How are Chinese nouns pluralized

Chinese grammar - Chinese grammar

Grammar of standard modern Mandarin

[中文 語法]
means "Chinese grammar" and is written vertically in simplified (left) and traditional (right) Chinese characters

The grammar of Standard Chinese or Mandarin shares many characteristics with other types of Chinese. The language lacks inflection almost entirely, so words usually only have one grammatical form. Categories like number (singular or plural) and tense are often not expressed grammatically, but there are several particles that are used to express verbal aspects and to some extent mood.

The basic word order is subject-verb-object (SVO), as in English. Otherwise, Chinese is mainly a head-final language, which means that modifiers come before the words they modify. In a noun phrase, for example the head, noun comes last and all modifiers, including relative clauses, come before it. This phenomenon is more likely to occur in subject-object-verb languages ​​such as Turkish and Japanese.

Chinese often uses serial verb constructions, where two or more verbs or verb phrases are used one after the other. Chinese prepositions behave similarly to serialized verbs in some ways and are often referred to as coverbs. There are also placemarks that are placed after a noun and are therefore often referred to as postpositions. They are often used in combination with a coverb. Predicate adjectives are usually used without a copular verb ("sein") and can therefore be viewed as a type of verb.

As in many other East Asian languages, classifiers or measure words are required when digits and sometimes other words, such as. B. Demonstratives, can be used with nouns. There are many different classifiers in the language, and each countable noun is generally associated with a specific classifier. However, informally, it is often acceptable to use the general classifier ge (Simplified Chinese: 个; Traditional Chinese: 個) in place of other specific classifiers.

Word formation

In Chinese, the concept of words and the boundaries between them are not always transparent, and the Chinese script does not use spaces between words. Grammatically some string signs behave like individual words in some contexts, in others they are separable. Many intransitive English verbs are translated using verb + noun combinations, such as B. tiàowǔ (跳舞 literally "jumping a dance" which means "dancing"); Such elements can be thought of as single lexical words, although the two parts can be separated by (for example) aspect marks, and in fact they generally behave grammatically as a verb plus object. However, sometimes the behavior of such connections is abnormal; for example Guanxine (关心; 關心 “to be concerned”) behaves as an inseparable word when the perfective particle le is appropriate, although it can be decomposed into the phrase guan shenme xin (关 什么 心; 關 什麼 心, literally "worry what about", which means "be concerned about what").

Chinese morphemes or minimal units of meaning are usually monosyllabic. Syllables and thus in most cases morphemes are usually represented by individual characters. Some words are made up of single syllables, but many words are made up of two or more monosyllabic morphemes. These can either be free or bound - that is, they can also stand independently of one another or not. Most two-syllable compound nouns have the head on the right, while compound verbs usually have the head on the left. Loan words from other languages ​​can be polysyllabic; They are usually written with selected pre-existing characters that have the correct phonetic values. For example, will shāfā (沙发; 沙發, "sofa") with the characters shā (沙, originally "sand") and fa (发; 發) written, originally "send / output"). Native disyllabic morphemes such as zhīzhū (蜘蛛, "spider") have a consonant alliteration.

Many monosyllabic words have alternate disyllabic forms with practically the same meaning, such as B. dàsuàn (大蒜, literally "big garlic") for suàn (蒜, "garlic"). Many disyllabic nouns are made by adding the suffix zi (子, which originally means "child") to a monosyllabic word or morpheme. There is a strong tendency to avoid monosyllabic words in certain positions. For example, a disyllabic verb is usually not followed by a monosyllabic object. This may be related to the preferred metric structure of the language.


A common feature in Chinese is reduction, which is the process of repeating a syllable or word to produce a modified meaning. This can happen with:

