Ms Wáng () and Ms Lǐ () are arranging a lunch meeting over the phone.

Níhǎo,nǐ máng ma?你好,你忙吗?Hi, are you busy?
Bù máng, nǐ ne?不忙,你呢?Not at all. And you?
Wó yě bù máng. Wǒmen qù chī fàn ba.我也不忙,我们去吃饭吧。I’m also not busy. Let’s go eat.
Hǎo. Qù nálǐ?好,去哪里?Okay. Where to?
Wǒ zài bàngōngshì. Nǐ kéyǐ lái zhèlǐ ma?我在办公室,你可以来这里吗?I am at the office. Can you come here?
Wǒ zài xuéxiào. Qù shāngdiàn jiàn, hǎo bù hǎo?我在学校,去商店见,好不好?I am at school. Can we meet at the store?
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Pinyin Chinese English
ná 哪里 where Interrogative pronoun used to ask about location.
nàlǐ 那里 there Pronoun, located away from the speaker. Compare to zhèlǐ (here)
go Verb indicating motion in the direction away from the speaker.
lái come Verb indicating motion in the direction towards the speaker.
zài at Verb, meaning “located at”
ba   Particle, turns the sentence into a suggestion.
xuéxiào 学校 school Noun, any type school
bàngōngshì 办公室 office Noun, any type office
shāngdiàn 商店 store Noun, any type of store
fàndiàn 饭店 restaurant Noun, any type of restaurant
duì correct Adjective, indicating the state or condtion of being correct.
jiàn meet Verb, to meet someone casually
ké 可以 can Modal verb, indicates permission or ability


Pinyin and Pronunciation

  b p m d t n l j q x  
i yi bi pi mi di ti ni li ji qi xi
ia ya             lia jia qia xia
ie ye bie pie mie die tie nie lie jie qie xie
iao yao biao piao miao diao tiao niao liao jiao qiao xiao
iou you     miu diu   niu liu jiu qiu xiu

This group is a subset of the “i” medials (the ones with the “i” sound in the middle). Except for the first column and the first row, each word from this set consists of three parts. For example “bie” is composed of:

  • initial: “b”
  • medial: “i”
  • final: “e”

These words almost sound like they have two syllables “bie” = bee-eh, but the two syllables merge into a single sound.

Please note the last row. The combination of “iou” is an example of an inconsistency in the pinyin “spelling” system.

  • In the first column, “you”, the “y” simply replaces the “i” in “iou”. But in the others, the “o” has been dropped, leaving “iu”.
  • Unfortunately, by dropping the “o”, an important visual clue for pronunciation is lost.
  • Due to regional dialects, “iu” is pronounced differently in different parts of China. In particular, “liu” is sometimes pronounce lee-ew, even though the standard pronunciation is lee-oh.

Listening Practice

  Circle the one you hear   Add the correct tone marks
1 bie – bei, die – dei, yi – ye, yao – you,   xuexiao, bangongshi, shangdian,
2 yi – ya, ji – jia, bi – bie, qi – qia,   nali, zheli, nali,
3 niao – niu, liao – liu, jiao – jiu, jiao – qiao,   bi, mian tiao, pi jiu
4 xia – xie, qi – qie, qia – qiao, tie – tiao,   qu, lai, zai, dui, keyi, qing wen


Grammar patterns

Verb-not-verb pattern

The verb-not-verb pattern is used to ask a question. If a verb-not-verb pattern appears in a sentence, there will be no “ma” at the end of the sentence. There are a number of variations on this pattern, involving adjectives, modal verbs and action verbs.

verb type subject verb-not-verb object alternate verbs
adjective tāmen máng bù máng   lèi bú lèi, hǎo bù hǎo
action verb lǎoshī qù bú qù xuéxiào lái bù lái, zài bú zài
modal verb Wáng xiānsheng yào bú yào hē jiǔ xiǎng bù xiǎng

Note that when using the verb-not-verb pattern with yǒu, you must use méi.

  • yǒu méi yǒu dìdi?

It is also used with duì and hǎo when seeking confirmation on a statement

statement verb-not-verb
shū zài zhèli duì bú duì
wǒmen qù shāngdiàn hǎo bù hǎo

Multi-verb Sentences

A Chinese sentence may have more than one verb phrase and no connecting word is required. However, any verb phrase indicating time, manner or location should come before an action phrase. Here are some examples.

Subject Modal verb Location phrase Action phrase (Question)
Nǐmen xiǎng lái wǒ jiā jiàn péngyou ma?
Wǒmen yào qù fàndiàn chī fàn hǎo bù hǎo?
Tāmen bù ké zài bàngōngshì hē píjiǔ.  


Multi-verb sentences have the form: [subject][modal verb][action phrase]

  • [subject] can be a pronoun, type of person, or name
  • [modal verb] can be xiǎng, yào, or kěyǐ
  • can use qù, lái, or zài
  • [action phrase] can use jiàn, chī, or hē

Using vocabulary from this lesson, write 3 mult-verb sentences using “ba” to indicate a suggestion, 3 in the form of a question using “ma” and, finally, 3 in the form of a question using verb-not-verb. Please bring your sentences to the next class and share.


Check this link for Sentence Practice 


Click on the player to hear the dialog.

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