Learning Chinese

Here are some notes I am making as I learn Chinese. A better title for this section would be “Hacking Chinese” as these notes serve as a reference document for rules and shortcuts for some of the difficult concepts in Mandarin. This could also be useful for people learning elementary Chinese or preparing for HSK exam. This page is updated regularly.

The Concept of Time

Days of the Week

Monday星期一xīng qī yī
Tuesday星期二xīng qī èr
Wednesday星期三xīng qī sān
Thursday星期四xīng qī sì
Friday星期五xīng qī wù
Saturday星期六xīng qī liù
Sunday星期日 / 星期天xīng qī rì or xīng qī tiān

Yesterday – 昨天 (zuó tiān)

Today – 今天 (jīn tiān)

Tomorrow – 明天 (míng tiān)

Note: Time words can be used before or after the subject, but never at the end of a sentence.

Location, Who, Time and then the Action.


Hello! How are you? My name is Gagan. I am learning Mandarin for 1 month.


We both are friends.

For example,

  • “there are two people here” => here there are two people => (here) (there are) (two people) => zhe4 er yo3u lia3ng ge4 re2n => 这儿有是两个人。
  • “there are a lot of people in China” => (China) (there are) (a lot of) (people) => 中国有很多人

Common Phrases

  • 在吗?(za4i ma)- Are you there?
  • 你在做什么?(ni3 za4i zou shenme)- What are you doing?
  • 很帅 (he3n shua1i)- Awesome
  • 你是哪国人?(ni3 sh4 na3 guo1 re1n)- Which country are you from?

Note regarding location: Location is placed before the verb in Chinese. In English, it appears afterwards. For example, 我在美国上学 (Wǒ zài měiguó shàngxué), which means I went to school in America.

How do you talk about the present?

We use -ing to communicate something that is happening at present. For example, I am talking or I am eating.

In Chinese, we use 在 (zai) + verb.

I am talking – 我在说 (wo3 za4i shuo1)

I am looking – 我在看 (wo3 za4i ka4n)

Now (at present, right now) = 现在 (xia4n za4i)

I am at work right now – 我现在在工作

An expression using first and then: 。。先。。, 然后。。。。 (… first … , then …. )

You say it first, then I will speak: 你先说,然后我说

First turn right, then turn left: 先右拐,然后左拐 (Xiān yòu guǎi, ránhòu zuǒ guǎi)

Placement of dou (都) in a sentence.

We do not end a statement with dou (do1u). Therefore, when saying both of them (liang ge dou), dou should come right before the verb. Here is an example:

I like both (of them) – 我 + 两个都 + 喜欢 = 我两个都喜欢 (wo liang ge dou xihuan)

Difference between 工作 and 工做

(From Stackexchange)

In general, 工作 is an abstract word for work or a job. It could relate to your occupation or identity.

工做 is usually a verb – for example, carving a spoon out of a piece of wood, or creating a vase out of clay.

“做” is almost always a verb that has some real meanings. It is very close to English word “do” in its verb form and “make”. E.g. “Do your job!” = “做好你的工作!”, “do nothing”=”什么也不做”, “make love” = “做爱”, “make some cakes” = “做些蛋糕”, etc.

做:The verb ‘do’. 作:everything else.

This and That

In Mandarin, this is written as 这 (zhe4) and that as 那 (na4).

When referring to a thing or an object, we use 个 (ge). So this thing is 这个 and that thing is 那个.

When referring to a location, we use 儿 (er). Here is written as 这儿 and there is written as 那儿。

thing ( 个 )location ( 儿 )way (样)
(zhe4)这个 (this)这儿 (here)这样 (like this)
(na4)那个 (that)那儿 (there)那样 (like that)
(na3)哪个 (which)哪儿 (where)哪样 (in which way)

Note: 个 is a generic measure word. If we are using another measure word, then we avoid using 个. For example, 一天 (one day), 这天 (this day), 那句 (that sentence) (we do not say 一个天, 这个天, 句). In these cases, 天 and 句 are measure words on their own.

会 vs 可以

会 (hui4) means “to be able to”.

可以 (ke3 yi3) means “allowed to”.

不 vs 没

不 is used to negate something in the present tense.

没 is used to negate something in the past tense.

没有 = I have not / I haven’t / I do not have

再 vs 又

Both 再 (za4i) and 又 (yo4u) mean again.

再 is used in present tense.

又 usually means “Oh, It happened again!” – so used in past tense.

For example, 你又说了- you said it again.

都 vs 全部

Never put 都 (do1u) at the end of a sentence – always put 都 before the verb.

全部 (qua2nbu4) could be used flexibly.

I want it all – 我都要

I want it all – 我要全部 (this is common usage)

Another common expression is 全部都, which also means all of it. So we can say 我全部都要.

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