Is it raining cats and dogs?

“April, April, it makes what it will.” This German saying comes to mind when we receive a bit of rain, sunshine and hail all on the same day, and not necessarily in that order. While most people associate a good day with a sunny one, there are quite a few nice songs written about rainy weather, such as: “Listen to the Rhythem of the Falling Rain”, “Stormy Weather”, “Singing in the Rain”, etc.

Let’s listen to 雨中即景 (Yǔ Zhōng Jíjǐng The Rain Impromptu) composed by王梦麟 (Wáng Mènglín) and performed by刘文正 (Liú Wénzhèng).

(yǔ) is rain, which is aptly represented by the four drops of water in the character.
(zhōng) is the middle. As an adverb, it means amidst, among or on the dot. It is also used as a verb that means hitting smack on target.
(jí) means at present, approaching, immediately, or even if.
(jǐng) is a view or a scene.

The lyrics are fun but we will just look at the first two lines for now:

哗啦啦啦啦,下雨了.
Huālālālā xiàyǔ le.
Splish, splash, it’s raining.

看到大家都在跑.
Kàndào dàjiā dōu zài pǎo.
(I) see everyone running.

下雨 (xiàyǔ) means to rain. 哗啦 (huālā) mimicks the sound of pouring rain or rustling leaves. When singing a song, the word (le) is often pronounced as liǎo.

Suppose you want to tell someone in Chinese, “It’s raining.” You’d be tempted to say, “它下雨了. (Tā xiàyǔ le.) ” After all, (tā) means “it”. Beware. This simple statement will immediately give you away as a beginner even if your Mandarin pronounciation is perfect. The Chinese do not use “it” as a filler. The correct wording is:

下雨了.
Xiàyǔ le.

If it’s raining heavily, don’t talk about raining cats and dogs or pitch forks, simply say:

下大雨了.
Xià dà yǔ le.

Similarly, when you hear rolling thunder, you would say:

打雷了.
Dǎ léi le.

看到 (kàndào) means to see or to catch a glimpse of something.
大家 (dàjiā) means everybody or everyone.
(dōu) is an adverb that indicates the action is performed by mulitiple subjects.
(zài) has multiple meanings and uses. Here, it is added to the main verb to form the progressive tense.
(pǎo) is the verb “to run”.

Action words such as “rain”, “run”, “walk” and “stay” do not normally take an object. They are called intransitive verbs. This leads us to our next simple sentence pattern:

V. Noun + Intransitive Verb

小狗跑了.
Xiǎo gǒu pǎo le.
The puppy has run away.

大家都来了.
Dàjiā dōu lái le.
Everybody has come.

爸爸在睡觉.
Bàba zài shuìjiào.
Dad is sleeping.

Just as in English, the pronoun “you” is omitted from a statement issued in the imperative tone. Here are different ways to ask someone to sit down:

坐.
Zuò.
Sit. (Sit down.)

请坐.
Qǐng zuò.
Please, sit. (Sit down, please. Have a seat, please.)

请上坐.
Qǐng shàng zuò.
Please, sit on the high (VIP) seat.

Acutally, all you have to remember is: 请坐. (Qǐng zuò. Sit down, please.) The above three statements are often cited to ridicule those people who look down upon the poor and fawn on the rich and powerful. Please note that in the above sentences, the word 请. (qǐng) is placed in front of the verb. Do not say, “坐,请. (Zuò, qǐng )”, as you would in English.

This is a good time to review the five sentence patterns that have been presented so far. As you acquire new Chinese words, think about how you would fit them into one of these sentence structures. It is so much easier to remember a new word when you can associate it with a meaningful context.

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