Money talks?

Louisa May Alcott, the author of “Little Women” once said, “Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes.” This sentiment is reflected in the following modern Chinese saying:

Āiqíng bùnéng dāng miànbāo.
Love cannot serve as bread.

(qián) is money. (yǒu) means “to have”. 有钱 (yǒuqián) means “to be rich”.

Tā yǒuqián.
He is rich.)

Yǒuqián rén zhù dà fángzi.
Rich people live in large houses.

Yǒuqián néng shǐ guǐ tuī mò.
If you’re rich, you could make the devil turn your millstones. (Money talks.)

Following is a way to ask for confirmation of a statement.

VI. c) Statement + “Yes or no?” or “Correct or not?” = Question

Tā yǒu hěn duō qián, shìbùshì?
He has a lot of money; yes or no?

你是美国人, 对不对?
Nĭ shì Měiguórén, duì bùduì?
You are an American, right or not?

Some people drop the last word from the above question format. For example:

你是中国人, 对不?
Nĭ shì Zhōngguórén, duì bù?
You are a Chinese, correct?

If someone is not rich, then you would say:

Tā méiyǒu qián.

没有 (méiyǒu not to have) is the negation of (yǒu). These two words also serve as auxiliary verbs to help form the past or perfect tense of other verbs. 没有 is oftened abbreviated as (méi).

Generally, to form the negation of an adjective or other verbs, you would add the word (bù no, not). For example:

他不高興. (Tā bù gāoxìng.) He is not pleased.
他不是. (Tā bùshì.) He is not.
他不喜欢. (Tā bù xǐhuān.) He does not like.
他不去. (Tā bù qù.) He won’t go.

Now, what does the following sentence mean?
他没有去. (Tā méiyǒu qù.)

It means: “He did not go.” Here, 没有 (méiyǒu have not) is used as an auxiliary verb to indicate that the action did not take place, or has not taken place.

Try and apply (bù no, not) and (méi have not) to the following action words, and make sure you fully understand the difference between these two terms.

(zǒu go, walk), 回家 (huíjiā go home), (zuò do), 打球 (dǎqiú hit/play ball), (gǎi change).

We are now ready to talk about another method you could use for forming a question.

VI. d) Add negation to a verb or an adjective to change a statement into a question.

The Chinese convey the uncertainty expressed through the use of “whether or not” by pairing the verb or adjective with its negation. For example,

Tā yǒu méiyǒu qián?
Is he rich?

Nĭ shì bù shì Měiguórénì?
Are you an American?

Tā gāoxìng bù gāoxìng?
Is he pleased?

You may add the interrogative particle (ne) at the end of this type of questions. Also, in such a question format, the first occurrence of a polysyllable word will often be represented by just the first character in the word. For example:

Tā gāo bù gāoxìng?
Is he pleased?

Tā zhī bù zhīdào ne?
Does he know?

If an auxiliary verb is used, then the negation is applied to the auxiliary verb rather than the main verb. For example:

Tā huìbùhuì shēngqì?
Will he get angry?

Nĭ yào bù yào dǎqiú?
Would you like to play ball?

Tā yǒu méiyǒu qù?
Did he go?

Yǒu méiyǒu xiàyǔ?
Did it rain?

Questions in the perfect tense can also be phrased as follows. In this case, do not add any interrogative particle at the end.

Tā qù le mé?
Has he gone?

Xiàyǔ le méi?
Has it begun to rain?

Have you filed your tax returns?

While “Sentence Pattern I” we talked about last week takes a little getting used to, the following sentence pattern is more intuitive to an English-speaking person because it shows the “be” verb explicitly. You can use it to assign a characterization to someone or something.

III. Noun + (shì) + Adjective ending in (de)

Zhè chāopiào shì jiǎ de.
This paper bill is forged (counterfeit).

Tā de tóufa shì hēisè de.
Her hair is black colored.

Nà bùshì zhēn de.
That isn’t true. (or) That isn’t real.

(bù) means “no” or “not”. You can put it in front of any verb to negate the indicated status or action.
Please note that 不是 (bùshì) is pronounced “bú shì”. In fact, whenever (bù) is followed by a 4th-tone character, it will take on the 2nd tone; and it sounds much better that way.

The following sentence pattern also works the same in English and Chinese.

IV. Noun (subject) + Trasitive Verb + Noun (object)
The action word in this sentence structure is called a transitive verb because it takes an object. For example:

(yǒu) is the verb “to have” or “to possess”.
没有 (méiyǒu) means “not tohave” or “to be without”.

