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 的 (de). For example:
Tā shì gè cōngmíng de rén.
He is an intelligent man.
When the adjective is linked to the noun by an implied “be” verb, 是 (shì), then 的 (de) is usally omitted.
Zhè huā hěn xiāng.
This flower is very fragrant.
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:
Tā sān shí suì le jīnnián.
She is thirty years old this year.
Here also, the “be” verb 是 (shì) is implied.
Tā jīnnián sān shí suì le.
She is thirty years old this year.
Tā ǐjīng sān shí suì le.
She is already thirty years old.
Wǒ dào rújīn ījiù sīniàn tā.
I, even now, still miss him.
Dào rújīn, wǒ ījiù sīniàn tā.
Even today, I still miss him.
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..
Wǒ zhù zài zhelǐ.
I live here.
Bùyào bǎ tā fàng zài nàli.
Don’t put it there.
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).
Wǒ gǎnjuédào yīzhèn qīngqīng de fēng.
I feel a waft of gentle breeze..
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 地 (di). Some pronounce 地 as “de” when they use it as a suffix. Others simply use 的 (de) for both adjectives and adverbs. It is also all right to omit the suffix from the adverb, as shown below.
Tā qīngqīng pāi wǒ yīxià.
She gently pats me once.
(She gives me a gentle pat.)
Zhèi jiàn shì yào xiǎoxīn qù zuò.
This matter must be handled carfully.
(You must go about this carefully.)
Tā nǔlì gōngzuò.
He works hard.