Sometimes just buying a pen can be an opportunity to practice Mandarin

Chinese English
Níhǎo ,nà zhī bǐ duōshao qián? 你好,那支笔多少钱? Hello. How much is that pen?
Bā kuài wǔ 。 。。。 nǐ de zhōngwén shuō de zhēn hǎo 。 八块五……,你的中文说得真好。 Eight fifty … You speak Chinese really well.
Nálǐ nálǐ。 哪里哪里。 Not really.
Nǐ lái zhōngguó duōcháng shíjiān le? 你来中国多长时间了? How long have you been in China?
Liǎng gè xīngqī le。 两个星期了。 Two weeks.
Zhème duǎn shíjiān! Nǐ xué zhōngwén duōcháng shíjiān le? 这么短时间! 你学中文多长时间了? Such a short time! How long have you studied Chinese?
Wǒ xué zhōngwén yì nián duō le。 我学中文一年多了。 I studied for more than one year.
Nǐ zài nálǐ xué de zhōngwén? 你在哪里学的中文? Where did you study Chinese?
Wǒ shì zài měiguó xué de。 我是在美国学的。 I studied in the US.
Tā men jiāo de hǎo ma? 他们教得好吗? Do they teach well?
Tā men jiāo de hén hǎo 。 他们教得很好。 They teach very well.
Gěi nín bǐ 。 Nín hái yào shénme ? 给您笔,您还要什么? Here is the pen. What else do you want?
Xièxie ,bú yào le! 谢谢,不要了! Thanks, I don’t want anything now!
Nín màn zǒu ,zài jiàn 。 您慢走,再见。 Take care, good bye


Pinyin Chinese English
cháng long Adjective, indicating length.
duǎn short Adjective, short in terms of length, like time or string, but not in terms of height.
duō many Adjective, when this word follows a quantity it indicates that the actual amount is greater than the stated quantity.
duō cháng 多长 how long Interrogative pronoun, asking for the length of something.
shí jiān 时间 duration Noun used in quantify periods of time.
zhème 这么 such, so Adverb used for emphasis.
le   Verb compliment, indicating completed action.
zhēn really Adverb, similar to hěn (很) but expressing surprise as well.
nálǐ ná 哪里哪里   Expression used to downplay a compliment. Normally is used between the people are not familiar. The literal translation is “where, where”.
de   Structural Particle, connecting a verb to its complement.
shì .. de 是 .. 的   Sentence pattern used when indicating the time manor or place of an action which happens in the past.
jiāo teach Verb, to teach
hái still Adverb indicating something is not yet complete
nín màn zǒu 您慢走   Expression used to see friend or customer off. Literal translation is: please go slowly.


Grammar Patterns

This lesson introduces several new grammar patterns.  Each of the descriptions below contains a link to The Grammar Wiki, an excellent resource for understanding Chinese grammar.

Using de (得) to express degree compliments

We already learned two forms of de, both of which are represented by the character (的).  One is used to indicate possession or close association, the other is to bind adjectives to nouns. For example …

  1. lǎoshī de shū (the teacher’s book)
  2. hóng sè de kǔzi (red pants)

The de we will learn here has a different character (得), but sounds the same.  This de (得) has many uses, but at this point we will focus on using it to express degree compliments.  A degree compliment is basically and adverbial phrase.

For example, in this lesson we find the sentence

  • Tā men jiāo de hǎo ma?

The pattern is: verb – “de” – adverb

verb adverb English
jiāo de hǎo teach well
chī de kuai eat fast

Here are some examples to illustrate the similarities and differences.

  • Use de (得) to connect a verb with its adverb.
    • Nǐ shuō de zhēn hǎo. (You speak really well.)
    • Wǒ chī de tai shǎo. (I eat too little.)
    • Tā men jiāo de hén hǎo. (They teach very well.)
  • Use de (的) to indicate association or bind an adjective.
    • de zhōngwén (your Chinese)
    • de xuéxiào
    • de lǎoshī

Using le (了) to indicate temporal aspect

We already learned about temporal aspects in lesson 15. Here are some points to illustrate slightly different usages of le.

  • Use le(了) to indicate completed action.
    • Nǐ lái zhōngguó le ma? (Did you come to China?) Note: “ma” always follows “le”
    • Wǒmen tīng lǎoshī shuō de huà le. (We listened to what the teacher said)
    • Wǒ zuótiān qù bàngōngshì le (I went to the office)
  • Use le(了) to indicate a change of state. (in this can
    • Wǒ bù yào le (I don’t want anymore)
    • Jīntiān xià yǔ le (today it is raining) Implies that yesterday it was not
    • Wó dǒng le (Now I understand.)
  • Use le(了) for as used with “tài”
    • tài hǎo le (that’s great)

Expressing duration of time

To express duration of time in a sentence, it is necessary to specify the amount of time after the verb.  In contrast, time-when always precedes the verb.

  • Place a time duration expression after the verb.
    • Wǒ xué yì gè xiǎoshí. (I study for one hour)
    • Wǒmen zuótiān tīng liǎng ge xiǎoshí le. (Yesterday we listened for two hours)
    • Wǒ lái zhōngguó yì nián le. (I have been in China for one year)
  • To express being in excess of an amount, place duo after the classifier and before noun.
    • Wǒ xué yì gè duo xiǎoshí. (I study for more than an hour)
    • Wǒmen zuótiān tīng liǎng ge duo xiǎoshí le. (This evening we will listen for more than two hours)
    • Wǒ lái zhōngguó yì nián duo le. (I have been in China for more than a year)

Expressing surprise

  • Use zhème or nàme to express surprise about the degree of something. These two words can be used interchangeably. 
    • Zhème duǎn shíjiān! (Such a short time!)
    • nàme hǎo. (Not that good.)
    • zhème lèi. (I am so tired.)

Emphasizing details about completed actions

In addition to le (了) completed action can also be expressed using the shìde construct. This construct is used when emphasizing specific details about an action. The details to be emphasized follow the shì while the de follows the verb or appears at the end of the sentence.

Take an example from this lesson is: shì zài měiguó xué de

detail verb
shì zài měiguó xué de

The shì may be omitted in the positive form: Nǐ zài měiguó xué de ma?

But not in the negative form: Wǒ bú shì zài měiguó xué de

Here are a few more examples.

subject (是) detail verb phrase
  zài nǎli xué de
shì zuótiān lái zhōngguó de


Additional Grammar Points

  • In a Chinese sentence some details may be omitted if they can be inferred by previous sentences. These examples are taken from the dialog in this lesson.
    • Liǎng gè xīngqī le. —> Wǒ lái zhōngguó liǎng gè xīngqī le
    • bú yào le. —> Wǒ bú yào le.
  • The adverb hái (like the English word “still”) expresses the persistence of a condition.
    • hái yào (still want)
    • hái zài (still at)
    • hái měiyou (still not yet)
    • hái xiǎng (still desire)
    • hái shì (still is)
  • Note: hái shì also means “or” as we learned in lesson 6. The choice of interpretation is usually clear from context..


Check this link for Sentence Practice 


Click on the player to hear the dialog. Be sure to scroll back up so you can view the pinyin while listening.

(to download right click here , select “save as”)

Voice recording courtesy of Jo Ding, Chinese Teacher in Shanghai