Yes-no questions with "ma"
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).
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 。 statementYou like coffee.
"You like coffee" can easily be converted into "Do you like coffee?" by adding 吗 (ma):
- 你 喜欢 咖啡 吗？ questionDo you like coffee?
More examples of statements and their yes/no question forms:
- 你 是 大 学生 。 statementYou are a college student.
- 你 是 大 学生 吗 ？ questionAre you a college student?
- 他 是 老板。 statementHe is the boss.
- 他 是 老板 吗 ？questionIs he the boss?
- 你 喜欢 她。 statementYou like her.
- 你 喜欢 她 吗 ？ questionDo you like her?
- 你 想 家。 statementYou miss home.
- 你 想 家 吗 ？ questionDo you miss home?
- 爸爸 喜欢 喝 茶。 statementDad likes drinking tea.
- 爸爸 喜欢 喝 茶 吗 ？ questionDoes dad like drinking tea?
- 你们 也 去。 statement You also go.
- 你们 也 去 吗 ？ questionAre you also going?
- 他 在 你们 学校 学 中文。 statement He studies Chinese in your school.
- 他 在 你们 学校 学 中文 吗 ？ question Does he study Chinese in your school?
- 我 见 过 他 。 statementI've met him.
- 我见 过 他 吗 ？ questionHave I met him?
- 妈妈 会 做 饭。 statementMom knows how to cook.
- 妈妈 会 做 饭 吗 ？ question Does mom know how to cook?
- 你 昨天 没 去 上班。 statementYou didn't go to work yesterday.
- 你 昨天 没 去 上班 吗 ？ questionDid 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 吗？谁 is a question word
- 这 是 不 是 书 吗？是不是 is a question pattern
These would be something like "Are you who are you?" and "Is this is a book?" in English, both obviously ungrammatical. 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".
Sources and further reading
- Yoyo Chinese: Yes-no Questions with 吗