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Expressing "some" with question words

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Chinese question words can play a double role. As we know, they are used in questions, but they can also mean "some." The "some" we refer to is the vague, undefined "some," as in "somewhere," "someone," "something," or "sometime."

"Somewhere" with 哪儿

This one is often used with Verb + 过.

Examples:

  • 这个 人 我 在 哪儿 见 过 。Zhège rén wǒ zài nǎr jiàn guo.I've met this person somewhere before.
  • 这 首 歌 我 在 哪儿 听 过 。Zhè shǒu gē wǒ zài nǎr tīng guo.I've heard this song somewhere.
  • 这 篇 文章 我们 在 哪儿 看 过 。Zhè piān wénzhāng wǒmen zài nǎr kàn guo.I've read this article somewhere before.

"Someone" with 谁

Examples:

  • 你 让 来 帮 我 一下 。Nǐ ràng shéi lái bāng wǒ yīxià.Ask someone to help me with this.
  • 这 件 事 我 听 说 过 。Zhè jiàn shì wǒ tīng shéi shuō guo.I've heard somebody talk about this before.
  • 你 找 带 你 进去 吧 。Nǐ zhǎo shéi dài nǐ jìnqù ba.You should find someone to take you inside.

"Something" with 什么

This one is often used with (儿) before the verb.

Examples:

  • 我们 应该 做 点儿 什么Wǒmen yīnggāi zuò diǎnr shénme.We should do something.
  • 老大 ,你 不 说 点儿 什么Lǎodà, nǐ bù shuō diǎnr shénme?Boss, aren't you going to say something?
  • 我 想 喝 点儿 什么Wǒ xiǎng hē diǎnr shénme.I want to drink something.

"Sometime" with 什么时候

Careful with this one! If you're not paying attention, you might think that it's a question asking "when," but in reality it might just be polite noise. If the lack of question intonation isn't enough, the 吧 on the end is also a clue that these sentences aren't actually questions.

Examples:

  • 什么 时候 我们 见面 谈 吧 。Shénme shíhou wǒmen jiànmiàn tán ba.Let's meet and talk about this sometime.
  • 什么 时候 来 我 新 家 玩 吧 。Shénme shíhou lái wǒ xīn jiā wán ba.You should come to my new house to hangout sometime.
  • 我们 什么 时候 去 看看 他 吧 。Wǒmen shénme shíhou qù kànkan tā ba.Let's pay him a visit sometime.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books