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Interrogative Sentence in Chinese 

 January 20, 2020

By  Vicky Yi

Asking questions is necessary for any language study, and Chinese is no exception. This article will introduce some particles and structures that are commonly used to help you correctly learn how to ask questions in Chinese.

There are several forms of interrogative sentences in Chinese, let us learn them one by one.

General interrogative sentence

This is a case where a question is simply made by adding a question particle, such as “吗” or “呢” at the end of a statement sentence. 

Here are some examples:

Header

statement sentence

interrogative sentence

Chinese Characters

他是老师。

他是老师吗?

Chinese Pinyin

Tā shì lǎo shī

Tā shì lǎo shī ma?

Meanings

He is a teacher

Is he a teacher?

Chinese Characters

今天是星期一。

今天是星期一吗?

Chinese Pinyin

Jīn tiān shì xīng qī yī

Jīn tiān shì xīng qī yī ma?

Meanings

Today is Monday

Is it Monday today?

Chinese Characters

我在做…

你在做什么呢?

Chinese Pinyin

Wǒ zài zuò …

Nǐ zài zuò shén me ne?

Meanings

I am doing…

What are you doing?

Interrogative sentences that use specific interrogative words

Specific interrogation includes an interrogative pronoun such as:

who -谁(shuí)
what-什么(shén me)
where-哪儿( nǎ'er)
how -怎么样(zěn me yang)

The commonly used modal particles in the end of the sentence is 呢 or 啊. The reply should be the exact answer of the question.

Interrogative object

Interrogative pronoun

Meanings

Examples

Chinese Pinyin

Meaning of the sentences

person

Who

他是

tā shì shuí?

Who is him?

time

什么时候

When

什么时候来中国的?

shén me shí hou lái zhōng guó de?

When did you come to China?

何时

何时考虑过我?

hé shí kǎo lǜ guò wǒ?

When did you consider me?

object

什么

What

你想吃什么?

nǐ xiǎng chī shén me?

What do you want to eat?

Which

你想吃一个?

nǐ xiǎng chī yī gè?

Which one do you want to eat?

place

哪里

Where

哪里能买到汉语词典?

nǎ lǐ néng mǎi dào hàn yǔ cí diǎn?

Where can I buy a Chinese dictionary?

哪儿

你家乡在哪儿

nǐ jiā xiāng zài nǎ'er?

Where is your hometown?

什么地方

这是什么地方

zhè shì shén me dì fang

Where is this?

quantity/

number

多少

How much/How many

这件衣服多少钱?

zhè jiàn yī fu duō shǎo qián?

How much is this shirt?

现在点了?

Xiàn zài diǎn le?

What time is it now?

你要个苹果?

Nǐ yào gè píng guǒ?

How many apples do you want?

method

怎么

How

这道题怎么做?

Zhè dào tí zěn me zuò?

How can I solve this question?

怎么样

How about

中国菜怎么样

Zhōng guó cài zěn me yàng

How about Chinese food?

reason

为什么

Why

为什么没来?

wèi shén me méi lái?

Why didn’t he come?

怎么

怎么不告诉我?

zěn me bù gào sù wǒ

Why don’t you tell me?

“A-不-A” construction

Another construction for a question is the “A-不-A” format, made up of both the affirmative and negative answer. “A” could be a verb or an adjective. The response should be one or the other. This construction is used to confirm something that people are not very sure about and the examples are as follows:

Chinese Characters

Chinese Pinyin

Meanings

是不是医生?

shì bú shì yī shēng?

Are you a doctor or not?

小明吃不吃香蕉?

Xiǎo míng chī bù chī xiāng jiāo?

Does Xiao Ming eat bananas or not?

妈妈看不看电视?

Mā ma kàn bú kàn diàn shì?

Does mom watch TV or not?

忙不忙

máng bù máng?

Are you busy or not?

“(是)…..还是…..” construction

“(是)… 还是… ”is used to form a question while giving people two or more choices, and the respondent needs to choose one. Sometimes the first “是” can be omitted.

Chinese Characters

Chinese Pinyin

Meanings

(是)喝茶还是咖啡?

(shì) hē chá hái shì hē kā fēi?

Do you drink tea or coffee?

你假期(是)去实习还是旅行?

Nǐ jià qī (shì) qù shí xí hái shì lǚ xíng?

Are you going to do internship or go sightseeing during the holiday?

美国人还是英国人?

shì mě guó rén hái shì yīng guó rén?

Is he American or British?

A Few Extras

  • Besides “吗” and “呢”, we can add “好” or “可以” ,to make “好吗” or “可以吗” at the end of sentence.
  • “好吗” and “可以吗” both can be used to ask suggestions from others , similar like“ What do you think…” or “shall (we/you) ” in English.
  • And “可以吗” is also used to ask for permission, similar like “Can I do…” in English.
  • Both “好” and “可以” can also be applied to “A -不- A” patterns, written as “好不好” or “可不可以”, used to request permission.
  • “好不好” can only be placed at the end of the sentence, “可不可以” can be placed in or at the end of the sentence.

Here are the examples.

Chinese Characters

Chinese Pinyin

Meanings

我们下个月一起去北京,好吗?

wǒ men xià gè yuè yī qǐ qù běi jīng, hǎo ma?

Shall we go to Beijing together next month?

我想借一下你的字典,可以吗?

Wǒ xiǎng jiè yī xià nǐ de zì diǎn, kě yǐ ma?

Can I borrow your dictionary?

我可不可以尝一尝?

Wǒ kě bù kě yǐ cháng yī cháng?

Can I taste it?

来我家玩吧,好不好?

lái wǒ jiā wán ba, hǎo bù hǎo?

Come to my house and play, shall you?

Mini – test

Try to turn the following sentences into a general interrogative sentence.

他在看书。

Click to reveal the correct answer

今天很冷。

Click to reveal the correct answer

大卫去年去了中国。

Click to reveal the correct answer

Try to translate these sentences into Chinese, and pay special attention to the interrogative pronoun.

Who are you?

Click to reveal the correct answer

When did he start to learn Chinese?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Which movie do you want to watch?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Where did you grow up?

Click to reveal the correct answer

How to make the cake?

Click to reveal the correct answer

How about taking a break?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Why do you want to learn Chinese?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Try to write the following sentences in Chinese.

Are you hungry or not?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Are you a student or not?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Does she want to go abroad or not?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Do you want to eat Chinese food or western food?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Is his mom a nurse or a teacher?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Do you like cat or dog?

Click to reveal the correct answer

Keep Practicing…

When you ask some questions, why not try to express them in Chinese? Whether you’ve struggled with Chinese interrogative sentences or found it pretty easy, practicing it in Chinese daily will help you get to grips with these expressions.So, the more you speak, the more perfect your Chinese will be! If you know any native Chinese-speakers, try and practice what you’ve learned with them.

Good luck and have fun!

Vicky Yi


Vicky Yi is a language enthusiast. She has some experience in teaching Chinese to foreigners. Previously a journalist in one of the most influential press media in China, she now devotes herself into experiencing various cultures and the beautiful world.

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