Mandarin Weekly #59

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

We’re also on Facebook, at Please retweet and share our weekly postings, so that everyone can benefit from them!

Sentence types

In Chinese, word order is extremely important, determining (in many ways) the meaning of the sentence. Knowing how to structure your sentences can thus help to make your Chinese more fluent and natural:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Quick guide to Chinese grammar

It’s often said that Chinese grammar is simple. However, that doesn’t mean Chinese lacks grammar, or that you can ignore it. On the contrary, the terseness of Chinese means that you need to be careful of what you say, and how you say it. In this video, we get a short (under 10 minute) video guide to Chinese grammar, which should help to improve your sentence structure:

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Learning and reading characters

Can you learn Chinese characters without learning to speak the language? Yes, but you’re making life harder on yourself, since the characters generally offer hints as to their pronunciation. In this past, Olle Linge describes how and why to learn characters while you’re also learning to speak:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Feeling hot and cold

Traditional Chinese medicine can describe someone as being too hot or too cold. What Chinese words are being used here, what are the traditional remedies, and (most importantly) what can this possibly mean?

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

Just about

There are several different ways to indicate that something is “roughly” or “just about” or “approximately” in Chinese. This post explores several of them, also indicating when each is appropriate:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

The “walk” radical

The “walk” radical (辶) is used in a large number of characters, generally indicating travel, walking, or distance. This post introduces a number of the more common characters using 辶:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

It’s a mystery

In this latest description of a Chinese phrase (chengyu), we are introduced to the phrase 莫名其妙 (mò míng qí miào), which means that something is completely baffling or puzzling:

And and and

There is more than one way to say “and” in Chinese, but when do you use each kind? In this short video from LearnChineseNow, you’ll get introduces to each of them:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Tomato eggs

A common Chinese breakfast dish is stir-fried tomato eggs. This post gives you the recipe, and lots of other useful cooking words, in Chinese characters, pinyin, and English translation, as well as an audio track you can use to test your listening ability:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Top Chinese music

Here are 10 popular songs (and videos) that can improve not only your Chinese, but your ability to discuss popular culture with your Chinese friends:

Vehicle radical

This post collects a number of characters containing the vehicle (车):

I know you’re busy

This post and video introduces a short phrase, 你先忙吧 (nǐ xiān máng ba), which basically means, “I know that you’re busy.” A useful one to use with your hard-working Chinese friends and colleagues:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

Come over here

A catchy song (对面的女孩看过来, duì miàn de nǚ hái kàn guò lái) from Taiwanese singer Richie Ren, with characters and pinyin. If your grammar and vocabulary are still at a relatively basic level, you might be surprised by how much of this song you can understand on your own:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

Wifi passwords

This short video from CrazyFreshChinese is extremely practical — how do you ask for the Wifi password when you’re in a restaurant or café in China?

Good flashcards

Many peopl e use flashcards (on paper, or on the computer) to practice their Chinese vocabulary. What is a good strategy for creating, and then using, these flashcards so that you’re most likely to remember them?

Twitter: @ChineseBoost

How are you?

When I first started to learn Chinese, I was delighted that I knew how to say 你好吗, or “How are you?” Fortunately, I quickly learned that this phrase is almost never used by people in China, as discussed here:

Word games

Given how many homophones there are in Chinese, we would expect there to be many word games, puns, and language-related jokes in the language. Are there?

Calculators vs. computers

Two words 计算机 (jì suàn jī) and 电脑 (diàn nǎo) can be used to describe a computer. When is each appropriate?

Past tense

Is it possible to use 有 (yǒu) to indicate past tense? If so, when and how do you use it?

Using 了

One of the trickiest things about Chinese is the use of 了. How does it turn a sentence into the past tense, and where should we place it?

Going somewhere

Three words — 到 (dào),出 (chū),and 去 (qù) — can be used similarly. How do their meaning differ?

