94. How to Say “If” in Chinese

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The Mandarin Blueprint Podcast focuses primarily on The Mandarin Blueprint Method online curriculum. Creators Luke Neale & Phil Crimmins answer questions and comments, discuss topics related to China and Mandarin learning and have special guests.

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GW-Connector-If-This-Then-That-连词-如果……(就)& GW-Connector-If-This-Then-That-2-连词-要是……的话

Both grammar points today cover the same theme: “If…, then….” conditional statements. You’re going to hear these all the time. Let’s understand how they work, shall we?

Sentence 1:

如果你联系上了她,请/就告诉我。 – Level 18

Rúguǒ nǐ liánxì shàng le tā, qǐng/jiù gàosù wǒ.

If you manage to reach her, please let me know.

In this sentence, 如果 sets up a condition: You make contact with her. After that, 请 or 就 set up what to do if the condition is met. The only difference between the two is that “请” is a bit more polite. 如果 & 要是 are interchangeable in this sentence.

Sentence 2:

如果你现在不能打电话的话,我们就发信息吧! – Level 20

Rúguǒ nǐ xiànzài bùnéng dǎdiànhuà de huà, wǒmen jiù fāxìnxī ba.

If you can’t make a phone call now, we’ll text.

This sentence is highly useful in today’s world of texting. 如果 (or 要是) set up the condition that you can’t talk on the phone, and if that condition is met then (就) you can send texts. Simple, right?

Sentence 3:

如果你是我男朋友就好了。 – Level 25

Rúguǒ nǐ shì wǒ nánpéngyǒu jiù hǎo le.

If you were my boyfriend, then all would be well.

People use this structure all the time. 如果 + Thing the speaker wants + 就好了. This structure is so standard that you can omit 如果 and people will still understand you. A good way to appease anyone in conversation is to say, “你开心就好 Nǐ kāixīn jiù hǎo – As long as you’re happy.” (Be careful, though! It can come across as a bit snarky if you are seen as being insincere.)

Sentence 4:

(要是)睡不着的话,(就)喝一杯羊奶吧! – Level 16

(Yàoshì) shuìbùzháo de huà, (jiù) hē yībēi yángnǎi ba!

If you can’t sleep, drink a glass of goat milk.

You’ll sometimes hear people surround the condition (e.g., 睡不着) with 要是/如果 & 的话. However, you can omit either so long as one of them is present. Also, when you’re making a suggestion ending in “吧,” you can even skip the 就!

Sentence 5:

你要是回来(的话),我们(就)去运动吧。 – Level 19

Nǐ yàoshì huílái (de huà), wǒmen (jiù) qù yùndòng ba.

If you come back, let’s go exercise.

In our experience, you’ll hear all the variations of these conditional statements. Some people include all elements (要是/如果…的话, 就) while others omit whatever they can to sound more streamlined. So long as you know that all of them are OK, you’ll do very well moving forward.

11:23 Comments & Emails


Alex Sumray by Community

Hi Mandarin Peeps,

Soooo…

因为他们的广告是买过用过的人帮他们做的,不仅不要钱,效果还特别好!

Man alive!

So it does make kind of sense now upon seeing the translation, but when I see sentences like this it’s still hard for me to envision myself ever being able to speak like that or just understand that kind of sentence in real life.

So I was just after some personal anecdotes really;
Once we go through a whole load more comprehensive input, how long could one realistically expect to start picking this more complex stuff up and get to actually speaking?

17:27

Jacqui Vintners from Email

Hi Luke and Phil,

I just wanted to thank you both for an amazing course, the effort and passion you have poured into it are very evident and I am excited to continue my journey up that acquisition mountain with you. I feel that I am in good hands 🙂 
I never intended to learn Mandarin as I would class myself as someone who definitely is not a “natural” at languages although I did study French and German at school with widely varying degrees of success. Unfortunately for the last few years, I have suffered with PTSD and a side effect of that is extreme anxiety. I found it impossible to focus on anything including watching television and then about 2 years ago I discovered CDramas. The storylines and cinematography, especially in Wuxia and Xianxia dramas, hooked me, and the fact I had to read subtitles to understand them made me focus and helped to reduce that constant adrenaline.

