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. The tricky part about using it is that you have to remember to use both parts of the pattern (rather than just throwing in one word, like "even" in English).
Used Before the Subject
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.
- 这个 问题 太 简单 了 ，连 三岁 小孩 都 知道 。This question is so easy that even a three-year-old kid knows the answer.
- 这个 汉字 太 难 了 ，连 我 的 中文 老师 都 不 认识 。This Chinese character is so difficult that even my Chinese teacher doesn't know it.
- 他 很可怜 ，连 他 妈妈 都 不 管 他 。The poor child. Even his mother doesn't care about him.
- 她 什么 都 放 辣 ，连 汤 都 是 辣的 。She put spice in everything. Even the soup is spicy.
- 你们 算 什么 好朋友 ？他 连 结婚 都 没 请 你 。What kind of "good 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 ，连 三岁 小孩 知道 。
- 你们 算 什么 好朋友 ？他 连 结婚 没 请 你 。
Used Before the Object
Note that for this pattern, the object moves to the front of the sentence instead of coming after the verb as it normally does. After you move the object to the front of the sentence, you can use 连 before the object and 都 before the verb or verb phrase.
连 + Obj. + 都 (+ 不 / 没) + Verb
- 他 什么 都 吃，连 狗肉 都 吃 。He eats everything, even dog meat.
- 你 连 你 最好 的 朋友 都 不 相信 ？You don't even trust your best friend?
- 你 连 麦当劳 都 吃 不起 吗 ？You can't even afford a meal at McDonald's?
If the object the comes after 连 is a whole sentence, there must be a specific interrogative pronoun (a "question word") in the sentence.
- 你 连 她 叫 什么 都 没 问 ？You didn't even ask what her name is?
- 你 怎么了 ？连 你 住 在 哪儿 都 不 记得 了 ？Are you OK? You can't even remember where you live?
- 她 是 你 女朋友 ？你 连 人家 姓 什么 都 不 知道 。She's your girlfriend? You don't even know what her last name is.
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.
Sources and further reading
- Common Chinese Patterns 330 (汉语常用格式330例) (pp. 152) →buy
- Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide (pp. 356-7) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 136) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 204-5) →buy