  • Classifiers to produce a phrase meaning "all"; For example zuòzuò shān (座座 山, "all mountains"), where normally zuò is the classifier used in a phrase denoting a certain number of mountains
  • Syllables in some informal words that denote family relationships, for example mummy (妈妈; 媽媽, "mother"), dìdi (弟弟, "younger brother")
  • some adjectives to add the stress: hónghóng (红红; 紅紅 "so red"), from hóng (红; 紅, "red"). This is most common with monosyllabic adjectives, but can also occur with some disyllabic adjectives, in some cases following the pattern gāogāoxìngxìng (高高兴兴; 高高興興) from gāoxìng (高兴; 高興, "happy"); and in others according to the pattern bīngliáng-bīngliáng (冰凉 冰凉; 冰涼 冰涼) from bīngliáng (冰凉; 冰涼, "ice cold")
  • many verbs to mark the delimiting aspect ("to do something for a little") or for general emphasis - see section § Aspects
  • certain other monosyllabic words and morphemes, as in xīngxīng (星星, "[distant] star, spot"), from xīng (星, "star"); chángcháng (常常, "often"); or gǒugǒu (狗狗, "puppy / dog") where gǒu (狗) "dog" is
  • other adjectives have an ABB reduction structure. (香喷喷, "delicious"). (亮晶晶, "glowing").


  • - "-able to"
    • - "reliable"
    • - "respectable"
  • - "Anti-"
    • [反恐] - "Anti-Terror"
    • [反 墮胎] - "Anti-Abortion"


  • - "change"
    • [國際 化] - "internationalize"
    • [惡化] - "worsen"
  • - "Ability"
    • - "Security"
    • - "Validity"


  • - "can" and - "cannot"
    • - "can understand"
    • - "I can't understand"

Sentence structure

Like English, Chinese is classified as an SVO (subject-verb-object) language. Transitive verbs come in front of their objects in typical simple sentences, while the subject comes before the verb. For example:

    • Literally: He drinks alcohol.
    • Translated: He drinks alcohol.

Chinese can also be viewed as a subject language: there is a strong preference for sentences beginning with the subject, usually "given" or "ancient" information; and finish with the comment or "new" information. Certain changes to the basic subject-verb-object order are allowed and can be used to achieve the meaning of the subject. In particular, an object, direct or indirect, can be moved to the beginning of the clause to create an update. It is also possible to move an object to a position before the verb for emphasis.

Another type of sentence is what is known as an ergative structure, in which the apparent subject of the verb can move to the object position. The empty subject position is then often occupied by a place expression. Compare the place inversion in English. This structure is typical of the verb yǒu (有, "there is"; in other contexts the same verb means "to have"), but can also be used with many other verbs that generally denote position, appearance, or disappearance. An example:

  • 。 [院 子裡 停著 車 。/ 院 子裏 停着 車。]
    • Literally: Courtyard in the parking vehicle.
    • Translation: There is a vehicle in the yard.

Chinese is also a pro-drop or zero-subject language to some extent, meaning that the subject can be omitted from a clause if it can be inferred from context. In the following example, the subject of the verbs for "hike" and "camp" can be inferred - it can be "we", "I", "you", "they" etc.

  • ,。 [今天 爬山 , 明天 明天。]
    • Literally: Climb the mountain today, outdoor camp tomorrow.
    • Translated: Climb mountains today, camp outdoors tomorrow.

In the next example, the subject is omitted and the object is updated by moving it to the subject position to form a passive sentence. For passive sentences with a marker like 被; bèi , see the passive section.

  • 。 [飯 做好 了。]
    • Literally: Food makes you complete [perfect aspect].
    • Translation: The food was made or the food is ready.

Adverbs and adverbial phrases that modify the verb are usually placed after the subject but before the verb, although other positions are sometimes possible. see adverbs and adverbs. For constructions that contain more than one verb or verb phrase in a row, see Constructions for serial verbs. For sentences that consist of more than one clause, see Conjunctions.


Some verbs can take both an indirect and a direct object. Indirect usually goes straight ahead, as in English:

  • 。 [我 給 了 她 六 本書。]

For many verbs, however, the prepositional can be used as an alternative to the indirect object gěi (给; 給) are prepended; In this case, it can either precede or follow the direct object. (Compare the similar uses of to or for in English.)

In certain situations the accusative marker can be used in front of a direct object (把) stand. This generally describes an action that leads to a change in the state of the object. See the section for more details Construction. Such bǎ- Phrase no longer takes the normal direct object position, but moves in front of the verb. Compare:

  • 。 [我 打壞 了 盤子。]
    • Literally: I [verb form] break [perfective] plate
    • Translation: I broke a plate.
  • 。 [我 把 盤子 打壞 了。]
    • Literally: I BA plate [verb form] break [perfective]
    • Translation: I broke BA plate.

