Yes-no questions with "ma"

Revision as of 09:21, 5 January 2017 by ChenShishuang (talk | contribs)

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 。 statementNǐ 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 questionNǐ xǐhuan kāfēi ma?Do you like coffee?

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

  • 你 是 大 学生。 statementNǐ shì dàxuéshēng.You are a college student.
  • 你 是 大 学生 questionNǐ shì dàxuéshēng ma?Are you a college student?
  • 他 是 老板。 statementTā shì lǎobǎn.He is the boss.
  • 他 是 老板 questionTā shì lǎobǎn ma?Is he the boss?
  • 你 喜欢 她。 statement Nǐ xǐhuan tā.You like her.
  • 你 喜欢 她 questionNǐ xǐhuan tā ma?Do you like her?
  • 你 想 家。 statementNǐ xiǎng jiā.You miss home.
  • 你 想 家 questionNǐ xiǎng jiā ma?Do you miss home?
  • 爸爸 喜欢 喝 茶。 statementBàba xǐhuan hē chá.Dad likes drinking tea.
  • 爸爸 喜欢 喝 茶 questionBàba xǐhuan hē chá ma?Does dad like drinking tea?
  • 你们 也 去。 statementNǐmen yě qù. You also go.
  • 你们 也 去 questionNǐmen yě qù ma?Are you also going?
  • 他 在 你们 学校 学 中文。 statementTā zài nǐmen xuéxiào xué Zhōngwén. He studies Chinese in your school.
  • 他 在 你们 学校 学 中文 questionTā 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 questionWǒ jiàn guo tā ma?Have I met him?
  • 妈妈 会 做 饭。 statementMāma huì zuò fàn.Mom knows how to cook.
  • 妈妈 会 做 饭 questionMāma huì zuò fàn ma? Does mom know how to cook?
  • 你 昨天 没 去 上班。 statementNǐ zuótiān méi qù shàngbān.You didn't go to work yesterday.
  • 你 昨天 没 去 上班 questionNǐ 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 wordNǐ shì shéi ma?
  • 这 是 不 是 书 是不是 is a question patternZhè 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 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".

See also

Sources and further reading