I think it is about 18 months now since I watched a TV program in English, apart from the News, so lots of passive Mandarin input and not surprisingly I started to recognize the occasional word/phrase. I would even check to see if I was correct with Alexa! I played a PS4 RPG in Mandarin and have another waiting as a treat for when I can understand more. I started to listen to CDramas’ OSTs and Mandopop on Spotify and to be able to sing along to more than “Zhōngguó shì wǒ jiā” (it isn’t but that won’t stop me from belting it out proudly lol) and “Wǒ ài nǐ” etc. would be awesome 😁 I am also looking forward to the day I can read hànzì and discover the names of some of the singers I love and the names of the songs I have heard and “sung/hummed” along with every day for the past 6 months.

Three months ago I tested the water with a free (up to a certain point) Chinese language learning app and I thoroughly enjoyed it but soon realised it’s limitations and I was left with so many unanswered questions and some dubiously useful phrases for a beginner eg. “Nǐ de yú chòu chòu de.” To be honest I struggled internally with whether or not I was worth the financial investment of a paid course but realised that if I am going to progress I needed a more comprehensive and structured route.

I discovered Mandarin Blueprint whilst browsing on YouTube and was impressed with how clear and detailed the pronunciation videos were, it was also a massive draw for me that Luke is a fellow Brit (so had the same pronunciation starting point.) Having now completed the Pronunciation course I am very impressed with you guys and I now know why I had such difficulty in saying “zìxíngchē” my poor tongue had been completely lost! I love the motivation videos from Phil, his enthusiasm is catching and it gives an online course a real feeling of camaraderie. A big thumbs up too for the end of unit emails, I have my fingers crossed that they continue throughout the next course. 
I only have access to an Android tablet and couldn’t open the Anki links in the sidebar but the links in the emails worked fine, however there wasn’t one for either of the bonus decks. I soon figured out my problem, which was how to unzip those files, so I am all sorted now 🙂 Thank you to Annie and Jerry too that must have been such a monotonous task to do all that Anki card recording but it is certainly appreciated 🙂 I do think Jerry needs a mention of some kind under the instructor’s section for his contribution, I am listening to him every day and feel sad he is left out.

Although I am a beginner I have noticed that along with my pronunciation improvement my listening comprehension has also improved since starting this course and I can now hear certain tongue positions clearly which gives another “cypher aid” to understanding what has been said. I have been fortunate enough to visit China once, it was a long time ago but I visited Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu 🙂 I spent a couple of weeks in and around the Wolong Panda Center (before the devastating earthquake) it is a beautiful part of the world, you are very lucky to live there.

This is a long-term journey for me and quite an emotional one, as I am finally ready to understand the language which accompanied me when I was in total darkness and continues to support me every day. I genuinely want to “pay it back” in some way, as cheesy as that sounds but I get so happy when I see a word written down that I have heard countless times it is awesome to finally get to learn it properly. So thank you both for creating this course, for all your hard work and enthusiasm, I am really looking forward to continuing to learn with you 🙂

Kind regards

Jacqui

25:55

Alan Aves from Email

Hi Guys

I think the Mandarin Blueprint concept is really good. I learned Mandarin at University here in Australia and also lived in China, Henan, Zhengzhou for almost three years, though I never really became fluent due to laziness and, as an EFL teacher in China, my students all wanted to practice their English and translate for me wherever/whenever possible.

I am forcing myself to work my way through the whole Pronunciation Course before progressing further. It has been an excellent review, and I have also picked up a number of useful words and tips that my previous study and experience hadn’t. I’ll certainly be continuing with the whole course, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to either brush up on their Chinese or to learn from scratch.

My wife is Chinese, and her English is excellent so we don’t really converse in Chinese that much. She gave your course the thumbs up before I signed up so that in itself is a pretty good recommendation. – She thought, though both of you are technically competent in Mandarin, Luke’s flow and intonation are a bit more natural; more native speaker-like.