The meanings of the two sentences above are similar, but the one with can be emphasized as more strongly what happened to the object. It can also indicate certainty - "the plate" instead of "a plate". Certain other markers can be used in a similar manner as bǎ can be used , e.g. B. the formal jiāng (将; 將) and the colloquial n / A (拿).

Some verbs can apparently take on two direct objects, which can be referred to as an "inner" and an "outer" object. These cannot both follow the verb - usually the outer object is placed at the beginning of a sentence (current) or above the bǎ- Construction introduced. For example:

  • 。 [我 把 橘子 皮 剝 了。]
    • Literally: I peeled BA tangerine skin.
    • Translation: I peeled the tangerine.

Here is pi (皮, "skin") the inner object, and júzi (橘子, "tangerine") is about the bǎ- Construction introduced as an external object.

Plural forms

Chinese nouns and other parts of speech are generally not marked as a number, which means that plural forms are mostly the same as the singular. There is a plural marker, however men (们; 們), which is only used to a limited extent. It is used with personal pronouns, as in warm (我们; 我們, "we" or "us"), derived from (我, "I, I"). It can be used with nouns that represent people, most commonly with nouns with two syllables, as in péngyoumen (朋友 们; 朋友 們, "friends"), from péngyou (朋友, "friend"). Use in such cases is optional. It is never used when the noun has an indefinite reference or when it is qualified by a digit.

The demonstrative pronouns zhè (这; 這, "this") and n / A (那, "that") can optionally be added by adding xiē (些) are pluralized, whereby zhèxiē (这些; 這些, "these") and nàxiē (那些, "the").

Noun clauses

The head noun of a noun phrase comes at the end of the sentence; This means that whatever changes the noun comes in front of it. This includes attributive adjectives, determiners, quantifiers, possessives and relative clauses.

Chinese has no articles as such; A noun can stand on its own to represent what is expressed in English as "the ..." or "a [n] ...". The word However, (English, "one") followed by the appropriate classifier can be used in some cases where English would have "a" or "an". With many classifiers it is also possible to do that and leave the classifier alone at the beginning of the noun phrase.

The demonstrators are zhè (这; 這, "this") and n / A (那, "that"). When used before a noun, they are often followed by an appropriate classifier (for a discussion of classifiers, see Classifiers below and the article Chinese Classifiers). However, this use of classifiers is optional. If a noun is preceded by a digit (or a demonstrative followed by a digit), the use of a classifier or a measure word is considered mandatory in most cases. (This does not apply to nouns that act as measure words themselves. This includes many units of measure and currencies.)

The plural marker xiē (些, "some, several"; is also used to pluralize demonstratives) is used without a classifier. However (几; 幾, "some, several, how many") has a classifier.

For information on adjectives in noun phrases, see the Adjectives section. For information on noun phrases with pronouns instead of nouns as headers, see the Pronouns section.

Possessives are formed by de (的) - the same particle used after relative clauses and sometimes after adjectives - added after the noun, noun phrase, or pronoun that denotes the owner.

Relative sentences

Like other noun modifiers, Chinese relative clauses come before the noun they have modified. Like possessives and some adjectives, they are with the last particle de (的) marked. A free relative clause is generated if the modified noun comes after the de is omitted. A relative clause usually comes after a defining phrase, e.g. B. a digit and a classifier. To emphasize it, it can be placed in front of the determination phrase.

The relative clause usually does not contain a relative pronoun. Instead, a gap remains in the subject or object position, as required. If there are two gaps - the additional gap created by pro-dropping - ambiguity can arise. For example can chī de (吃 的) means "[those] who eat" or "[that] which is eaten". When used on its own it usually means "things to eat".

If the relative object is regulated by a preposition in the relative clause, it is denoted by a pronoun, e.g. B. tì tā (替 他, "for him") to explain "for whom". Otherwise the entire preposition is left out, the preposition being understood implicitly.

For example sentences see relative clause → Mandarin.


