Yes-no questions with "ma"

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The question particle 吗 (ma) is a simple way to form questions in Chinese. By placing 吗 (ma) on the end of a statement, you convert it into a yes/no question (questions that could be answered with yes or no in English).

Basic Usage


Any statement can be converted into a yes / no question with 吗 (ma). You could think of 吗 (ma) as being like a question mark you say out loud. So the basic structure is:

[Statement] + 吗 ?


  • 你 喜欢 咖啡 。 (statement)Nǐ xǐhuan kāfēi.You like coffee.

"You like coffee" can easily be converted into "Do you like coffee?" by adding 吗 (ma):

  • 你 喜欢 咖啡 (question)Nǐ xǐhuan kāfēi ma?Do you like coffee?

More examples of statements and their yes/no question forms:

  • 你 是 大 学生 。 (statement)Nǐ shì dàxuéshēng.You are a college student.
  • 你 是 学生 (question)Nǐ shì dàxuéshēng ma?Are you a college student?
  • 他 是 老板。 (statement)Tā shì lǎobǎn.He is the boss.
  • 他 是 老板 (question)Tā shì lǎobǎn ma?Is he the boss?
  • 你 喜欢 她。 Nǐ xǐhuan tā.(statement)You like her.
  • 你 喜欢 她 Nǐ xǐhuan tā ma?(question) Do you like her?
  • 你 想 家。 (statement)Nǐ xiǎng jiā.You miss home.
  • 你 想 家 (question)Nǐ xiǎng jiā ma?Do you miss home?
  • 爸爸 喜欢 喝 茶。 (statement)Bàba xǐhuan hē chá.Dad likes drinking tea.
  • 爸爸 喜欢 喝 茶 (question)Bàba xǐhuan hē chá ma?Does dad like drinking tea?
  • 你们 也 去。 (statement)Nǐmen yě qù. You also go.
  • 你们 也 去 (question)Nǐmen yě qù ma?Are you also going?
  • 他 在 你们 学校 学 中文。 (statement)Tā zài nǐmen xuéxiào xué Zhōngwén. He studies Chinese in your school.
  • 他 在 你们 学校 学 中文 (question)Tā zài nǐmen xuéxiào xué Zhōngwén ma? Does he study Chinese in your school?
  • 我 见 过 他 。 (statement) Wǒ jiàn guo tā.I've met him.
  • 我见 过 他 (question)Wǒ jiàn guo tā ma?Have I met him?
  • 妈妈 会 做 饭。 (statement)Māma huì zuò fàn.Mom knows how to cook.
  • 妈妈 会 做 饭 (question)Māma huì zuò fàn ma? Does mom know how to cook?
  • 你 昨天 没 去 上班。 (statement)Nǐ zuótiān méi qù shàngbān.You didn't go to work yesterday.
  • 你 昨天 没 去 上班 (question)Nǐ zuótiān méi qù shàngbān ma?Did you not go to work yesterday?

It's important to remember that you do not normally add 吗 (ma) to a sentence that's already a question. For example:

  • 你 是 谁 (谁 is a question word)Nǐ shì shéi ma?
  • 这 是 不 是 书 (是不是 is a question pattern)Zhè shì bù shì shū ma?

These would be something like "Are you who are you?" and "Is this is a book?" in English--both obviously wrong. Still, if you're not careful, you may find yourself throwing a 吗 (ma) onto the end of a question that doesn't need it. Many learners make this mistake, so don't worry if it happens every once in a while, just catch it and remember it the next time.

More Advanced Usage

However, this doesn't mean that a sentence can't ever have a question word and 吗 (ma). If a sentence contains verbs of understanding such as "知道 (zhīdao),了解 (liǎojié), 明白 (míngbai), 认识 (rènshi)" etc, then "吗" (ma) can still be added at the end of the question.

This is not a necessary pattern for a beginner to know, but you may also wish to read about advanced yes-no questions with "ma".

See also

Sources and further reading