The only negative, if you can call it that, is some of your image-based clues are a bit vague, though once you’ve associated the required word/phrase with the image, not a problem. E.g. For some of the phrases you could easily substitute 你, 他 (她, 它) or 我 (all which have been covered in the course at that point) and still be correct, even though your answer generally only shows one of the ta’s (他, 她, 它) as correct. A very minor thing and not really an issue.

Best regards and thanks

Alan Aves

28:22

Michael Rotchford from Email

I flew through the foundation course at light speed for me. It still totally blows my mind at how much I had learned and at how fun it was!  I have NEVER missed a single day with my ANKI even when I was spending 4 hours a day of the review I was learning so much so fast. I have always kept every card because the more exposure the better, right?  I listen to 2 hours every workday to a radio channel from Chengdu cause that is where you are. I haven’t even watched a single tv show in English since last November.  Hell, I am even trying to cook my own Chinese food.  so much for the blah, blah blah.

The crux of my problem is I only ever wanted to learn to read Chinese. After all, I don’t know a single Chinese person or have anywhere close like a Chinatown to go visit, especially in this pandemic.  The problem is now that I had a taste I find I want the whole damn pie!  I want to be able to understand and converse with someone in Chinese. I have learned so much about the amazing Chinese culture I want to come to visit China and take in everything!

But…I really suck at it.  I hear a sentence and know all the words but I get stuck on the first bit and by the time I figure it out they are 6 sentences ahead. So I stopped at the end of the foundation method and just practice, practice, practice.  I’m worried now because my Anki is down to less than an hour a day and I find myself checking AGAIN just so I can get the card the next day.  I am not even close when I shadow.  It is kind of frustrating.

I did get an online tutor (she is totally amazed at the vocabulary I have and at my pronunciation and thinks I have been studying it for longer than I have).  See how great your teaching method is?

Wow, I talked a lot.  What should I do now? Continue on to the intermediate level even though I not able to speak or understand at any kind of speed or just keep doing what I am doing?  In a few years when you have your own tutors, I know what the answer will be.

I love your course and for so many more reasons that I never had before I started. You both are brilliant and I can never thank you enough for what you’ve given me.  谢谢!

Mike Rotchford

39:25

Beth Perazzo from Email

Hello Luke and Phil,

Let me introduce myself. I am a 58 year old woman. I have been a substitute teacher for 13 years now (I stick to subbing at the local high school–but due to COVID and the school going online, I’ve had plenty of time to work on my Chinese these past 3 months–sadly 2 of those months were before I discovered your program or I could have accomplished a lot more than I have). 

Anyway, I was born on Long Island in New York, raised in Massachusetts and the New Orleans area, but have called Nevada my home for the past 35 years. My husband and I live outside of Reno in Fallon, a smallish farming community (home of the Navy’s Top Gun program, btw). We have 5 children (3 of whom are married) and 2 grandchildren.

Short story of my Chinese journey:
I first thought of learning Chinese almost 40 years ago. I had already started learning Spanish, so I continued studying Spanish with just the thought that some day I would try to learn Chinese. Then, 2 1/2 years ago, after having been very unproductive in anything (slightly depressed?) for about 6 months, I decided that learning Chinese using Duolingo might be a way for me to start being productive again.

For the past 2 1/2 years, I have been studying Chinese using Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, some youtube podcasts, some textbooks, a Leitner box for my flashcards, online Anki flashcards for pronunciation, and Chinese shows on Netflix and at Viki.com. I could recognize many written words, write just about none of them, and sort of pronounce them, with my listening skills being very poor. I now look at this time as me collecting puzzle pieces without being able to assemble hardly any of the puzzle–or collecting building blocks but not building anything. 

A few months ago, I started seeing ads for your pronunciation course on Facebook. I’m not sure how long it took before I finally investigated. The sale price of $9.99 was just what I needed to take a chance on your course (remember, my husband is a school teacher and we raised 5 children, so my budget was a bit tight and I had just spent $200 on a lifetime Rosetta Stone subscription). I was only a couple of videos into the pronunciation course when I knew I wanted to take the rest of your courses.

