Adjectives and Adverbs

In the simple sentence patterns that we have learned so far, you’ve seen that a basic statement follows the form of “Noun + Verb”. To provide additional information about the “Noun”, you could add one or more words or phrases to describe it. Such words or phrases are adjectives. Similarly, adverbs are words or phrases that you could add to describe the action represented by the “Verb”. This basic concept is the same in the English and Chinese languages. However, in some cases there are differences in where the adjectives or adverbs are placed in a sentence. Many beginners and intermediate-level students stumble over the proper placement of adverbial phrases in a sentence. If you have a copy of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”, please pay special attention to the usage notes and examples for adverbs and adverbial phrases in Chapters 17 and 18.

The usage of adjectives in Chinese mostly parallels that in English. When the adjective is placed before the noun, it usually takes on the suffix (de). For example:

他是个聪明的人 .
Tā shì gè cōngmíng de rén.
He is an intelligent man.

When the adjective is linked to the noun by an implied “be” verb, (shì), then (de) is usally omitted.

这花很香.
Zhè huā hěn xiāng.
This flower is very fragrant.

今晚月亮很亮.
Jīnwǎn yuèliang hěn liàng.
Tonight the moon is very bright.

A few months ago we learned how to ask questions that start with when, where and how. To answer those questions, you will employ adverbs or adverbial phrases.

Here are a few examples of adverbs that indicate the time an action takes place: 每天 (měitiān every day), 早上 (zǎoshàng morning), 今年 (jīnnián this year), 已经 (ǐjīng already), and 依旧 (ījiù still, as of old) Such an adverb is never placed after the verb it modifies. On the other hand, adverbial phrases, such as 到如今 (dào rújīn even today) could be placed at the beginning or at the end of a sentence.

Therefore, do not say:

她三十岁了今年.
Tā sān shí suì le jīnnián.
She is thirty years old this year.

Here also, the “be” verb (shì) is implied.

Do say:

她今年三十岁了.
Tā jīnnián sān shí suì le.
She is thirty years old this year.

她已经三十岁了.
Tā ǐjīng sān shí suì le.
She is already thirty years old.

我到如今依旧思念他.
Wǒ dào rújīn ījiù sīniàn tā.
I, even now, still miss him.

到如今,我依旧思念他.
Dào rújīn, wǒ ījiù sīniàn tā.
Even today, I still miss him.

他每天工作到五点.
Tā měitiān gōngzuò dào wǔ diǎn.
Each day he works until five o’clock.

Questions about where an action occurs are answered by using such words and phrases as: 这里 (zhelǐ here), 那里 (nàlǐ there), 在饭厅里 (zài fàntīng lǐ in the dining room), etc..

我住在这里.
Wǒ zhù zài zhelǐ.
I live here.

不要把它放在那里.
Bùyào bǎ tā fàng zài nàli.
Don’t put it there.

他在饭厅里吃饭.
Tā zài fàntīng lǐ chīfàn.
He is having a meal in the dining room.

With English, you can readily change many adjectives to their corresponding adverbs by adding the suffix “ly”. For example, “quick” is an adjective, and the corresponding adverb is “quickly”. Similarly, many Chinese adjectives can also serve as adverbs that describe how an action is carried out. The following sentence uses 轻轻的 (qīngqīng de gentle, light) as an adjective describing the wind. This same term can also be used to describe how the wind blows (gently, lightly).

我感觉到一阵轻轻的风.
Wǒ gǎnjuédào yīzhèn qīngqīng de fēng.
I feel a waft of gentle breeze..

风轻轻地吹.
Fēng qīngqīng di (de) chuī.
The wind blows gently.

When the adverb is placed immediately before the verb it modifies, it usually takes on the suffix (di). Some pronounce as “de” when they use it as a suffix. Others simply use (de) for both adjectives and adverbs. It is also all right to omit the suffix from the adverb, as shown below.

她轻轻拍我一下.
Tā qīngqīng pāi wǒ yīxià.
She gently pats me once.
(She gives me a gentle pat.)

快来!
Kuài lái!
Come quicky!

这件事要小心去做.
Zhèi jiàn shì yào xiǎoxīn qù zuò.
This matter must be handled carfully.
(You must go about this carefully.)

他努力工作.
Tā nǔlì gōngzuò.
He works hard.

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