Lesson 9: Question Words for Asking Questions in Chinese

Office Space

One of the way to ask questions is by using the question words in Chinese.

 

Where do we place the question words in Chinese questions?

The question words are simply placed in the position where the ‘information’ is located. In other words, the word orders for both question and answer in Chinese are the same. All we need to do is only substituting the ‘information’ with the ‘question words’ without any further rearrangements.

 

Let’s see what is in the list of essential Chinese question words!

 

谁 (shéi) – Who

Structure:

Subject + 是 + 谁?

谁 + Verb Phrase ?

 

他是谁?

Tā shì shéi?

Who is he?

 

他是我的哥哥。

Tā shì wǒ dí gēgē.

He is my brother.

 

谁要回家?

Shéi yào huí jiā?

Who wants to go home?

 

我要回家。

Wǒ yào huí jiā.

I want to go home.

 

什么(shén me) – What

Structure: Subject + Verb + 什么 + Object ?

 

这是什么?

Zhè shì shén me?

What is this?

 

这是巧克力饼干。

Zhè shì qiǎokèlì bǐnggān.

This is a chocolate cookie.

 

那是什么店?

Nà shì shénme diàn?

What is that store?

 

那是花店。

Nà shì huā diàn.

That is a flower shop.

 

什么时候 (shén me shí hou) – When

Literally meaning: 什么 ‘what’ 时候 ‘time’ – what time

Structure: Subject + 什么時候 + Verb Phrase ?

 

你什么时候去雅加达?

Nǐ shénme shíhòu qù yǎjiādá?

When are you going to Jakarta?

 

我下周去雅加达。

Wǒ xià zhōu yào qù yǎjiādá.

I’m going to Jakarta next week.

 

李先生什么时候回中国?

Lǐ xiānshēng shénme shíhòu huí zhōngguó?

When will Mr. Li return to China?

 

李先生明天回中国。

Lǐ xiānshēng míngtiān huí zhōngguó.

Mr. Li will return to China tomorrow.

 

为什么 (wèi shén me) – Why

Literally meaning: 为 ‘for’ 什么 ‘what’ – for what, for what reason

为什么 (wèi shén me) is the only question words that has a special word order. Just like English, we use ‘because’ to answer a ‘why’ question. In Chinese, we use 因为 (yīn wèi) in the beginning of the sentence to express ‘because’.

Question Structure: Subject + 为什么 ?

Answer Structure: 因为+ Subject

 

你为什么昨天没上班?

Nǐ wèishéme zuótiān méi shàngbān?

Why didn’t you go to work yesterday?

 

因为我昨天生病了。

Yīnwèi wǒ zuótiān shēngbìngle.

Because I was sick yesterday.

 

妈妈为什么很高兴?

Māmā wèishéme hěn gāoxìng?

Why is mom happy?

 

因为她中了彩票。

Yīnwèi tā zhōngle cǎipiào.

Because she won the lottery.

 

哪里 (nǎ li) and 哪儿 (nǎ’er)  – Where

哪里 (nǎ li) and 哪儿 (nǎ’er) are translated as ‘where’. You will find more people using 哪里 (nǎ li) in Southern China, while 哪儿 (nǎ’er) is more used in Northern China.

Structure: Subject + Verb + 哪里or 哪儿?

你昨天去了哪里?

Nǐ zuótiān qùle nǎlǐ?

Where did you go yesterday?

 

我昨天去了动物园。

Wǒ zuótiān qùle dòngwùyuán.

I went to the zoo yesterday.

 

你住在哪儿?

Nǐ zhù zài nǎ’er?

Where do you live?

 

我住在学校宿舍。

Wǒ zhù zài xuéxiào sùshè.

I live in a school dormitory.

 

怎么 (zěn me) – How

Structure: Subject + 怎么 + Verb Phrase ?

 

你怎么回家?

Nǐ zěnme huí jiā?

How do you go home?

 

我开车回家。

Wǒ kāichē huí jiā.

I go home by driving a car.

 

你们怎么去澳大利亚?

Nǐmen zěnme qù àodàlìyǎ?

How do you go to Australia?

 

我们坐飞机去。

Wǒmen zuò fēijī qù.

We are going there by plane.

 

多少 (duō shǎo) – How Much

Literally meaning: 多 ‘much’ 少 ‘less’

Structure: Subject + Verb + 多少 ?

 

你要多少个?

Nǐ yào duōshǎo gè?

How many do you want?

 

我要三十六个。

Wǒ yào sānshíliù gè.

I want 36 pieces.

 

这个蛋糕多少钱?

Zhège dàngāo duōshǎo qián?

How much is this cake?

 

这个蛋糕八十元。

Zhège dàngāo bāshí yuán.

This cake is 80 yuan.

 

哪个 (nǎ ge) – Which

Structure: Subject + Verb + 哪个 ?

 

你想要哪个?

Nǐ xiǎng yào nǎge?

Which one do you want?

 

我想要那个白色的。

Wǒ xiǎng yào nàgè báisè de.

I want that white one.

 

你喜欢看哪个国家的电视剧?

Nǐ xǐhuān kàn nǎge guójiā de diànshìjù?

Which country’s TV series do you like to watch?

 

我喜欢看韩剧。

Wǒ xǐhuān kàn hánjù.

I like to watch Korean dramas.