COMMON MISTAKES IN USING CHINESE

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1. Wo zai canguan bu chi zhongfan (I don't eat in a restaurant). This sentence is not correct because the negative word bu (not) should beplaced before the phrase zai canguan. The general rule in Chinese is thatwhat is to the right of bu is negated and what is to it left is not. Wo zaicanguan bu chifan, if used at all, would mean "I'm in a restaurant, but Idon't eat there" with the implication that "I work there." The sameprincipal applies in a sentence that contains a verbal complement such as"ta pao de kuai" (he runs fast). If we turn it into a negative sentence, bushould be placed before kuai (fast), rather than pao (run) because what wewant to negate is not pao, but rather kuai. The correct sentence should beta pao de bu kuai.

2. Ruguo ni bu lai, jiu wo bu qu (if you don't come, then I won't go.)\The problem with this sentence is that jiu, as an adverb, should be placedafter the subject wo instead of proceeding it. Besides, ruguo (if) is oftenplaced after the subject too: Ni ruguo bu lai,wo jiu bu qu. This alsoapplies to a number of other expressions such as yi ... jiu (as soon as ...) and zhiyao ... jiu ... (only if ... then ...), where jiu always comesbetween the subject and the verb.

3. Wo jintian yidianr mang (I'm a little busy today).Yidianr should be you yidianr, which is usually used with an adjective thatindicates an undesired or undesirable condition such as "busy", "upset", "tired" and "hungry: wo you yidianr bu gaoxing/lei/e (I'm a littleupset/tired/hungry). Yi in you yidianr can be left out.

4. Beijing you duo daxue (There are many universities in Beijing or Beijing hasmany universities).Word for word, it is a correct sentence, but it is not. The mistake lieswith the adjective duo. Duo behaves somewhat differently from other adjectives in that it cannot be used as an attributive adjective (one that precedes a noun) by itself. When modifying a noun, it has to be accompaniedby the adverb hen, although hen doesn't contribute much meaning to it. Sothe correct sentence is Beijing you hen duo daxue. If you recall, wediscussed in one of our previous issues that when a disyllabic adjective ora monosyllabic adjective modified by an adverb is used before a noun, itshould be followed by de, but duo is not bound by this restriction. In otherwords, you don't have to say Beijing you hen duo de daxue.

5. Wo dou xihuan mifan he miantao (I like both rice and noodles).When dou (both or all) refers to the object, the object must be placedbefore the verb. The object in this sentence is mifan (rice) and miantiao(noodles). So the correct sentence should be Mifan he miantiao wo dou xihuanor wo mifan he miantiao dou xihuan. If this is a response to a question suchas ni xihuan mifan haishi miantiao (do you like rice or noodles), you cansimply answer by saying wo dou xihuan (I like both) or wo dou bu xihuan (Ilike neither.). However when dou refers to the subject, the relocation ofthe object is not needed. For example, wo he wo taitai dou xihuan mifan hemiantiao (both my wife and I like rice and noodles).

6. Wo zuotian qu le yinhang, he wo ye qu le shangdian (yesterday I went to thebank and I also went to the store).He (and) in Chinese cannot be used to link two sentences. As a matter offact, he cannot even link two verbs. It should be left out from thesentence.

7. Ruguo ni you wenti, qing lai wo wen (if you have questions, come to me toask them).Qu (go), lai (come), dao (arrive, get to) and cong (from) must be followed by place words such as qu Zhongguo (go to China), lai Meiguo (come toAmerican), dao xuexiao (go to school), cong wo jia (from my house), but ifwhat follows is not a place, but rather a person, zher (here) or nar (there)should be used. For example: qu laoshi nar (go to the teacher), and lai wozher (come to me).

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(Source: China Institute e-Newsletter by Yong He)

 

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