Mandarin Grammar Lesson 1
Pronouns and Plurality

Vocabulary

wo3

I

 

zi4 ji3

oneself

自己

ni3

you

men

{plural}

ta1

he/she/it

xi3 huan1

to like

喜欢

Plurality

Pronoun

+

Plural

 =

Plural Pronoun

wo3

ni3

men

ta1

Plural Nouns

Chinese nouns are generally not marked for being either singular or plural.  They rely on context to note whether one or more than one is intended.  For example, "I believe in God" and "I believe in gods" could be said in the same way.

Pronouns are a great way to clarify the meaning.  " wo3 ", " ni3 ", and " ta1 " are all singular.  Adding " men" directly to the end of the pronoun makes it plural.  That is all that is needed to be done in most sentences, as Chinese grammar does not require subject-verb agreement.

He/She/It

Chinese has a single pronunciations for the pronouns for "he", "she", and "it".  Whether an object is male or female; human, animal, or object, the same pronoun is used.  The only way to determine what is intended is by the context (or in writing).

Additionally, Mandarin pronouns do not change depending on whether they are subjects or objects, they remain the same.  In English "I" becomes "me", "he" becomes "him" and "she" becomes "her".  But the Cantonese pronouns do not change.

  xi 3 huan 1

 =

Reflexive Pronoun 自己

In the example above showing how a pronoun does not change, a it is possible to make sentences where the subject and object are the same.  In Chinese, like in English, sentences like this make sense, but they are not the standard way of expressing the idea and in most cases are not good Chinese.

Instead, Chinese pronouns are replaced by the pronoun zi4 ji3 when they are used reflexively.

  xi 3 huan 1   zi4 ji3 =

Additionally, zi4 ji3 functions to intensify a subject.  English reflexive pronouns work the same way, but this pattern is much more common in Chinese speech than in English speech.  In this pattern, zi4 ji3 follows directly after the noun or pronoun it is intensifying.

  zi4 ji3 xi 3 huan 1 =

Written Forms

Including Gender

Even though there is one pronunciation for "he", "she" and "it", there are multiple characters. is for males or when used in the plural with mixed genders,is for females, andis for animals or objects.  There is also a female version of "you"- .

Formal Characters

In addition to the standard pronouns, there are also some formal versions.  The most common of these is , which is a more respectful form of "you".  Other such pronouns are used for God or gods.  To form these special characters the "person" () or "woman" () radical is replaced by the one used in a word for "god" ().


Pronouns | Equative Verb | Predicate Adjectives | Mandarin Locative Marker | Possessives | Choice Questions | Measure Words

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