Reference:Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar

Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar: A Student's Guide to Correct Structures and Common Errors by Qin Xue Herzberg, Larry Herzberg

Here is a concise guide to supplement any course of study and help with homework, travel, and test preparation. Topics include word order, time, nouns, verbs, adjectives, word choices with verbs and adverbs, and letter writing. The simple format has one goal: quick mastery and growing confidence.

Qin Xue Herzberg, a graduate of Beijing Normal University, has taught Chinese for decades and has been an upper-level Chinese professor at Calvin College for ten years.

Larry Herzberg did his PhD work in Chinese and founded the Chinese language programs at Albion College and Calvin College. Qin and Larry live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and are co-authors of the popular China Survival Guide.

Grammar Points by Chapter

  1. Chapter One Word Order
    1. Basic word order
    2. Action and location: someone does something somewhere
    3. Action and time: when somebody does something
    4. Word order for expressing WHEN something happened
    5. Word order for duration of time: how long someone did something
    6. Placement of "why" in a question
  2. Chapter Two Time Expressions
    1. Expressing simultaneous actions
    2. To say "again": zài 再 vs. yòu 又
    3. "After"/"Later": yǐhòu 以后 vs. ránhòu 然后
    4. "Last week, this week, next week" and " last month, this month, next month" follow the same pattern, with shàng 上 indicating "last ... , " zhè/zhèi 这 indicating "this ... , " and xià 下 indicating " next ... "
  3. Chapter Three Nouns
    1. Plurals in Chinese
    2. When counting things, measure words must always be used between the number and the noun
    3. This and that
    4. Nouns for nationalities and languages
    5. All (of some noun): dōu 都 vs. suǒyǒu de 所有的
    6. How to express the indefinites
    7. How to express not even one bit of something
    8. Location words
  4. Chapter Four Verbs
    1. Past tense
    2. Present tense
    3. Future tense
    4. The word "it" is usually implied by the verb
    5. Helping verbs (prepositions in English)
    6. Going, coming, returning
    7. The bǎ 把 pattern with verbs
    8. The shì... de 是…的 pattern for past tense actions
    9. The different ways to express passive voice (" was... by... ")
  5. Chapter Five Adjectives
    1. Adjectives: general rules
    2. How to translate "bad" depends on the meaning of "bad"
    3. Use bùcuò 不错,"not bad," when you mean "quite good"
    4. Different ways to say "nice"
    5. Different ways to say "pretty" or "beautiful," depending on the subject
    6. Comparisons: A bǐ 比 B
    7. Negative comparisons: A is not as [adjective] as B
  6. Chapter Six Various Uses of the Particle le 了
    1. Le 了 is used after action verbs in the past tense
    2. Le 了 is used after adjectives to express "change of status," i.e.,"become... "
    3. Le 了 is used after verbs to express "imminent action," i.e., something just about to happen
    4. Le 了 is used with verbs or adjectives in the negative to express "not any more"
  7. Chapter Seven Various Uses of the Particle de: de 的 vs. de 得 vs. de 地
    1. The uses of de 的
    2. The uses of de 得
    3. The uses of de 地
  8. Chapter Eight Conjunctions: and, or
    1. Different ways to say "and" depend on usage
    2. How to say "or" in Chinese
  9. Chapter Nine Subordinate Clauses
    1. Connecting sentences with "who"/"that"
    2. In Chinese, "if... then..." is expressed in three levels of formality (most formal, less formal, least formal)
    3. "As soon as... (then)..." = yī... jiù 一…就…
    4. "Even... (also)...." =lián...,yě/dōu 连…,也/都…
    5. “Because..., so..." =yīnwèi...,suǒyǐ... 因为…,所以…
    6. "It doesn't matter..." =wúlùn...dōu... 无论…都…
    7. "Besides..." =chúle...yǐwài 除了…以外
  10. Chapter Ten How to Express the Verb "Can" in Chinese ( A Huge Can of Worms!)
  11. Chapter Eleven Word-Chioce Issues with Certain Important Verbs
    1. "To be a ...(profession, friend, etc.)": differences between shì 是,dāng 当, zuò 做
    2. "To know": zhīdao 知道 vs. rènshi 认识 vs. huì会
    3. The difference between "to like" xǐhuan 喜欢 and "would like to" xiǎng 想
    4. The difference between "to think that...," xiǎng 想 and "to feel...," juéde 觉得
    5. "To want/would like (to do something)": xiǎng 想 vs. yào要 vs. xiǎngyào想要
    6. Rude vs. refined: yào要 vs. xiǎngyào想要
    7. "I don't think that...": don't even THINK about using bùxiǎng 不想!
    8. "To want someone to be...": xiǎngyào 想要 vs. xīwàng 希望 vs. bìxū 必须
    9. How to translate "to ask" depends on the meaning of "ask": wèn 问 vs. qǐng 请 vs. jiào 叫
    10. How to translate "to tell" depends on the meaning of "tell": shuō 说 vs. jiǎng 讲 vs. jiào 叫 vs. gàosu 告诉 vs. ràng 让
    11. "To look like" and "to seem like": xiàng 像 vs. hǎoxiàng 好像
    12. "Receive": know the difference between the two characters pronounced shou in Chinese (shōu 收,shòu受), both of which mean "receive"
    13. "Afraid": know the difference between "to be afraid," hàipà 害怕,”to be afraid of...," pà 怕,and "to be afraid that...," kǒngpà 恐怕
    14. "Worry": the subtle differences between dānxīn 担心,cāoxīn 操心,fāchóu 发愁,zháojí 着急
    15. "To help": bāng 帮,bāngzhù 帮助,bāngmáng 帮忙
    16. "To take": ná 拿 vs. dài 带 vs. zuò 坐 vs. xuǎn 选 vs. pāizhào 拍照
    17. "To lose": diū 丢 vs. shīqù 失去 vs. shū 输 vs. mílù 迷路
    18. "Produce": the difference between shēngchǎn 生产,"to produce something concrete like coal, manufactured goods, etc.," and chǎnshēng 产生,"to produce something abstract, some phenomenon, like dissatisfaction, unrest, etc."
    19. "To leave": zǒu 走 vs. líkāi 离开 vs. liú 留
    20. "To see": kàn 看 vs. kànjian/kàndào 看见/看到 vs. kànchūlai 看出来 vs. jiàn 见 vs. jiànmiàn 见面 vs. jiàndào 见到 vs. guānguāng 观光 vs. míngbai 明白
  12. Chapter Twelve Word-Choice Issues with Adverbs
    1. "From": cóng 从... dào 到 vs. lí 离
    2. The difference between the two ways to say "first": xiān 先 and shǒuxiān 首先
    3. How to translate "actually" depends on usage
    4. "Although": suīrán... , kěshì... 虽然…,可是… means "although...,but..."
    5. "Almost"= chàbuduō 差不多 vs. chāyīdiǎn 差一点
    6. Cái 才: three ways to say "unless...";"only if..."
    7. "Every time": měicì... deshíhou 每次…的时候 měidāng/měiféng... shíhou 每当/每逢…时候
  13. Chapter Thirteen Letter Writing: Greetings, Salutations, and Forms of Address
  14. Index of Headings

Grammar Point References to This Book

See also