This section is aimed at beginners, and describes the most common and simple cases

General principles

Sentences usually have the following structure:

Subject + Adverb + Verb + Complement

The Chinese language is genderless, and has no singular or plural, apart for the pronouns. Verbs don't have conjugation. Tenses are expressed by the addition of a verbal compound made of one or two characters. Context makes it possible to deduce the meaning. Accuracy is possible if absolutely necessary.

Personal pronouns

Hanzi Pinyin English
我们 Wǒmen We
你们 nǐmen You
他们/她们 tāmen/tāmen They (male)/They (female)


In Chinese, it is not possible to speak about an object with only an article, as in “a (tree)”, “the (girl)”, “the (books)”. It is necessary to add a classifier between the article and the object. The classifier specifies the category of the object (flat, recipient, long, human, animal…). It is mandatory but makes for an economy of words, since it already describes the object, in terms of quality, capacity, etc…

a cup of tea

a + classifier for cup + tea


Yī bēi chá

three books

three + qualifier for a book + book


Sān běn shū

two persons

two + classifier for persons + person

两 个人

Liǎng gè rén

Qualifiers are given for each HSK word, see the different sections in the HSK.


Hanzi Pinyin English
líng zero
二/两 èr/liǎng two (number)/two (quantity)
sān three
liù six
jiǔ nine
shí ten
bǎi a hundred
qiān a thousand
wàn ten thousands
亿 a hundred millions

Between 11 and 19, we say 10 followed by the number.

17 = 十七 (Shíqī)
   = 10 and 7

From 101 to 999, we say the first number (except if it's 1), then one hundred, then the second number, then ten, then the last number.

561 = 五百六十一 (Wǔbǎi liùshí yī)
    = 5, 100, 6, 10, 1, that is 5*100 + 6*10 + 1

From 1000 to 9999, we say the first number (except if it's one) followed by 1000, then the second number followed by 100, then the third number followed by 10, then the last number.

4561 = 四千五百六十一 (Sìqiān wǔbǎi liùshí yī)
     = 4, 1000, 5, 100, 6, 10, 1, that is 4*1000 + 5*100 + 6*10 + 1

Be mindful that afterwards, Chinese has a unit for multiples of 10000: 万 (wàn). This causes a lot of confusion when doing business.

34002 = 三万零二 (Sān wàn líng èr)

Note: zero is only used a single time when there are several in a number.


Hanzi Pinyin English
Hěn very
Hǎo good
非常 Fēicháng very, extremely
Tài very, too much

Question adverbs

Hanzi Pinyin English
Shuí who
什么 Shénme which (apart from choices)
什么时候 Shénme shíhou when
多少 Duōshǎo how many
多长时间 Duō cháng shíjiān how much time
多久 Duōjiǔ for how long
多大 Duōdà how much (age, surface)
how much
which (choice)
哪儿/哪里 Nǎ'er/nǎlǐ where
怎么 Zěnme how (with what means)
怎么样 Zěnme yàng how (way of doing)
为什么 Wèishéme why


Nǐ shénme shíhòu lái?

When do you arrive?


Hanzi Pinyin English
没(有) Méiyǒu not (past)

The negation mark goes between subject and verb.


Tā bùshì fàguó rén.

She is not French.


Wǒ méi qù.

I did not go there.


Action effectively done

V + 了

V + le


Wǒ mǎile sì běn shū.

I have bought four books.

Action not done

没(有)+ V

Méi (yǒu)+ V


Wǒ zuótiān méi qù fànguǎn.

I did not go to the restaurant yesterday.

Past experience, effectively done

V + 过


Wǒ qùguò zhōngguó.

I have been to China.

Past experience, not done

没(有)+ V + 过

méi (yǒu)+ V + guò


Tā méi qùguò zhōngguó. +

She did not go to China.


要 + V

yào +V


Tā yào qù fàndiàn. +

He wants to go to the restaurant.


"often" frequency

Hanzi Pinyin English
(常)常 (Cháng)cháng indep. from anybody (1 char if V monosyllable)
不常 Bù cháng not often
经常 Jīngcháng (classifier)
往往 Wǎngwǎng usually, if relation to sbdy


Hanzi Pinyin English
Hái again (continuity)
还是 Háishì again (judgement after evaluation)
Yòu once again (after discontinuity with the past)
Zài once again (in the future), a little more
没再 Méi zài non repetition in the past
不再 Bù zài non repetition in the future



Hanzi Pinyin English
打算 Dǎsuàn plan to do something
Kěn to accept to
Yào to want
Gǎn to dare
Xiǎng to intend to
愿意 Yuànyì to want

Ability, likelihood

Hanzi Pinyin English
Huì to know how to do something
可能 Kěnéng to be possible
能够 Nénggòu to be able to
可以 Kěyǐ to can
Néng to can


Hanzi Pinyin English
必须 Bìxū to have to
Yào to must
不想 Bùxiǎng not to wish
不用 Bùyòng it is pointless to
应该 Yīnggāi to must
Yīng to must
Gāi to must
应当 Yīngdāng to must
Děi to must