Because I was already familiar with so many words, I have been going through the course pretty fast. I started the pronunciation course on May 11th and today (June 16th) I did Level 20 in the Foundation class. Lately, I have been tackling a level each day, though I may need to slow down now as I’m not doing a good job studying the unlocked words and am a bit behind there. 

I spend hours every day on my Chinese and I’m loving it. I find it interesting that I will learn a new word, and then actually hear it in a C-drama soon after. It’s like Mandarin Blueprint is helping me to take all the puzzle pieces I have collected over the past 2 1/2 years and start joining them together–or to take the building blocks and actually start building something.

I really don’t know why I have been interested in learning Chinese. Maybe because so many people in the world speak it? Is it just fascinating to learn about something so different from my language? Is it just a challenge? Don’t know. I don’t see myself traveling outside the United States, but I do hope that I can find a way to use Chinese in the US somehow.  I just love feeling like a whole new world is being opened up to me.

I love how you have structured your courses. You obviously have spent a huge amount of time studying many different aspects of learning. You are fun to watch and I have a good time during lessons. The comments other students have made also are a big help to me.

I knew I needed to read more in Chinese, but hadn’t found a source yet, so the sentences you introduced and then the fact that later the pinyin was taken away was great. Some of your sentences do seem a bit much, but since we can ask for clarifications, I guess that’s okay.

I had heard of memory palaces before but had never tried to use that system, so I love that I now have that skill (or well, developing it, at any rate). 

Anyway, I’m totally loving your course and would highly recommend it to anyone. My Chinese language skills have really developed and I look forward to continuing to improve my abilities.

Thanks, Luke and Phil!

Beth Perazzo

47:45

Kajabi Support on BONUS: SRS – The Frequency Game

Anki is truly fantastic. I have used it for other languages and
other unrelated topics like maths. It effectively hacks your
brain. That in combination with these amazing memory techniques
really helps.

48:49

Julio Novoa-Barron on It’s a Word! 和

I am so happy I can read all the characters…well…except for the
last one 吧. I never thought that in such a short time – a month
and a week, perhaps? – I would be able to know all this. I
absolutely love the course!

49:32

Heath Campbell on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 一边

I have been trying to better understand how to use ‘ba’. Would
it is correct to say that using ba to express a suggestion is
similar to saying in English How about… or Would you mind…,
Could we, or Shall we, and so on? As in 你们坐这一边吧.

50:04

James Kell on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 以为

I love what you said in this video. It revealed your true
motivation as a teacher. That is, to effectively make yourself
redundant. We teach sailing and I always say to my students that
my ultimate aim is to make them better at sailing than me. That
has happened once that I can be sure of (he is now our senior
instructor), but probably more. It means you don’t hold back as a
teacher. Kudos to you guys.

52:29

Steven on It’s a Word! 下

I’m slightly confused as to why 上 means above/go up/previous and
卜 means below/go down/next? In my head above/go up/next all make sense together? Is there some reasoning behind this to maybe help me remember?

53:59

Joan Hill on Simple Final A Introduction: 八 bā, 他她它 tā, 妈妈 māma, 爸爸 bàba

I noticed at the end of the video you said mother & father
but when you said it in Mandarin you said ba ma.
so would you naturally say Father first ?

54:40

Deborah Driscoll on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 计划

Is there much difference between 计划 and 打算 ?

55:33

Heath Campbell on GW-Relator-From-Where-介词-从

Very interesting…Is it just a coincidence that the way these
Chinese sentences are structured is similar to the hanzi movie
method? You start with the Actor, place them in the set, and then
describe what happened.

56:09 Movies! 

This blog post explains the theory behind Movie Scenes and learning characters.

