Grammar is one of the important elements of a language. Most Chinese learners consider that grammar is very difficult and often makes them confused. Today, we will introduce some basic characteristics of Chinese grammar and the ways to learn it well.
Main Characteristics of Chinese Grammar
Generally speaking, there are six sentence elements in Chinese: subject, predicate, object, attributive, adverbial adjunct and complement. There are four main characteristics of Chinese grammar:
1. Word order plays a major role in Chinese language
The basic sentence pattern of Chinese language is: the subject comes first, verbs follow. The modifier, be it attributive or adverbial, must be placed before the modified word, while the complement is always placed after the verb. Different word order brings different meaning. For example, mèimei de péngyou 妹妹 的 朋友 (a friend of my sister) ; péngyou de mèimei 朋友 的 妹妹(my friend's sister)
2. No strict morphological change in Chinese language.
Unlike the verbs in Indo-European languages, there is no strict morphological change in Chinese language. The form of a verb remains unchanged under all circumstances. Different in person, gender, number or time do not require changes in the form of a verb, which makes the word order even more important. For example:
Wǒ shì lǎoshī. 我是老师。(I am a teacher)
Tā men shì dé ɡuó rén. 他们是德国人。(They are Germans)
wǒ qùnián xuéxí Fá yǔ 我去年学习法语 (I leant French last year)
jīnnián xuéxí Hàn yǔ 今年学习汉语 (I learn French this year)
míngnián xuéxí Rì yǔ 明年学习日语 (I will learn French next year)
3. The use of function word
The term "function word" refers to adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, particles, interjections and onomatopoeia. They do not carry concrete lexical meaning, but grammatically, they play a very important role. For example: wǒ shū 我书（It is meaningless in Chinese） wǒ de shū 我的书（my book）. Wǒ qù Běijīng. 我去北京 (I will go to Beijing)。Wǒ qù le Běijīng. 我去了北京 (I went to Beijing)。
4. The use of measure word
Another feature of modern Chinese is the wide array of measure words, which indicate the specific unit or measure of things or actions. The use of measure words is obligatory, extensive and complicated. It is not easy for foreigners to learn all those measure words. Here are some examples, yí ɡè rén一个人 (one person), yí kuài miàn bāo一块面包 (some bread), yì bēi shuǐ一杯水(one cup of water), yì pínɡ jiǔ一瓶酒 (one bottle of wine). You can see more in the following picture.
Tips about learning Chinese grammar
Although it is difficult to master Chinese grammar, it is not impossible. Here are some good ways to learn Chinese grammar, you can choose the best way which fits you.
a. Do some translation exercises
Translation is a good way to improve your grammar. You can do some easy translation exercise to help you compare and understand better about the grammar differences between Chinese and English, such as the sentence patterns, the use of tense and so on.
Fifth, you need to remember the Chinese grammar structures, then you can use a lot different words to instead. For example, translate the followings sentences into Chinese, you will find the sentence order is very different from English to Chinese.
We will have a party at Anna's home tomorrow.
He caught the ball with his left hand.
b. Read some short stories in Chinese
There are lots of simple and short story books. You can start with some story books for kids. Maybe the original version is English, but try to read the Chinese version. The content is easy to understand and interesting. You will get some simple grammar points by reading them.
c. Do grammar exercises regularly
It is no doubt that doing grammar exercises is the fast way to improve your grammar, especially for the beginners. There are lots of Chinese grammar exercise online, you can download some useful Chinese grammar exercises and practice.
d. Write short essay in Chinese
This way is for the learners who have some basic grammar knowledge about Chinese. Try write something in Chinese, then put it on some Chinese learning forum or ask-answer community, some Chinese natives will come to help you correct your mistakes in your essay, which is good for you to improve your Chinese grammar.
e. Take Chinese grammar class with professional teachers
Getting a professional teacher to help you is definitely the best way to improve your learning. There are lots of sentences rules or patterns of Chinese, if you learn it by yourself, it is a little bit hard to understand. Well, you can take a one-to-one Chinese gammar course online. All the teachers are bilingual so as to explain the grammar points in English for you, then you will learn it faster and understand better.