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Two friends are talking, Lǐis asking Chénabout his family

NamePinyinChineseEnglish equivalent
Nǐ gēge zuò shénme gōngzuò?你哥哥做什么工作?What kind of job does your big brother do?
Tā zài liánxiǎng diànnǎo gōngsī gōngzuò. Tā shì gōngchéngshī.他在联想电脑公司工作,他是工程师。He works at Lenovo computers. He is an engineer.
Tīngshuō nǐ bàba yě zài liánxiǎng gōngzuò. Tā shì jīnglǐ ma?听说你爸爸也在联想工作,他是经理吗?I heard that your father works there too. Is he the general manager?
Bú shì. Tā shì gōngchéng zhúguǎn.不是。他是工程主管。No, he is an engineering manager.
Nǐ mèimei ne? Tā háizài shàng dàxué ma?你妹妹呢?她还在上大学吗?What about your sister? Is she still at the university?
Bù, tā bìyè le.不,她毕业了。No, she graduated.
Tā xué de shénme zhuānyè?她学的什么专业?What was her major?
Tā de zhuānyè shì lìshǐ.她的专业是历史。Her major was history.
Tā xiànzài zuò shénme?她现在做什么?What does she do now?
Tā zhèngzài zhǎo gōngzuò.她正在找工作。She is looking for work.

Vocabulary

PinyinChineseEnglishNotes
zuòto do (work)verb
gōngzuò工作jobnoun
gōngsī公司company/businessnoun
jīnglǐ经理high level managernoun
zhúguǎn主管first level managernoun
gōngchéngshī工程师engineernoun
dàxué大学universitynoun
lìshǐ历史historynoun
zhǎoseekverb
zhèngzài正在currentlyadverb
liánxiǎng联想LenovoThe Chinese company that bought IBM
diànnǎo电脑computernoun

Grammar Patterns

Working and doing

In an earlier lesson we learned that “gàn” means to do, and here we learn that “zuò” also means “to do”. The main differences are that “gàn” is more informal and that “zuò” is more often about doing work. The expressions “Nǐ gàn shénme?” and, “Nǐ zuò shénme?” have the same meaning, except that “gan” carries a more informal and relaxed tone.


“Gōngzuò” can be your official job or just work in general. Take this exchange for example

  • “Nǐ gàn shénme?” (What are you doing?)
  • “Wo zuò gōngzuò” (I am working.)



The person working, could be at the office or doing house work. Both are possible interpretations.

On-going action

The words “zhèngzài” and “zài” both express the aspect of on-going activity. The difference is that “zài” is more about right now, while “zhèngzài” expresses a longer duration.

  • “Nǐ zài gàn shénme?” is asking: what are you doing right now.
  • “Wǒ zài xué zhōngwén.” means: I am studying Chinese at this moment.
  • “Wǒ zhèngzài xué zhōngwén.” means: I am studying Chinese these days.