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Chinese Conjunctions Part One Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in grammar

Once you start to reach a more intermediate level of Chinese, you’ll want to connect your ideas and begin using more complex sentences. To do this, you’ll need to learn some conjunctions. In Chinese, conjunctions do just what they do in English – just think back to “Schoolhouse Rock.” That’s right, “hooking up words, and phrases and clauses.” This two-part series will teach you a bunch of useful conjunctions and provide examples for each that you can study further. For the first post, we’ll stick to some of the easier conjunctions.

And (和 – hé)

This is the most common way to express “and” in Chinese, but it’s not the only way. For now, just remember that the word 和 (hé) is mainly used to link nouns. While practicing this word, just use it for that purpose to begin with. Here are a few examples to show you how it’s used to link nouns:

Beijing and Shanghai.

Beijing and Shanghai.

She has been to Beijing and Shanghai.
她去过北京和上海.
tā qù guò běi jīng hé shàng hǎi

I like tea and coffee.
我喜欢茶和咖啡.
wǒ xǐ huān chá hé kā fēi

Are you and he both students?
你和他都是学生吗?
nǐ hé tā dōu shì xué shēng ma

Notice that in all three examples, 和 links nouns -Beijing and Shanghai, coffee and tea, you and he. Try to make a few sentences yourself, just sticking with nouns for now. You can always get more complicated later on!

Or (或者 – huò zhě; 还是 – hái shì)

The word “or” is a bit tricky in Chinese. If it’s a statement, you use 或者 (huò zhě); if it’s a question, you use 还是 (hái shì). Let’s take a look at two examples of each to better understand the usage of “or.”

We want to go to the park or the cinema.
我们要去公园或者电影院.
wǒ men yào qù gōng yuán huò zhě diàn yǐng yuàn

Do you want to eat noodles or rice?
你想吃面还是米饭?
nǐ xiǎng chī miàn hái shì mǐ fàn

We can go hiking tomorrow or the day after.
我们可以爬山明天或者后天.
wǒ men kě yǐ pá shān míng tiān huò zhě hòu tiān

Are they French or German?
他们是法国人还是德国人?
tā men shì fà guó rén hái shì dé guó rén

It’s a bit tricky at first, sure, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it. Just remember that there’s a different “or” for statements and questions and you’ll get used to it soon enough.

So (所以 – suǒ yǐ)

Thankfully this one is pretty easy, and it works just the same as it does in English. Study these examples to see how to use “so” in Chinese:

I want to study Chinese, so I moved to China.
我要学习中文, 所以我搬到中国。
wǒ yào xué xí zhōng wén, suǒ yǐ wǒ bān dào zhōng guó

He’s too busy today, so he can’t go out to play.
他今天太忙了,所以不能出去玩.
tā jīn tiān tài máng le, suǒ yǐ bù néng chū qù wán

There’s no class tomorrow, so we can go shopping.
明天没有课,所以我们可以去逛街.
míng tiān méi yǒu kè, suǒ yǐ wǒ men kě yǐ qù guàng jiē

This can be used with another word to form a compound conjunction, but we’ll save that for the second post. For now, try to make a few sentences using 所以 on its own.

But (但是 – dàn shì; 可是 – kě shì)

Don’t get thrown off by the fact that there are two different words for “but” in Chinese – they’re both used in exactly the same way. You can use whichever one you like, or you can switch it up and use them both. Check out these examples:

It's beautiful, but way too many people.

It’s beautiful, but way too many people.

This place is beautiful, but there are too many people.
这个地方漂亮,但是人太多了.
zhè ge dì fāng piào liang, dàn shì rén tài duō le

I like this cell phone, but it’s too expensive.
我喜欢这个手机,可是太贵了.
wǒ xǐ huān zhè ge shǒu jī, kě shì tài guì le

He wants to go, but he has no time.
他要去,但是没有时间.
tā yào qù, dàn shì méi yǒu shí jiān

Try making a few sentences on your own, and go ahead and use both words to practice.

 

In the next post, we’ll learn a few more common conjunctions, as well as a couple of compound conjunctions to improve your fluency.

Read on for Part Two.

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is a teacher, student, writer, photographer, web designer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently planning a trip through Central/South America.


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