Chinese nouns need Classifier called liàngcí (量词; 量詞; 'counting words') to be counted. That is, when specifying the amount of a countable noun, a classifier must be inserted that matches the noun. Therefore, for "two cows" you have to liǎng tóu niú (两头 牛; 兩頭 牛, "two cattle") say , in which tóu the Mass word or is the classifier. This phenomenon is widespread in East Asian languages. In English, as in the example quoted for "cattle", some words are often paired with a noun that is used in a similar way to the Chinese verb. A bottle in "two bottles of wine" or one leaf in "three sheets of paper" are further examples. However, certain nouns that represent units of measurement, time, or currency are classifiers themselves. These can therefore be counted directly.

Classifiers are generally associated with certain groups of nouns that are related by their meaning, such as: B. tiáo (条; 條) for long, thin objects or animals such as ropes, snakes or fish; (把) for items with handles such as knives or umbrellas; or zhāng (张; 張) for flat, leaf-like Objects like photographs or fur. While there are dozens of classifiers that must be stored individually for each noun, most words use the general classifier (个; 個). Many nouns that are assigned to other classifiers can also use gè, if the speaker so wishes. The classifiers for many nouns appear arbitrary. The word zhuōzi (桌子, "table") is a zhāng- Noun, probably because a tabletop is leaf-like; while yǐzi (椅子, "chair") a bǎ- Noun is, probably, because a chair is moved by lifting a handle. Dèngzi (凳子), another word for chair or stool, is a Gè- Noun.

Classifiers are also optionally used after demonstrations and in certain other situations. See the Noun Phrases section and the Chinese Classifier article.



The Chinese personal pronouns are (我, "I, I"), (你; 你 / 妳, "you") and (他 / 她 / 牠 / 它, "he; he / she; she / it) (animals) / it (inanimate objects)". Plural forms are created by adding Men (们; 們) formed: warm (我们; 我們, "we, us"), take (你们; 你們, "you"), tāmen (他们 / 她们 / 它们 / 它们; 他們 / 她們 / 牠們 / 它們, "she / she"). There are also nín (您), a formal, polite word for the singular "you". The alternative "inclusive" word for "we" / us "- zán (咱) or zá [n] men (咱们; 咱們), specifically referring to the two people "you and me" - is not used often. The third person pronouns are not often used for inanimate people, with demonstratives being used instead.

Becoming possessive with de (的) formed like would (我 的, "my, my"), warming (我们 的; 我們 的, "our [s]") etc. That de can be omitted in phrases that denote possession, such as inalienable wǒ māma (我 妈妈; 我 媽媽, "my mother").

The demonstrative pronouns are zhè (这; 這, "dies", colloquially pronounced zhèi ) and n / A (那, "that", colloquially pronounced nèi ). They are optionally obtained by adding xiē (些) pluralized. There is a reflexive pronoun zìjǐ (自己), which means "yourself, myself, etc." means and can stand alone as an object or possessive or follow a personal pronoun for emphasis. The reciprocal pronoun "each other" can be derived from bǐcǐ (彼此) are translated, usually in adverb position. An alternative is hùxiāng (互相, "mutual").


Adjectives can be used attributively before a noun. The relative marker de (的) can be added after the adjective, but this is not always required. "black horse" can either hēi mǎ (黑马; 黑馬) or hēi de mǎ (黑 的 马; 黑 的 馬) to be. When multiple adjectives are used, the order "quality / size - shape - color" is respected, although this is not necessary if each adjective has the addition de is converted to a separate phrase.

Gradable adjectives can be modified by words that mean "very", etc .; such modifying adverbs usually come before the adjective, although some like jíle (极 了; 了 了, "extreme"), come after that.

When adjectives appear with classifiers, they usually follow the classifier. Most common classifiers, however, also allow adjectives such as "large" and "small" to be emphasized in front of the classifier when the number is "one". For example yí dà ge xīguā ( one 大 个 西瓜;一 大 個 西瓜, "a large [classifier] watermelon").

Adjectives can also be used predictively. In this case, they behave more like verbs; A copular verb is not required in sentences like "he is happy" in Chinese. you can just tā gāoxìng (他 高兴; 他 高興, "he happy"), where the adjective can be interpreted as a verb that means "is happy". In such sentences it is common for the adjective to be modified by a word meaning "very" or the like; Actually becomes the word hěn (很, "very") in such cases often used with gradable adjectives, even without bearing the meaning of "very".