Della Fuller on Make a Movie 至

George is in the backyard of my childhood home. He is digging a
large hole in the soil with a large razor blade, the only tool at
his disposal, in order to plant the beautiful young apple tree
that lies nearby. He contentedly digs UNTIL the razor blade turns
up a large nose in the soil! George immediately stops digging,
shocked and dismayed. He looks around in a panic, because he
cannot continue to dig the hole UNTIL he does something with the
nose sitting on top of the soil. Spotting a pail, he carefully
picks up the nose with the end of his fingers and throws it into
the pail. He then resumes digging.

58:44

Alex Sumray on Make a Movie 怎

Z actor in my -en set.

Fair amount of dialogue in this one, but I try to hamm it up with
the expressions so I’m not too reliant on it. (oh and p.s.
graphic warning).

“How can i make her love me.. how!?”, Z actor stroking his beard
with his hand.
Pondering his next move.

“Aha!”
He gets his saw and starts sawing away. Through the gaping hole
in his chest he reaches in and grabs his heart.

He looks over to the girl he so admires and starts walking
towards her, arms outstretched, his heart ready to be given over.

“OMG Z, how the hell did you do that”!..he shows her the saw with
a wry grin.

“How on earth did you think that would win me round!?”
“How could I be with someone so heartless!?”.

….thankfully this charade didn’t deter her too much and has
been in a 关系 with my Z actor since school. (true story).

1:00:49

Della Fuller on  Make a Movie 变

Bella is in the bathroom of my “an” location. She has Dr. Watson
at her side, and they both hold magnifying glasses. They raise
their heads and sniff, then, with eyebrows raised, look at each
other in surprise. They notice a CHANGE in the aroma of the room,
and they are determined to find the cause. They immediately lower their heads to their magnifying glasses once more, and carefully examine every square inch of the bathroom. Slowly pulling back the shower curtain, they expose (previously) sweaty, stinky guy, who looks freshly showered and is holding a stick of deodorant.
Ahhh…they look at each other and nod. This explains the CHANGE
in the room’s aroma!

1:01:57

Nacho En on Make a Movie 另

口 = Rolling’s Mouth.
力 = The Ring of The Lord of the Rings

My Li- actress open the door of the bathroom when she saw the
Mouth picking up The Ring from the floor. When he did it, the
windows suddenly opened, and far away was the Eye of Sauron that finally found the Ring in the bathroom. He launched a ray of
death directly to the mouth, killing it instantly. At that moment
the Queen’s song “Another one bite the dust” began to play.

1:03:26

Georg Lohrer on Make a Movie 院

Janus (the bi-headed god) is in a great hurry. He has received a
celestial order. In the the bathroom of the “an”-set, he wants to
build an institute for the correct visit of the toilet. He
already has started to raise a small stone-wall. If all goes
well, he wants to be finished in the evening. If so, it will be
time to wave the checkered flag outside the bathroom – mission
accomplished.

1:04:44

Dom Thomson on Make a Movie 立

Lindsay Lohan is walking through the backyard, bent over and
straining under the weight of a huge Viking helmet.

She takes the helmet off, drops it on the ground, and replaces it
with a beret. She can now STAND UPRIGHT.

1:05:13

Dom Thomson on Make a Movie 位

A non-podcast-appropriate association with the word ‘position’ +
Arnold Schwarzenegger + Walter White + a wedding cake.

1:05:48

James Braun on Make a Movie 菜

My c- actor is having a picnic in the backyard of my -ai set.
The picnic table is covered with lots of DISHES OF FOOD. He
leaves for a minute and when he comes back, he is shocked to see
a beautiful, bald eagle has landed on the table and is eating
from one of the DISHES. He wants to scare it away, so he takes a
rose and throws it at the eagle. Unfortunately, he misses and the
rose flies over the top of the eagle.

1:07:01

Christine on Make a Movie 问

My Wu actor is Woody, from Toy Story. He is in the bathroom of
my -en location. There is a massive stone doorway. There are sun
and clouds showing behind the doorway. Suddenly a massive pair of lips appear and hangs in the air in the doorway. They fire off
some questions to Woody: Where is Buzz Lightyear? Where is Andy?
Where is Mr Potato Head?