Learning Mandarin: Will not Will ??

Awesome image by Roberto Nickson

One aspect of Chinese that I love is how direct much of the language is. There is a particular pattern when this is really apparent.

We might say "Will you go or not?".  The Chinese pattern is:

你会不会去?(Nǐ huì bù huì qù?) (bù) is basically "not".

This is literally "you will not will go ?"

It's a pattern that I should be using far more often than I do, but it doesn't come as naturally to me.

有没有?(Yǒu méiyǒu?)

This means "do you have it?" but literally translated is "have not have?". (méi) is also pretty much "not" in this case.

"Is it or isn't it?" or perhaps even just "is it?" becomes:

是不是?(Shì bùshì?)

Again, this literally translates comes to "is not is?"

And sentences that are formed like this don't then need to end with a questioning word. This is where I still go wrong often. I sometimes write this like:

它是我只狗吗?(Tā shì wǒ zhǐ gǒu ma?)

Literally, this is "it is my dog" followed by the particle (ma) which tends to make a sentence into a question.

Instead, I should be writing the cleaner:

是不是我只狗?(Shì bùshì wǒ zhǐ gǒu?)

As a note, in that sentence (zhǐ ) is a measure word for dogs.

Lastly, Chinese has other question particles but (ma) is the most common. It's similar in importance and usage to (ka) in Japanese.

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

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