Flipped characters

What is the difference between 前面 (qián miàn) and 面前 (qián miàn)? The meanings would seem to be similar, but not identical, when the character order is reversed:

Wanting it all

How are 所有的 (所有 的) and 全 (quán) different, and are they interchangeable?


What is the difference between戌, 狗 and 犬 — three different characters for dog?

Mandarin Weekly #58

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

We’re also on Facebook, at Please retweet and share our weekly postings, so that everyone can benefit from them!

People characters

A number of characters can be used to indicate people. In this posting, we learn about six such characters, and what sorts of people they can be used to describe:

What are measure words?

One of the biggest surprises I encountered when starting to learn Chinese was “measure words,” the words that we use to count objects. What are these words, how do we use them, and which ones should we know?

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

New Year money — for adults

You might have heard of the 红包 (hóng bāo), or red envelope, in which parents give their children money on Chinese New Year. It seems that some workplaces have a similar system for employees:

Buying on Taobao

Taobao is the largest shopping site in China (and probably the world). How can you use it

Twitter: @DuChinese

Journey toward Chinese

Olle Linge is famous for his “Hacking Chinese” site — but even he didn’t grow up speaking Chinese. How did he learn, and what can we learn from his path to fluency?

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Have a good trip!

The chengyu (4-character expression) 一路平安 means, “boy voyage.” How and when can you use it?

One tone change

The number one, 一, is usually a first-tone character. But it can change to be a third or fourth tone in many cases. This video from LearnChineseNow introduces and demonstrates this tone change:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Visiting family

Emma, from, is out with her niece in China. Watch the video, and learn a bunch of Chinese words and expressions:

Twitter: @ChineseWithEmma

Complimenting male friends

If you want to give your male friend a compliment, what can you say? This post contains five suggestions for how to make your male colleagues and friends feel good about themselves:

Baby names

How do Chinese parents pick a name for their child?

Color of sunlight

Another story (read out loud, with Pinyin and characters, as well as translation) — this time, about the color of sunlight:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

Chinese slang

What are the latest slang terms in Mandarin Chinese? This article introduces some of them — in many cases, words that you might already know, but with a new meaning attached:

Twitter: @FluentU

Collective nouns

You might have noticed that Chinese has a large number of collective nouns (e.g., “sheep” and “fish”). Why and how is that?

Twitter: @DigMandarin

New Year guests

You should visit a Chinese family for their New Year celebration! Why, and what you can learn, is listed here:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Pronouncing that “e”

English speakers often make the mistake of assuming that the pronunciation of “e” (or other letters) is similar to that of English — but it isn’t, as this discussion points out:

Languages vs dialects

We often hear that Mandarin is a “dialect” of Chinese. But what’s the difference between a dialect and a language?

Business origins

Why is the word for business 生意 (shēng yi), wihich includes the character for “life” or “grow”?

The sound of “x”

Pinyin has an “x” character, which sounds to Westerners like “sh,” but isn’t. How should it sound?

Lacking something

When should we use each of the characters help with 不 ,没 ,and 非?

Uses of 可 (kě)

We can use 可 (kě) in a few different ways, including ot express “so very ___” something is:

When do we use 的 (de)?

One of the first words you learn in Chinese is 的. But when and how do you use it in a sentence?

Mandarin Weekly #57

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

We’re also on Facebook, at Please retweet and share our weekly postings, so that everyone can benefit from them!

Chinese zodiac history

More than you ever wanted to know about the Chinese zodiac, including vocabulary and the traits associated with people born in various years:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Reading the Chinese zodiac

The Year of the Monkey is one of 12 years in the Chinese cycle. How does this cycle work, and what are its parts? This posting will explain it all:

New Year traditions

It’s not too late to learn about New Year traditions; this post from ChinesePod tells us about some things people do in China around and on the New Year:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

New Year phrases

LearnChineseNow provides phrases and traditions associated with the new Year of the Monkey, including some great footage of the annual release of lanterns in Taiwan:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Monkey words, goat words

