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Particle

Also known as: 助词 (zhùcí).

Particles are function words that depend on other words or phrases to impart meaning. They're kind of like prepositions, but more abstract. In Chinese, the key ones are aspectual particles (for indicating aspect), structural particles (for indicating relationships between words), and modal particles (for indicating mood). Chinese particles are also special words because they tend to always take the neutral tone.

Characteristics

To start off, particles don't have an inherent meaning on their own, they depend on the context to give meaning. This means that they can't be used alone, because otherwise they wouldn't mean anything! Because of this, they cannot be sentence elements (such as subject, object, etc.). When they do appear, they always appear at the end of a phrase, modifying the entire thing. Finally, particles always have a neutral tone.

Functions

Particles in Chinese can do all sorts of different things. They can indicate mood, time, relationship, voice, etc. Again, all of this has to do with the particle and the context it's in. Particles don't mean anything without context.

Subcategories

Grammar Patterns for Particles

A1 Particles

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples
Expressing close possession without "de" Pronoun + Noun 我 女朋友
Expressing possession with "de" Noun 1 + 的 + Noun 2 我 的 老师
Questions with "ne" ⋯⋯呢 ? 我 很 好。你  ?
Suggestions with "ba" Command + 吧 我们 走

A2 Particles

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples
Change of state with "le" ⋯⋯了 我 25 岁
Conceding with "ba" ⋯⋯吧 那 好
Expressing "already" with just "le" Subj. + Verb Phrase + 了 你 应该 问 老师 。我 问
Expressing "not anymore" with "le" 不 / 没(有) + Verb Phrase + 了 想 吃
Expressing "now" with "le" New Situation + 了 吃饭
Expressing completion with "le" Subj. + Verb + 了 + Obj. 我 吃 两 个 苹果。
Expressing experiences with "guo" Verb + 过 我 去 中国 。
Sentence-final interjection "a" ⋯⋯啊 !谁
Softening speech with "ba" ⋯⋯吧 这样 不 太 好
Structural particle "de" 的 / 得 / 地 红色的车,跑得很快,慢慢地走
Using "guo" with "le" Verb + 过 + 了 她 吃

B1 Particles

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples
Advanced yes-no questions with "ma" ⋯⋯吗? 你 要 什么  ?
Aspect particle "zhe" Verb + 着 我 读 ,你 听
Expressing the self-evident with "ma" Statement + 嘛 大家 有 话 就 说
Reviewing options with "ba" Option 1吧 ,⋯⋯ ;Option 2 吧 ,⋯⋯ 不 说 ,他 还 会 做 错 ;说 ,他 肯定 不 高兴 。
Using "de" (modal particle) ⋯⋯的 我 不 会 骗 你

B2 Particles

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples
Advanced "le" after an object Verb + Obj. + 了 我 吃 早饭 。
Marking a topic with "ma" Statement + 嘛 大家 有 话 就 说
Softening the tone of questions with "ne" ⋯⋯呢? 他 人 在 哪
Taiwanese "you" 有 + Verb + 过 去 过 中国。

C1 Particles

Grammar Point (English) Pattern Examples
Expressing "is or is not" with "shifou" 是否 + Verb/Adjective 我 不 知道 如果 那 个 房间 是否 有 足够 空间。
Expressing "whether or not" with "yufou" Verb/Adjective + 与否 成功 与否,都 靠 自己。
Expressing possession with "zhi" Noun + 之 + Noun 这些 解决 问题 的 方式 仍然 有 不足 处。
Using the particle "bei" Sentence + 呗 如果 你 不 想 去 就 不 去


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