Basic sentence order
In its most basic form, Chinese word order is very similar to English word order. These similarities definitely have their limits, though; don't expect the two languages' word orders to stay consistent much beyond the very basic sentence orders outlined below.
A simple predicate can be just a verb. The most basic word order in Chinese is:
Subj. + Verb
You can form very simple sentences with just two words.
|你||来。||You come here!|
|谁||要 学？||Who wants to study?|
|谁||想 玩？||Who wants to play?|
A slightly longer predicate might be a verb with an object. A sentence with both a verb and an object is formed with this structure:
Subj. + Verb + Obj.
This is the same as in English, and is commonly referred to as SVO word order. You can express a huge variety of things with this simple structure.
|他们||吃||肉。||They eat meat.|
|你||喝||茶 吗？||Do you drink tea?|
|我||去||学校。||I go to school.|
|他||说||中文。||He speaks Chinese.|
|你||喜欢||孩子 吗？||Do you like kids?|
|我们||要 买||电脑。||We want to buy a computer.|
|你们||想 吃||中国 菜 吗？||Do you want to eat Chinese food?|
|我||爱||你 和 爸爸。||I love you and dad.|
|他们||要 做||什么？||What do they want to do?|
|你||想 去||什么 地方？||What place do you want to go to?|
When Things Get Tricky
Despite the convenient word order similarities highlighted above, things start to break down as soon as you start adding in such simple sentence elements as the "also" adverb 也 (yě), a time word, or a location where something happened.
We have a video about that:
Don't worry; the more complicated Chinese structures aren't hard, they're just different! (If Chinese word order were really the same as English word order, that would be just a little too convenient, wouldn't it?)
- Word order (a more in depth article)
- Time words and word order
- Topic-comment sentences
- Simple "noun + adjective" sentences
- Indicating location with "zai" before verbs
- Expressing location with "zai...shang/xia/li"
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 1 (pp. 42) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 1 (新实用汉语课本1) (pp. 10) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 1 (新实用汉语课本1)(2nd ed) (pp. 11, 249) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 1 (3rd ed) (pp. 76) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- AllSet Learning video on YouTube: Is Chinese Word Order Really the Same as English Word Order?