
2. 欧文 歐文 Ōuwén Owen
3. 艾美 Àiměi Amy
4. 东尼 東尼 Dōngní Tony
5. 中国 中國 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-zhongguo.mp3″] Zhōngguó China
6. 美国 美國 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-mei3guo2.mp3″] Měiguó America
7. 英国 英國 [sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://ell.s3.amazonaws.com/audio/chinese/table/Zh-ying1guo2.mp3″] Yīngguó Britain
8. 法国 法國 Fǎguó France

Forming the nationality is usually as simple as adding on 人 to the country name. 中国 (China) becomes 中国人 (a person of Chinese nationality), and so forth.


Basic Sentences

The sentence structure of Chinese is very similar to that of English in that they both follow the pattern of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Unlike many languages, verbs in Chinese are not conjugated and noun and adjective endings do not change. They are never affected by things such as time or person.
S + V + O

1. 我叫艾美。

Wǒ jiào Àiměi.
I’m called Amy.

Sentences using shì [是]

Shì, the equational verb to be, can be used as the English is or equals. Shì can only be used to equate combinations of nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns. In Chinese, shì, the “to be” verb, is not used with adjectives, as it is in English, as in, “He is cold.”
S + 是 + O

1. 我是中国人。

Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.
I am a Chinese person.

2. 她是金妮。

Tā shì Jīnní.
She is Ginny.

3. 她们是英国人。

Tāmen shì Yīngguórén.
They are English.
Shì is negated when preceded by [不]. is normally 4th tone, but changes to a 2nd tone when it precedes another 4th tone.
S + 不 + 是 + O

1. 他不是东尼。

Tā bú shì Dōngní.
He is not Tony.

2. 我不是美国人。

Wǒ bú shì Měiguórén.
I am not American.


There are no articles in Chinese.
The object is assumed to be in the same number as the subject.

  1. An example: 我是中国人。
Wǒ shì Zhōngguórén.
I am (a) Chinese person.
The “a” is assumed becuase “I” and “a” are both singular

The question particle ma [吗]

Adding the modal particle ma [吗] to the end of a sentence makes a statement into a question. There is no change in word order unlike in English.

The declarative example sentence in #1 is transformed into an interrogative in #2.
1. 她是金妮。

Tā shì Jīnní.
She is Ginny.

2. 她是金妮吗?

Tā shì Jīnní ma?
Is she Ginny?

The question particle ne [呢]

Using the ending modal particle ne [呢] makes a question when the context is already known, similar to saying “How about…?” in English. A common circumstance is when you wish to repeat a question that was just asked for another subject. Simply add ne to the end of the noun or pronoun to ask “How about this“.

1. 我叫东尼, 你呢?

Wǒ jiào Dōngní, nǐ ne?
I’m called Tony. How about you?

2. 艾美是中国人, 他呢?

Àiměi shì Zhōngguórén, tā ne?
Amy is Chinese. How about him?

Question words

Like particles, question words make statements into questions without changing the order of the sentence. To make one, simply substitute the question word in for the place the subject would be in the answer.

1. 他们是哪国人?

Tāmen shì nǎ guó rén?
What country are they from?

2. 谁是美国人?

Shéi shì Měiguórén?
Who is American?

3. 她是谁?

Tā shì shéi?
Who is she?

Content is available under GNU Free Documentation License Source: Wikibooks

1 thought on “Lesson 1”

  1. This is amazing! I like your websites and enjoy learning Chinese from you. I might learn Japanese next.

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