Tā yǒu yī zhī xiǎo gǒu.
He has a puppy (small dog).

Tā yǒu hěn duō péngyǒu
He has many friends.

Wǒ méiyǒu jiākè.
I don’t have a jacket.

In the above sentences, the puppy, the friends and the jacket are the objects of the verb “to have” or “not to have”. When referring to an animal, we use 一只
(yī zhī) instead of 一个 (yī gè).

Now, click on the following link to listen to the first of the three songs sung by four talented little girls. Clay Dolls
This song provides a good review of the Sentence Patterns II and IV that we have discussed in this and the previous lesson. I hope it will also inspire you to learn the new words listed below:

(ní) means mud, clay or plaster.
娃娃 (wáwa) means a baby or a doll. Therefore, 泥娃娃 (Ní wáwa) is a clay doll.
眉毛 (méimao) are the eyebrows. 眼睛 (yǎnjīng) are the eyes.
不会 (bùhuì) means “unable to”, “not capable of”, or “not likely”.
(zhǎ) means to blink or wink.
鼻子 (bízi) is the nose. 嘴巴 (zuǐba) is the mouth.
说话 (shuōhuà) means to blink or wink.
(zhēn) means real or true, and (jiǎ) means phony or untrue.
(ài) means to love. 亲爱的
(qīnàide) means “dear”.
(zuò) means to do something, or to act as someone.
永远 (yǒngyuǎn) means forever.

To bring you down to earth, here’s a friendly reminder to file your U.S. tax returns by next Monday (April 18, 2011):

Nĭ bàoshuì le méi?
Have you already reported your taxes?

(bào) means to report or to announce. It is also used to refer to a report,
报告 (bàogào), or a newspaper, 报纸 (bàozhǐ).
(shuì) is the word for taxes or duties.
(le) is an auxiliary word that indicates the completion of an action.

He happy?

“A woman wife is my sharp.”

I see you scratching your head. You know every word in this sentence, but this line simply doesn’t make sense – until you unscramble it to read: “My wife is a sharp woman.” This goes to show that, to make a meaningful statement, it’s quite important to put the words in the proper order. Shooting out the words any which way just won’t cut it.

Over the ages, each population sharing the same language has arrived at a concensus about what “sounds right”. When you are learning a new language, it is natural to want to apply the language rules with which you are familiar. This is why pidgin English was prevalent among the coolies who came over from China in the 19th century and early 20th century to earn a living. To make the statement: “He is happy.”, someone might say:

Tā kuàilè.

Therefore, to put it in English, he would say, “He happy.” This sounds perfectly all right to the Chinese ear.

In a similar way, if you simply superimpose English grammar onto Chinese words, your statements may become jumbled and difficult to understand. I think this is a good time to caution you against trying to translate your English statements into Chinese verbatim. Instead, please focus on the meaning you wish to get across and put the relevant Chinese words and phrases into the proper Chinese sentence patterns.

Fortunately, human minds work more or less alike, and you will be pleasantly surprised that many sentence patterns are similar in English and Chinese. Last week we learned two simple sentence patterns. To make them more concise, we will employ the names of the parts of speech, such as nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc. You know that the name of anyone or anything you can see or feel or think about or talk about is considered a noun. We will let the term “Noun” also represent noun phrases such as “my beautiful wife”. A word or phrase that describes a noun is an adjective. A word or phrase that modifies an adjective or a verb is an adverb. I will rewrite the first two sentence patterns as follows:

I. Noun + Adjective

Tā de yǎnjing dà.
Her eyes are large.

Please note that the “be” verb is omitted in this Chinese sentence pattern, which is commonly used when one wishes to express one’s feeling or opinion about someone or something.

If her eyes are large and bright, you would say:

Tā de yǎnjing dà yòu liàng.
Her eyes are large and also bright.

(yòu) means “also” or “again”. It may be used singly or in a pair, such as in: 又大又亮 (yòu dà yòu liàng large and bright as well).

Listen to the song “Lift Your Veil” by clicking on the link below, and see if you can pick out the sentences that follow the above sentence pattern. This song is fully annotated in “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” to illustrate the use of adjectives.

Lift Your Veil (video)


You may insert an adverb to qualify the description. For example, (hěn) means “very”, and (tài) means “exceedingly”.

Fēngniǎo hěn kěài.
Hummingbirds are very lovely (cute).

