Jump to: navigation, search

Softening the tone of questions with "ne"

We have seen before that 吧 can be used to soften the tone of statements, or make commands feel more like suggestions. 呢 works in same way, but it is used to make questions more indirect and uncertain in tone.

呢 used successively with 还是

呢 can be used successively in questions using 还是.

Structure

Option 1 + 呢 + 还是 + Option 2 + 呢?

Examples

  • 我 去 缅甸 还是 泰国?我 得 想 一 想!Should I go to Myanmar or Thailand? I have to think a bit!
  • 咱们 打 游戏 还是 泡吧 ,我 都 可以!Should we play computer games or go to the bar? I can do either!

The example sentences above almost have a tone that the speaker is talking to him/herself, as the question is not directly asked at the listener. A second verb is only necessary if different to the first verb.

呢 with questions involving interrogative pronouns (哪儿,谁,怎么,什么 etc.)

Structure

⋯⋯Interrogative Pronoun⋯⋯ + 呢?

Examples

  • 这 是 谁 的 笔?I wonder whose pen this is.
  • 他 去 哪儿 了 呢I wonder where he's going?
  • 怎么 会How could that be?

In the previous example, the speaker has a tone of conjecture, a bit like saying "I wonder" in English. Again, as in the first example, the question is not directly asked at the listener. Adding 呢 to 怎么会 as in the last example sentence can sound a bit feminine; overusing 呢 can have this result.

呢 with "verb 不 verb" questions

If a "verb 不 verb" question is posed without 呢, it can appear as though the speaker is a bit impatient, or is ordering the listener to do something. This of course depends on the tone of voice used. Adding 呢 can give a tone of uncertainty, and is more polite.

Structure

Subj. + Verb 1 + 不 + Verb 1 + (Verb 2) + 呢?

Examples

  • 你 去 不 去 逛街?Said as though demanding an answer, potentially in a hurry.Well are you going to go shopping or what?
  • 你 去 不 去 逛街Less intense, just asking a question.Are you going to go shopping?
  • 牛奶 你 喝 不 喝?Said to a child, with the implication that if the milk isn't drunk, there will be consequences, with emphasis placed on 喝Did you drink the milk or not?
  • 牛奶你喝不喝Perhaps said to a friend, with no implication of coercion. Perhaps you want to clear away their cup.Did you drink the milk?
  • 你周末能不能加班?Perhaps a manager asking a subordinate. This is not too direct, as 能 has been added. Saying 你加不加班 would seem more like an orderCan you come into work on the weekend?
  • 你周末能不能加班Much more indirect than the above example.Would you mind coming in on the weekend?")

Again, the meaning of the above sentences depends on context, and the interpretations given are just examples.

See also

Sources and further reading