Much like English, many simple sentences in Chinese have a straightforward Subject + Verb +Object construction. The first time we see it in our course is the sentence “他 tā + 怕 pà + 他 tā” “He’s afraid of it.” Very straightforward! When sentences get more complicated, this structure may not work anymore, but in your early days, it is a relief that the basics aren’t difficult.
Use “Svo” To Understand Other Basic Chinese Grammar
Chinese doesn’t have characters that change form. English does this all the time, as with “go, gone, went” or “eat, eating, ate.” Instead, Chinese adds merely characters to indicate these types of temporal distinctions. Here are some examples:
English: She eats fish.
Chinese: 她吃鱼 tā chī yú
The above sentence is a direct translation and commenting on a state of being. She eats fish; there is no comment on when.
English: She ate fish.
Chinese: 她吃了鱼 tā chīle yú
Now we are saying that in an individual instance she ate fish. English changes the form of the word. Chinese adds the ordinary particle “了 le” to indicate that the action of eating “吃” is completed.
English: She is eating fish.
Chinese: 她在吃鱼 tā zài chī yú
English gets two steps more complicated here because there is the need to add “is” along with change the form of the word “eat” to “eating.” Chinese only needs to add “在 zài” in front to indicate that she’s currently eating fish.
English: She has eaten fish before.
Chinese: 她吃过鱼 tā chī guo yú
Geez, now English is really getting complicated. To get across the idea that fish has ever been eaten before, we have to add “had,” change “eat” to “eaten,” and to really make sure it is clear, add the word “before.” Chinese? Easy peasy, add 过 guo after the action “吃” to indicate that this has happened before.
Understanding basic Chinese grammar gets you a long way. The hard part is learning characters, which is why we made The Mandarin Blueprint Method. Once you know the characters, grammar falls into place very quickly.
More “S + V + O” Example Sentences
妈妈怕她 māma pà tā – Mom’s afraid of her
他认识我 tā rènshi wǒ – He knows me
爸爸爱妈妈 bàba ài māma – Dad loves mom
你喝可乐吗？nǐ hē kělè ma? – Are you drinking Cola?
我去北京 wǒ qù běijīng – I go to Beijing