We just finished the Year of the Goat, and are starting the Year of the Monkey. What words and phrases in Chinese use the words “Goat” and “Monkey”? This posting will give you some examples:

Learn calligraphy

Ever want to learn to write Chinese characters, perhaps using calligraphy? ChinesePod’s video introduces the art of calligraphy, teaching some Spring Festival-related characters along the way:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Question words

How do we ask questions in Chinese? The words are slightly different than what we use in English, and this posting introduces a number of them, along with examples of when to use them:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

The story of Nian

How did Chinese New Year come to be? An ancient legend about Nian, which helps to explain many of the customs around this holiday:

The Monkey King

Happy Year of the Monkey! In this post, we learn why monkeys are considered to be positive in Chinese society:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

Monkey phrases

In honor of the Year of the Monkey, here are some Chinese phrases (in Pinyin) you can use in conversation:

Horses and tigers

One of the first phrases that Chinese students learn is 马马虎虎 (mǎ mǎ hū hū), which means “careless” or “so-so.” Why does it have these meanings? This posting introduces the history and meaning behind the phrase:

Yes, we can!

How do you say you can do something in Chinese? It depends on what sort of “can” you mean; there are several different words, and learning to use them right can be somewhat challenging:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Business vocabulary

Planning to business in China? Here is a list of 26 words and phrases having to do with business, which you can use to impress (or just communicate with) your Chinese colleagues and clients:

Twitter: @FluentU

Buying train tickets

Want to travel by train in China? This posting walks you through the vocabulary and sentences you’ll need, starting with the basics, and moving up to different types of seats, and presenting your ID:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Africa in Chinese

How do you call African countries in Chinese? This chart will provide the answers:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Your face

How do you say such body parts as “eyes,” “ears,” and “nose”? And how do you identify those characters? Here are some hints to help you out:

Twitter: @learnchinese88

Love in China

How do you talk about love, Valentine’s Day, and spending money on appropriate gifts in Chinese? This posting will provide you with plenty of vocabulary on the topic:

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

Show the love

How do you express love (or affection) in Chinese? Here are some useful phrases to use on the people you most care about — assuming they speak Chinese, of course:

Expressing your love

How can you tell someone that you love them on Valentine’s Day? Here are some phrases to help you out, thanks to LearnChineseNow:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Finding a good teacher

If you’re learning Chinese, then you likely have (or should have) a teacher. Here are some hints for how to choose a good one:

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Books to improve your Chinese

You’re listening to podcasts, watching videos, studying characters, and meeting regularly with your teacher. But wait! There is still some time in which you’re not learning Chinese, which you have to fill somehow! Why not get a good book that’ll help to reinforce what you’re learning? In this posting, we learn about several books (one of which I’ve been reading and enjoying) that can indeed help with your Chinese:

Twitter: @FluentU

Day and time

Telling time (and saying the day) in Chinese is straightforward… mostly. Here’s a post that introduces the structure:

Building blocks

Learning characters is just the first part of reading Chinese. Then you have to combine those characters into words — which is easier and more logical than you might think. In this post by Olle Linge, we see the difference between characters and words, and how to move up from those to sentences and paragraphs:

Who has a birthday?

ChineseClass101 has a short dialog and quiz about someone’s age. How are your listening skills?

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Hot pot

One of my favorite parts of visiting China is eating hot pot. Why not try to make it at home? This posting provides some instructions for making your own hot pot, along with the vocabulary you’ll need to describe it in Chinese:

Wednesday questions

The ChineseLanguage reddit has a new feature, 问题 (wèn tí) Wednesdays — ask questions that are bothering you! This week, there were already some great questions and answers:

Why are there radicals?

One of the best ways to improve your Chinese reading is to learn and identify radicals in characters. But why are there radicals?

Two ways to wear things

Chinese has two different verbs for “wearing” something, 穿 (chuān) and 戴 (dài). How do we know which to use?

