Mandarin Grammar Lesson 2
"To Be"- Equative

New Vocabulary

Function words

shi4

is

bu4

not

 

Nouns

ren2

 person

 

  shu1

book

che1

 car

  lao3 shi1

 teacher

老师

peng2 you3

 friend

朋友

  xue2 sheng1

 student

學 生


The Equating Verb " shi4 "

Mandarin

English

  shi4

pronoun=noun 

  shi4

noun=noun

  bu2* shi4

pronoun!=noun 

  bu2* shi4

noun!=noun

*Note that "he is not a person" is equivalent to saying "he is inhuman"

Grammar Description

English vs. Chinese Linking Verbs

English uses the format NOUN + "to be" + NOUN to equate a subject and another noun (predicate nominative).  Examples:

He is a person.

They are friends.

I am his brother.

It is a car.

The exact same format is used to link nouns and adjectives (predicate adjective) in English: NOUN + "to be" + ADJECTIVE.  Examples:

He is tall.

They are friendly.

I am happy.

It is good.

Chinese uses two different verbs, one to link nouns to nouns (shi4) and a second verb to link nouns to adjectives (hen3).  The pattern given in this lesson is only used to link a noun to another noun.  The pattern for linking a noun to an adjective is given in the next grammar lesson.

The Negative bu4

To form the negative of most sentences the prefix bu4 is added before the verb or adjective being negated.

wo3 shi4 xue2 sheng1.
I

am

a student.
wo3

bu2*

shi4 xue2 sheng1
I not am a student.

Subject Verb Agreement

In Chinese, subjects and verbs automatically agree.  They do not need to be adjusted for first person, second person, third person, or singular/plural considerations.  English has "am, are, is" plus different forms for each tense.  Mandarin uses " shi4 " for all these cases.

Notes and Additional Information

The negation character 不 is pronounced as a fourth tone in isolation ( bu4 ).  However, when it precedes another 4th tone character the tone change rules take effect.  Because the pronunciation will normally be that of the 2nd tone in such cases, the symbol 2* will be used in such cases.  Be aware that in certain environments (such as when preceded by another 4th tone sound) it will revert to a 4th tone pronunciation.


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

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