Monday, March 8, 2010

Asking Questions (3) - What


什么 (Shén Me) means what. It is a common term used to ask questions. This term is NOT to be used with the word 吗 (Ma) nor with the possitive-negative (A-Not-A) combination as it already posts the tone of a question mark by itself.

When using the term 什么 (Shén Me) in a sentence, the structure of the sentence should comply with the fundamental Chinese sentence structure: "Subject - Verb - Object".

Following are some examples:

= this (subject)
= is (be-verb)
什么 = what (object)
Zhè Shì Shén Me ?
What is this ?

? = that (subject)
= is (be-verb)
什么 = what (object)
Shì Shén Me ?
What is that ?

? = he (subject)
= read (verb)
什么= what
= book (object)

What book does he read ?

? = you (subject)
= want to (verb)
= eat (verb)
什么 = what (subject)

What do you want to eat ?

A "what" question may be replied with a full sentence. You may also provide a shorter answer with just the subject in question. Following are the replies to the above sample questions:

= this (subject)
= is (be-verb)
= pen (object)

Zhè Shì

This is pen .

= that (subject)
= is (be-verb)
桌子 = table (object)

Shì Zhuō Zi
That is table.

= he (subject)
= read (verb)
小说 = novel (object)

Xiăo Shuō.
He reads novel .

= I (subject)
= want to (verb)
= eat (verb)
水饺 = dumpling(s) (subject)

Xiăng Chī Shuí Jiăo .
I want to eat dumplings .

You might have noticed that we are not including the quantity of the objects in our sentences here. Although it is indeed more appropriate to include quanitity and proper units in a sentence, doing without them is sometimes acceptable.

Since the Chinese would use different terms of unit to address different objects, we will have to discuss more in detial of this topic in our next blog post.

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