Lesson 3, Topic 3
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Grammar

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Asking questions in Chinese

Essential in any conversation is the ability to ask and answer questions! Let’s discuss two common methods for forming questions in Chinese using grammatical particles 吗 (ma) and 呢 (ne).

Asking questions with 吗 (ma)

To form a question in Chinese, simply add the grammatical particle (“ma”) at the end of a phrase. You do not need to change the word order in the sentence, unlike English and many other European languages! Although we do not have a direct translation of 吗 in English, it can be roughly said to translate as “…right?” – although it has a less assuming tone.

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You might notice that this example we actually encountered earlier – it is used as a greeting to mean “How are you?”. However, the word-by-word translation could be written as “You good, right?” or “Are you good?” (both of which sound a little awkward in English).

Asking questions with 呢 (ne)

After responding to someone’s question, you can bounce it back to them using the reciprocal question word (“ne”). This can be roughly translated as “How about…” or “What about…“.

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Here, you can see that the grammatical particle 呢 is added after the subject 你 (you) to make the phrase 你呢?(how about you?).