However, it is possible that a copula may be used in such sentences to emphasize the adjective. In the phrase tā shì gāoxìng le (他 是 高兴 了; 他 是 高興 了, "he is really happy now") is shì the copula, which means "is", and le is the receptive marker discussed later. This is similar to the split set construction. Sentences can also be formed in which an adjective is followed by de (的) stands as the complement of the copula.

Adverbs and adverbs

Adverbs and adverbial phrases usually come before the verb, but after the subject of the verb. In sentences with auxiliary verbs, the adverb usually comes before both the auxiliary verb and the main verb. Some adverbs of time and attitude ("every day", "maybe", etc.) can be moved to the beginning of the clause to change the clause as a whole. However, some adverbs cannot be moved this way. This includes three words for "often": cháng (常), chángcháng (常常) and jīngcháng (经常; 經常); dōu (都, "all"); jiù (就, "then"); and yòu (又, "again").

Manner adverbs can be derived from adjectives using the clitic de (地) are formed. It is generally possible to move these adverbs to the beginning of the clause, although this may sound awkward in some cases unless there is a qualifier like hěn (很, "very") and a pause after the adverb.

Some verbs use a preposition that follows the verb and its direct object. These are usually mandatory parts, so the sentence doesn't make sense if they are left out. For example:

  • [放 本書 在 桌子 上]
    • Put the book on the table

There are also certain adverbial "tripod complements" that follow the verb. The sign (得) followed by an adjective works just like the phrase "-ly" in English, turning the adjective into an adverb. The second is h leo le (好 了, "completely"). It is generally not possible for a single verb to be followed by both an object and an adverbial complement of that type, although there are exceptions in cases where the complement expresses duration, frequency, or goal. To express both, the verb can be repeated in a special type of serial verb construction; The first instance takes an object, the second the complement. Aspect markings can then only appear on the second instance of the verb.

The typical Chinese word order "XVO", in which an oblique complement like a local preposition is in front of the verb, while a direct object is after the verb, is very rare across languages. In fact, this is only confirmed as a typical order for Chinese varieties.

Local phrases

Place expressions in Chinese can contain a preposition before the noun; a post position that comes after the noun; both preposition and postposition; or not. Chinese prepositions are commonly referred to as coverbs - see section Coverbs. The post positions - to those shàng (上, "up, on"), xià (下, "down, under"), (里; 裡, "in, inside "), nèi (内, "inside") and wài belong (外, "outside") - can also be used as locative particles are called .

In the following examples, local phrases are formed from a noun plus a locative particle:

    • Literally: Table open
    • Translation: on the table
  • [房子 裡]
    • Literally: House-in
    • Translation: in the house

The most common preposition of the place is zài (在, "at, on, in"). With certain nouns that naturally designate a specific place, including almost all place names, can be with zài a place phrase can be formed together with the noun:

  • [在 美國]
    • Literal & Translation: in America

However, other types of nouns require in addition to zài another locative particle as a post position:

  • [在 報紙 上]
    • Literally: in the newspaper
    • Translation: in the newspaper

When a noun is modified to make it a certain Denoted place, as in "this [object] ...", it can form local phrases without locative particles. Some nouns that can be understood to refer to a specific place, like jiā (家, home) and xuéxiào (学校; 學校, "school"), can optionally omit the location particle. Words like shàngmiàn (上面, "top") can act as nouns for specific places, as in zài shàngmiàn (在 上面, "above"), but can also take on the role of a local particle, not necessarily with an analogous meaning. The expression zài bàozhǐ shàngmiàn (in 报纸 上面; 在 報紙 上面; 'in newspaper top') can mean either "in the newspaper" or "in the newspaper".

Can under certain circumstances zài can be omitted in the local expression. Grammatically speaking, a noun or a noun phrase followed by a locative particle is still a noun phrase. For example can zhuōzi shàng as abbreviation For zhuōzi shàngmiàn which means something like "tabletop". Consequently, the place expression can be used without zài used in places where a noun phrase would be expected - for example, as a modifier of another noun using de (的) or as an object of another preposition like cóng (从, "from"). The version with zài on the other hand plays an adverbial role. Indeed zài is usually dispensed with when the locative phrase begins a sentence with the ergative structure where the phrase, albeit an adverbial function, can be seen as a filling of the subject or noun role in the sentence. See the sentence structure section for examples.