Just a little

What does 一下 (yī xià) mean,and how do you attach it to a verb?

It’ll definitely happen

There are a few ways to say “it’ll certainly happen,” or “it’s inevitable,” in Chinese. Here is a discussion of the differences between these terms:

Mandarin Weekly #56

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

We’re also on Facebook, at Please share our weekly postings, so that everyone can benefit from them!

Year of the ____

We are marking the start of the Year of the Monkey. What are the other animals in the Chinese zodiac, and where do they come from?

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Writing the zodiacal signs

Want to write the characters for all 12 animals in the zodiac? Chris from Fluent in Mandarin provides some insights:

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Learning to write

A detailed introduction to writing in Chinese; if you’re interested in getting deeper into the characters, then writing is a good way to do it:

Twitter: @FluentChinese

Common grammar particles

When you learn Chinese, you quickly discover that a large number of characters come up all of the time, on their own and as part of words. Identifying these characters, and knowing how they affect the grammar of your sentences, is important — and DigMandarin provides us with a list and explanation:

Twitter: @DigMandarin


An explanation of the chengyu (four-character phrase) 丢三落四 (diū sān là sì), meaning forgetful or absent-minded:

Monkey words

It’s the Year of the Monkey, so why not learn a bunch of words that contain 猴 (hóu)?

Twitter: @DigMandarin

For the birds

An introduction to a common word (and character component), 鸟 (niǎo), or bird:

Listening challenge

It’s time for another Hacking Chinese challenge, this time listening: How much Chinese can you listen to, in order to sensitize your ears and brain to the sounds of the language?

Twitter: @HackingChinese

New Year traditions

How do people celebrate Chinese New Year in China? This article provides us with a list of common traditions, as well as the vocabulary to describe them:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

More New Year traditions

Not surprisingly, several blogs wrote this week with a bunch of New Year-related words and phrases. Here are some from Du Chinese:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Even more New Year traditions

Here are even more explanations, vocabulary, and phrases about the New Year celebration:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

Popular online words

A list (with explanations) of the most popular words used online in China over the last year:

New Year discussion

YoYoChinese sponsored this video hangout with Yangyang Cheng and actor Jeff Locker, in which they discuss Chinese New Year and other Chinese-related words, phrases, and ideas:

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

Happy New Year!

Here are 25 greetings and phrases to use when wishing your Chinese friends and family well during this holiday:

Twitter: @FluentU

New Year songs

Want to sing your way through the start of the Year of the Monkey? Here are eight songs (and videos) you can listen to, and learn from:

Twitter: @FluentU

The story of money

Why do Chinese parents give their children money on Chinese New Year? This story provides some background, and listening/reading practice:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Yet more New Year phrases

It’s that time of year; here are a few more New Year-related words, phrases, and traditions:

New Year video

ChinesePod produced a video for Chinese New Year, teaching some useful phrases and greetings:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

New Year shopping in Taiwan

What do Chinese people buy for their New Year celebration? This video from ChinesePod visits the Taipei holiday market:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Madame President

The new president of Taiwan is Tsai Ing-wen. How is her name pronounced? Olle Linge posts on with some advice:

How to practice

How can you improve your usage and pronunciation? The key is practice; in this discussion, experienced students of Chinese suggest ways in which a beginner (or not-so-beginner) can improve:

Nouns and 子

How does adding 子 to another character, often used in noun words, change their meanings, if at all?

Have a seat

Is there a difference between 坐下来 (zuò xia lái) and 坐下去 (zuò xia qù)? These “resultative verb endings” can change the direction of intent, as described here:

Do me a favor

How can you ask someone in China to do something for you? Two common phrases are 麻烦你 (máfan nǐ) and 请给我 (qǐng gěi wǒ), but do they mean the same thing? (The short answer: No.)

It has been a while

How do you say that it has been a while since you were at the Great Wall? A discussion of saying “it has been a while”:

Did you bring it?

