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Expressing "even" with "lian" and "dou"

连⋯⋯都⋯⋯ (lián... dōu...) is used similarly to how even is used in English and can emphasize certain surprising pieces of information (even shocking secrets!). The tricky part about using it is that you have to remember to use both parts of the pattern.

Used before the Subject

Structure

连 + Subj. + 都 (+ 不 / 没) + Verb

Sometimes 也 (yě) is used instead of 都 (dōu), and the two are interchangeable for this pattern, but 都 is more commonly used with 连 (lián), so it's the one we'll use exclusively here.

Examples

  • 这个 问题 太 简单 了 , 三岁 小孩 知道 。Zhège wèntí tài jiǎndān le, lián sān suì xiǎohái dōu zhīdào.This question is so easy that even a three-year-old kid knows the answer.
  • 这个 汉字 太 难 了 , 我 的 中文 老师 认识 。Zhège Hànzì tài nán le, lián wǒ de Zhōngwén lǎoshī dōu rènshi.This Chinese character is so difficult that even my Chinese teacher doesn't know it.
  • 他 很可怜 , 他 妈妈 管 他 。Tā hěn kělián, lián tā māma dōu guǎn tā.He's such a poor child. Even his mother doesn't care about him.
  • 她 什么 都 放 辣 , 是 辣的 。Tā shénme dōu fàng là, lián tāng dōu shì là de.She put spice in everything. Even the soup is spicy.
  • 你们 算 什么 好朋友 ?他 结婚 请 你 。Nǐmen suàn shénme hǎo péngyou, tā lián jiéhūn dōu méi qǐng nǐ.What kind of friend are you to him? He didn't even invite you to his wedding.

Note that 都 can't be omitted in any of these sentences. You really need both parts of the pattern.

  • 这个 问题 太 简单 了 , 三岁 小孩 知道 。Zhège wèntí tài jiǎndān le, lián sān suì xiǎohái zhīdào.
  • 你们 算 什么 好朋友 ?他 结婚 请 你 。Nǐmen suàn shénme hǎo péngyou? Tā lián jiéhūn méi qǐng nǐ.

Used before the Object

Structure

连 + Obj. + 都 (+ 不 / 没) + Verb

Examples

  • 他 什么 都 吃, 狗肉 吃 。Tā shénme dōu chī, lián gǒu ròu dōu chī.He eats everything, even dog meat.
  • 你 最好 的 朋友 相信 ?lián nǐ zuìhǎo de péngyou dōu xiāngxìn?You don't even trust your best friend?
  • 麦当劳 吃 不起 吗 ?lián Màidāngláo dōu chī bu qǐ ma?You can't even afford a meal at McDonald's?

If the object behind 连 is a sentence, there must be a specific interrogative pronoun in the sentence.

  • 她 叫 什么 问 ?lián tā jiào shénme dōu méi wèn?You didn't even ask what her name is?
  • 你 怎么了 ? 你 住 在 哪儿 记得 了 ?Nǐ zěnme le? Lián nǐ zhù zàinǎr dōu jìde le?Are you OK? You can't even remember where you live?
  • 她 是 你 女朋友 ?你 人家 姓 什么 知道 。Tā shì nǐ nǚpéngyou? Nǐ lián rénjia xìng shénme dōu zhīdào.She's your girlfriend? You don't even know what her last name is.

Avoidance

If you're an intermediate learner and find yourself never using this pattern, you're not alone. That's fairly typical. And the truth is that you can get away with not actively using it for a pretty long time. Eventually you'll get more comfortable with it, but it probably won't come as naturally as some other patterns.

See also

Sources and further reading

Books