The word zài Like certain other prepositions or coverbs, (在) can also be used as a verb. A local expression can therefore appear as a predicate without the need for additional copula. For example "he's at school" (他 在 学校; 他 在 學校; tā zài xuéxiào , literally "he in school").

Comparative and superlative

Comparison sets are usually expressed simply by inserting the comparison standard, the (比, "as") is prefixed. The adjective itself is not changed. The Phrase bǐ (比, "than") is an adverbial and has a fixed position before the verb. See also the section on negation.

When there is no standard of comparison - that is, a phrase as -, the adjective can be preceded by an adverb bǐjiào (比较; 比較) or jiào (较; 較) are marked as comparative, where both mean "more". Similarly, superlatives can be used with the adverb zuì (最, "most") preceding a predicate verb or adjective.

Adverbial phrases that mean "like [someone / something]" or "as [someone / something]" can be used with gene (跟), tóng (同) or xiàng (像) in front of the noun phrase and yīyàng (一样; 一樣) are formed. or nàyàng (那样; 那樣) afterwards.

The construction yuè ... yuè ... 越 ... 越 ... can be translated into statements of the type "the more ..., the more ...".


The Chinese copular verb is shì (是). This is the English equivalent of "to be" and all of its forms - "am", "is", "are", "was", "were" etc. However, will shì usually only used when its complement is a noun or noun phrase. As mentioned above, predicate adjectives themselves function as verbs, as does the local preposition zài (在). In sentences where the predicate is an adjective or a local phrase is shì not mandatory.

For another use of shì please refer shì ... [de] Construction in the section on split clauses. The English existential phrase "there is" ["there is" etc.] is combined with the verb yǒu (有) translated, which is otherwise used to denote possession.


There is an ongoing debate about whether or not there is time in Chinese.

The difference between time and aspect

Time is the information that conveys the temporal relationship between an event and the moment the sentence is pronounced. The Tense System is a study that is highly related to time. In 1947 Reichenbach set up a system by making three suggestions: language time, event time and reference time. According to time research, Klein set up a system in 1994 by making three suggestions: situation time, topic time and utterance time. Situation time is the time at which the event takes place. Topic time is the time the speaker relates. Utterance time is the time the sentence is spoken. In practice, the topic time can sometimes be indicated by such materials as when-clause, while-clause, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Two elements related to time in a sentence: tense and aspect. Tense is responsible for the relationship between Topic Time and Utterance Time. Aspect is responsible for the relationship between situation time and topic time.

As the following sentences show, it serves as an example to understand the concepts and distinguish tenses from aspects.

  • John bought a house.

It is a present sentence because the main verb 'hat' is in its present tense and is a perfect aspect because it contains the structure 'haben (has) + Vp.p'. The time situation is in the past because John took the action of buying a house. The topic time is there, however, as this phrase, unlike "John bought a house", focuses on the current effect of completing the promotion to buy a house. Therefore, the present is the focus of the speaker and thus the topic time is present. Hence we can see that the position of the triple situation time precedes the topic time, which coincides with the utterance time. Since the tense is responsible for the relationship between topic time and utterance time, the sentence is present tense. However, since the aspect is responsible for the relationship between the situation time and the topic time, and this situation time precedes the topic time, this sentence has a perfect aspect. It can be seen that time and aspect are responsible for different relationships. This is highlighted to help distinguish these two concepts.

Whether the Chinese tense exists or not

Take the following sentences as examples:

    • Literally: he came back yesterday.
    • Translation: He came back yesterday.
    • Literally: He's coming back today.
    • Translation: He came back today.
    • Literally: he'll be back tomorrow.
    • Translation: He'll be back tomorrow.

It can be seen that these three examples 'ta' (he), 'huilai' (to come back) have in common. The only difference is in the time adverbs 'zuotian' (yesterday), 'jintian' (today), 'mingtian' (tomorrow). One thing to note is that the verb huilai 'stays the same on three different tenses. If the adverbs of time were removed, the reader or listener would not be able to tell the difference to the verb form.

Unlike Chinese, English changes the verb to indicate different tenses, e.g. B. "came" for times past, "will come" for times to come. In this case, if the adverbs of time were removed, the reader or listener could still distinguish the temporal references from the verbs.

Theories supporting the existence of the Chinese tense

Time and T nodes