How do you ask someone if they have brought something? This discussion compared a few different phrases that might seem similar:

Just about right

How do you say “almost” in Chinese? There are a few different words for this, with different meanings and uses:

It’s all business

A short discussion of different ways to say “business” or “industry” in Chinese:

Mandarin Weekly #55

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

New Year traditions

Chinese New Year is about to begin, and it’s thus time for us to learn (or re-learn) the words and phrases that have to do with that festival. In this post, we learn about popular traditions among people celebrating Chinese New Year:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

Chinese New Year vocabulary

Written Chinese also chimes in with a vocabulary list for the Chinese New Year:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Boom! Crash! Ouch!

How do you express certain real-world sounds in Chinese? This article introduces onomatopoeia, Chinese style, with many useful words and phrases:

Twitter: @FluentU

Two ways of saying “two”

Why does Chinese have two ways to say “two,” and when is each used?

Useful grammar patterns

Certain grammar patterns repeat themselves all of the time in Chinese. In this posting, we learn about two of them, “VERB 一VERB” and VERB + 来/去:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Creative ways to express love

How can you say “I love you” in Chinese? This video provides us with 13 different ways to express your affection:

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Beginner Chinese videos

Just starting to learn Chinese? Here are some videos that you can use to get a jump-start on your learning of the language:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Saying “yes” and “no”

LearnChineseNow answers one of the most common questions asked by newcomers to Chinese: How do you say “yes” and “no”?

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

A Spanish couple

Learn about an elderly Spanish couple in this story, read aloud, with characters and Pinyin:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

Chinese pronouns

How well do you know your pronouns in Chinese? This chart and introduction from Dig Mandarin should help you to get started and/or serve as a useful reminder:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

The “knife” radical

Another list of characters containing the “knife” radical:

Top Chinese adjectives

YuTing from ChineseClass101 provides us with a video, demonstrating and pronouncing 25 common adjectives in Chinese:

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Where are you from?

What country are you from? That is a common question you’ll get when in China; with this list, you’ll (probably) be able to answer them:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Long-distance relationships

Seeing someone special? But they live far away? In this video, ChinesePod offers us the chance to learn how to talk about such relationships in Chinese:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Tiger-related idioms

Chengyu, Chinese idoms, are an important part of learning to speak and understand Chinese. Many include tigers. In this posting, we learn about several of the more common tiger-related Chengyu:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Numbers, from 11 – 100

Want to count from 11 to 100 in Chinese? It’s surprisingly easy, as indicated in this video from ChineseClass101:

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Translating nouns

Translating from Chinese to English isn’t always so straightforward; in this posting, we get some practice trying to perform such translations:

Twitter: @MandarinWManu

Famous Chinese dishes

Traveling to China? Or just want to eat authentic Chinese food? This list of famous dishes, including their characters, will help to set you straight:

Did learning Chinese change your life?

A discussion among people who are relatively fluent in Chinese, who tell us how knowing the language has affected their lives and careers:

Do Chinese children learn Pinyin?

Do Chinese children learn Pinyin, either before or while learning characters?

Do native speakers know their tones?

If you ask a native speaker to identify the tones, can they do it? Does this matter for non-native speakers who are learning Chinese?

How’s it going?

How can you ask someone how something is going? And when you do so, how which 的/得 is appropriate?

Li Li Li

What is the difference between the characters 裡, 裏 and 里? All are pronounced lǐ, but are the meanings or uses different?

Your opinion, please

What is the difference between 看法 and 想法? Both seem to mean “opinion,” but are they used in different ways?

I thought so

What is the difference between 认为 (rèn wéi) and 以为 (yǐ wéi)? Both seem to mean “I thought so,” but they aren’t quite the same:

Beautiful and ugly behavior?

You can use 美 and 丑 to indicate that something is beautiful or ugly. But does this work for behavior, or is it limited to appearances?


There are two ways to receive something in Chinese, and the distinction between 受 (shòu) and 收 (shōu) isn’t always obvious: