Lesson 1 comments

1. 的 de

This is a character that, when placed after a noun (in this case 我, "I"), makes it possessive. So, "I" becomes "my."

2. 这是客厅。 Zhè shì kètīng.

This sentence literally means: "This is living room." Chinese does not have a specific word for "the."

3. 有椅子。 Yǒu yǐzi.

This sentence literally means: "There is chair." "A" can be rendered in Chinese by saying "one." However, Chinese does not require the use of "a" in front of a noun.

4. 我们在这里吃饭。 Wǒmen zài zhèlǐ chīfàn.

This sentence literally means: "We (at) here eat." In Chinese, prepositional phrases that describe position usually go at or near the front of the sentence.

5. 它很乱。 Tā hěn luàn.

This sentence literally means: "It very messy." In Chinese, it is not necessary to use the verb "to be" (是 shì) in a sentence that links a noun and an adjective. 很 hěn means "very" and is often used in this kind of sentence.

6. 这是一只猫。 Zhè shì yī zhī māo.

This sentence literally means: "This is one cat." The character "只" is what is called in Chinese a "measure word." Measure words appear between numbers or words like "few" and the nouns they modify. One can either use the all-purpose measure word “个” (gè) or a measure word suitable to the noun being modified. A particular measure word is applied to a given noun based on the shape or characteristics of the noun. For example, things that are square and flat (like paper or a table) generally use the measure word 张 (zhāng). Some animals use the measure word "只" (zhī). Measure words function similarly to such words in English as "head" (of cattle), or "piece" (of pie), but they are used much more often in Chinese. In English, we would just say "five tables"--with no need for a measure word.

7. 电脑 diànnǎo (computer)

Like English, Chinese is very good at creating new words. In English, we often create new words by combining existing words. For example, "airport" combined two existing words. The word for "computer" in Chinese combines the words for "electricy" (电 diàn) and "brain" (脑 nǎo). So, a computer is an "electric brain." Pretty clever.

8. 花 huā (flower)

In this lesson, I pronounce "huā" as "huār"--with a final "r" sound. This is because I lived in Beijing. One of the peculiarities of the Beijing accent is the "儿音" (éryīn) or "r" sound at the end of many words. The "r" sound can't be added to the end of names for important, lofty or grandiose things, people or places, though. Even though we might say "ménr" (pronounced "mér") for "gate," we wouldn't say "TIānānménr" (the famous "Gate of Heavenly Peace" or "Tiananmen"). It is too grand a thing on which to use the "r" sound.

9. 你们 nǐmen (you plural)

你 (nǐ) means "you" (singular); 们 (men) makes it plural. 们 can be added to other pronouns to make them plural. For example, 我 wǒ (I) + 们 men = 我们 wǒmen (we).

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