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Two friends are talking, Lǐis asking Chénabout his family

Name Pinyin Chinese English 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

Pinyin Chinese English Notes
zuò to do (work) verb
gōngzuò 工作 job noun
gōngsī 公司 company/business noun
jīnglǐ 经理 high level manager noun
zhúguǎn 主管 first level manager noun
gōngchéngshī 工程师 engineer noun
dàxué 大学 university noun
lìshǐ 历史 history noun
zhǎo seek verb
zhèngzài 正在 currently adverb
liánxiǎng 联想 Lenovo The Chinese company that bought IBM
diànnǎo 电脑 computer noun

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.