Wǒ de nǚyǒu hěn piàoliàng.
My girlfriend is very pretty.

Tā tài xiǎoqì le!
He is too stingy!

II. Noun + (shì) + Noun

Tā shì xiàozhǎng.
He is the school principal.

Wǒ xiānsheng shì yī wèi lǎoshī.
My husband is a teacher.

Wǒ tàitai shì gè línglì de nǚrén.
My wife is a quick-witted woman.

This sentence pattern works the same in English as in Chinese. The noun phrases may contain optional adjectives. To show respect to teachers, we use 一位 (yī wèi) instead of 一个 (yī gè)

How would you describe yourself? Also find some nice words to describe your family and your friends. As for the people you don’t like, there are plenty of appropriate words in your dictionary for them as well.

What’s your IQ?

April Fools’ Day is called 愚人节 (yúrén jié). (jié) stands for a holiday or a festival. 愚人 (yúrén) is the abbreviation of 愚笨的人 (yúbèn de rén), which means a foolish person, or a fool.

愚蠢 (yúchǔn), 愚笨 (yúbèn) and (bèn) all mean stupid or foolish.
(dāi) means dim-witted or wooden-headed.
(shǎ) means stupid or muddle-headed.

Therefore, there are a few additional ways of saying “a fool”.

傻子 (shǎzi) A foolish person.
呆子 (dāizi) A dim-witted person.
傻瓜 (shǎguā) A foolish melon.
笨瓜 (bènguā) A stupid melon.
呆瓜 (dāiguā) A dim-witted melon (a wooden head).
笨蛋 (bèndàn) A stupid egg.

You can tell from the above examples that the Chinese don’t hold melons and eggs in high esteem. While a parent may say “小傻瓜 (xiǎo shǎguā little fool)”, to his or her own child in an endearing way, please don’t call anyone a melon or, worse, an egg.

Of course, all of us want to be regarded as being intelligent and smart.

聪明 (cōngmíng) means intelligent or sharp.
伶俐 (línglì) means clever or quick-witted
头脑好 (tóunǎo hǎo) means to have (good) brains.
脑筋好 (nǎojīn hǎo) means to have a good mind.
有智慧 (yǒu zhìhuì) means to possess wisdom.

Correspondingly, you may refer to a bright person as follows:

聪明的人 (cōngmíng de rén) An intelligent person.
伶俐的人 (línglì de rén) A clever or quick-witted person.
头脑好的人 (tóunǎo hǎo de rén) A smart person.
脑筋好的人 (nǎojīn hǎo de rén) An intelligent person.
有智慧的人 (yǒu zhìhuì de rén) A wise person.
智者 (zhì zhě) A sage. The word is a formal word used to refer to a person.

The Chinese word for IQ, the Intelligence Quotient, is 智商 (zhìshāng). I believe that, whatever IQ you start with, the process of learning a new skill, such as a foreign language, will add a few points to your malleable intelligence and education quotient.

Now let’s fit some of the above words into a couple simple sentence patterns.

I. Someone or something + a description

Tā cōngmíng.
He is intelligent.
Wǒ de xiǎohái nǎojīn hǎo.
My child is bright.

II. Someone or something + be + optional description + someone or something

Shéi shì nĭ de xīn shàng rén?
Who’s your sweetheart?

Tā shì yī gè fùqin.
He is a father.
Tā shì yī gè yǒu zhìhuì de rén.
He is a wise person

Nĭ shì yī gè cōngmíng de rén.
You are a smart person.

Pòhuài huánjìng shì yúchǔn de xíngwéi.
Damaging the environment is a foolish action.

破坏 Pòhuàimeans to damage or to destroy.
环境 (huánjìng) is the environment.
行为 (xíngwéi) means action or behavior.

Often, 一个 (yī gè) is shorted to (gè), as in:
Nĭ shì gè cōngmíng de rén.
You are a smart person.

As an exercise, please make a sentence that says, “He is happy.” Also make a sentence that says, “My wife is a quick-witted woman.”

While it’s not so easy to write or input the Chinese words, you could make sentences by looking for the needed Chinese characters in my current and previous posts then copying and pasting them into Windows Notepad. Use the Save As function to save the text file in the UTF-8 format so the Chinese characters will display properly when you open the file later.

By the way, if you’re inclined to play an April Fools’ joke on someone, be sure to say this afterwards:
Wǒ zhǐshì kāi ge wánxiào de.
I’m only joking.

Hopefully, you will get this gracious response:
No problem. (That’s all right.)

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