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ni hao featured image
ni hao featured image

nihao: Introducing the Blueprint to learn 28 sentences

Ni hao has almost become common sense today: It means Hello in Chinese. But it is also a perfect example to showcase different sentence types in Chinese. That’s why I decided to use nihao to introduce our blueprint method to learn Chinese efficiently.

What does nihao actually mean?

If you have read my blog Hello in Chinese, you probably would know that nihao literally means: you good. Simple and direct.

nihao literal meaning
nihao literal meaning

I did some research and found out the first time “nihao” appeared in Chinese is the time between 1736 – 1765. (If you can read and understand Chinese, Zhihu has an interesting post about it.) And the first time the person used it meant it as a question: “you (are) good, right?”. So it’s much closer to the English expression “How are you?”.

Today people use it to greet each other without the hidden question. Hence, there is a hidden meaning I wish you good behind it. So this raises the next question:

What does ni hao ma mean?

As mentioned, people had the intention of asking How are you?” when they meet. And adding a “ma” behind nihao makes it to a question: How are you.

nihao ma literal meaning
nihao ma literal meaning

And this raises the next question, again:

How do you answer to nihao and nihao ma?

First, the answer to nihao is also nihao, just like the answer to Hello is also Hello.

Now, the answer to nihao ma (or ni hao ma) is also similar. You answer with wo hen hao, which means I’m fine.

wo hen hao literal meaning
wo hen hao literal meaning

And I think it’s the perfect time to introduce the blueprint: 28 ways of expressions in Chinese. Using this, you will be able to form almost every kind of sentence, without doubting if the sentence is correct.

How nihao, nihao ma, and wo hen hao build the first blueprint together.

If you now understand that nihao (you good) actually stands for I wish you good, the structure becomes more clear. Unfortunately, this is not a common expression in Chinese. Whenever needed, people use the

How does the blueprint generally work?

In English, you first learn the alphabet, and then vocabulary, then grammar to form sentences. For those whose native languages are close to English, such as German, French, Spanish, etc., it is not necessary to learn special rules of how to ask a question. When I learned German, I understood it’s the same as in English.

However, if the language is not very close to English, forming sentences works entirely differently. Putting “Do” at the beginning of a sentence is not always part of grammar, but it’s essential for correct usage in English.

In Chinese, you don’t have grammar in this sense. There is no tense, no cases (I or me, he or him), nothing that you would consider as grammar. But this doesn’t mean the Chinese language has no rules to form sentences. After six years of gathering and researching, I have developed a formula that covers almost all kinds of common expressions. Since they are 28 altogether, I call them the blueprint for the Chinese language. You can use them as a layout to form any sentences you want.

There are 4 general types of sentences:

They are:

Statement Sentences
Such as – This is a statement.

Question Sentences
Such as – Is this a question?

Order Sentences
Such as – Learn it, now!

Exclamations. We call them Wow Sentences.
Such as – What a beautiful day!

Statement Sentences

There are 16 types of statement sentences, they are:

  1. Does Sentences
    I eat apples.
    
  2. Does not Sentences
    I don’t eat apples.
    
  3. Be Sentences
    这是苹果。
    
  4. Not be Sentences
    这不是苹果。
    
  5. Very Sentences
    苹果很甜。
    
  6. Not very Sentences
    苹果不是很甜。/ 苹果不太甜。
    
  7. Not at all Sentences
    苹果不甜。/ 苹果一点也不甜。
    
  8. Want Sentences
    我想吃苹果。
    
  9. Not want Sentences
    我不想吃苹果。
    
  10. Did Sentences
    我吃过苹果。/ 我吃过苹果了。
    
  11. Didn’t Sentences
    我没吃过苹果。
    
  12. Have Sentences
    我有一个苹果。
    
  13. Not have Sentences
    我没有苹果。
    
  14. Compare Sentences
    西瓜比苹果大。
  15. Active Sentences
    我把苹果吃了。
  16. Passive Sentences
    苹果被我吃了

Question Sentences:

There are 12 types of questions, they are:

  1. Yes / No Questions: (ma)
    你吃苹果吗?你的苹果甜吗?
    
  2. Who Questions: (ne)
    谁(想)吃苹果?
    
  3. What Questions: (ne)
    你想吃什么?你平时吃什么?
    
  4. When Questions: (ne)
    你什么时候吃苹果?
    
  5. Where Questions: (ne)
    你(想)在哪里吃苹果?
    
  6. Why Questions: (ne)
    你为什么(每天都)吃苹果?
    
  7. Which Questions: (ne)
    你想吃哪个苹果?
    
  8. How Questions: (ne)
    你的苹果怎么样?
    
  9. A – not – A Questions: (ne)
    你的苹果甜不甜?
    
  10. A – not B Questions: (ne)
    你是吃苹果还是西瓜?
    
  11. How come Questions: (ne)
    我怎么可能吃苹果呢?
    
  12. How about Questions: (ne)
    他去吃苹果,好不好?

Order Sentences:

There are 3 types of order sentences, they are:

  1. Do (ba!)
    吃苹果!
    吃苹果吧!
    请吃苹果!
    请吃苹果吧!
    吃苹果好不好?
    
  2. Don’t
    别吃苹果!
    请别吃苹果!
    不可以吃苹果!
    别吃苹果吧!
    别吃苹果,好不好?
  3. Active Order:
    把苹果吃了!

Wow Sentences:

There are 4 types of order sentences, they are:

  1. Too (le) (la)
    苹果太甜了!
    苹果太好吃了!
    我太想吃苹果了!
    
  2. Many (a)
    苹果多甜啊!
    苹果多好吃啊!
    我多想吃苹果啊!
    
  3. True (a) (ya)
    苹果真甜啊!
    苹果真好吃啊!
    我真想吃苹果呀!

Good (a) (ya)
苹果好甜啊!
苹果好好吃啊!
我好想吃苹果呀!

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Who wrote this?

Chi Zhang

A sinologist, anglicist, linguist, and a tech lover who lives in Berlin. Was once a manager, producer, school opener, language teacher, SEO agency owner, and marketing director.
She could be angry sometimes, especially about racism, but overall, she's a friendly person who's famous for her loud laughter.
Here's the place for her to express a new voice in the language world, a world dominated by the west.