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ne tone of voice

104. Softening Tone of Voice with 呢 ne

Podcast Duration: 01:55:36

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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.

104. Softening Tone of Voice with 呢 ne

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1:49 Grammar Point – Softening Tone of Voice with 呢


‘呢 ne’ has a few different usages. For example, you can use 呢 at the end of a sentence to indicate that something is presently happening:

Tā zài chīfàn ne.
She’s eating at the moment.

One of the giveaways that it’s the “presently happening” usage of 呢 is that the sentence ends in a period. What about when a sentence ends with a 呢 and a question mark? That’s a sign that the speaker is making their question carry a more gentle tone of voice.

Sentence 1:

他的儿子有什么看法或想法呢? – Level 14
Tāde érzi yǒu shénme kànfǎ huò xiǎngfǎ ne?
What views or opinions does his son have?

If you take away 呢 from this sentence (or any of the sentences in this lesson), the fundamental meaning doesn’t change. It’s still asking, “What views or opinions does his son have?” The ONLY difference is that adding 呢 adds a tone of gentleness and respect to the inquisition. 

Naturally, this is not always required. The use of “呢” to make a question gentler is most common when the relationship between speaker and listener is less intimate. The better you know someone, the less likely you are to stand on ceremony. Simply put, 呢 makes things nicer.

Sentence 2:

你想打包还是在这儿吃呢? – Level 17
Nǐ xiǎng dǎbāo háishi zài zhèr chī ne?
Do you want take out or dine in?

This sentence is a further illustration of the above point. The context is that a host or hostess at a restaurant is politely asking a patron what their preference is. The relationship is professional, but not that of close friends. Hence, the tone is kind, gentle, and polite.

Sentence 3:

我这边很好,你呢? – Level 20
Wǒ zhèbiān hěnhǎo, nǐ ne?
I’m all good here. How about you?

You’ll hear people say “你呢?” at the end of sentences all the time. This person is almost certainly responding to someone asking “你最近怎么样? Nǐ zuìjìn zěnmeyàng? How’ve you been?”

After they respond, it would be redundant to say “我这边很好,你最近怎么样?” Instead, they can say “你呢?” to gently toss the question back to the original speaker. 

Keep an eye out for these “Tone of Voice” words that go at the end of sentences. They’re easy to understand and help to make you sound fluent. 加油!

8:46 Comments & Emails

Ric Santos by Email

Thank  You for the generous offer, Luke and Phil.  I think I will have a budget for next year. So I will continue on with your wonderful program for one year and renew next year. You are both doing a great great job. Congratulations to both of you and may you have more windfalls to come. You really deserve the outpouring of gratitude from us your students and our affirmation of trust in you and the Mandarin Blue Print Method.



Soren Korsbaek by Community

Hi all! Excited to embark on the journey towards fluency in Mandarin Chinese together 🙂

I’m at level 27 and really struggling with the longer sentences, opinion pieces, etc. predominantly given the lack of English translations. I realize the lack of English translations is the norm from here hence why I’d be curious to hear what experiences others have at this stage of the course.

At this level +400 characters in I was really hoping it would eventually click but I have some doubts this will happen as despite studying 6-7 hours each day, knowing all the individual characters, there are still plenty of sentences I am not sure I fully understand as I can’t derive any logical meaning from the characters as I know them. This means I spend a lot of time checking up on whether there are other readings of the characters I am unfamiliar with, etc.

I tried for a while to merely leave the pieces and go back to the earliest ones as presumably these should be easier, this has definitely helped as naturally my vocab and exposure to the characters have expanded and I have seen them in more contexts, etc. but I still struggle and find listening particularly difficult. Is this just normal? Shall I keep on going and be more patient? Am I doing something wrong? Shall I just accept reading without understanding the content?

I will definitely keep ongoing but I am a bit frustrated I am not doing as well as it seems to be expected at this stage of the course.


Stephanie Arapian on Level 16 Unlocked Conversation Connectors

These are all really cool and very interesting to learn. I find myself picking and choosing ones that seem to fit me and moving on, knowing the rest will be there if I feel like adding it to my conversational vocabulary down the line. Thanks guys!


Corinna Wetzel on Level 13 Complete

I lovelovelove learning Chinese with you guys. Thank you for the Mandarin Blueprint Method.

I can’t believe that I ever tried rote learning before. Except for some pronunciation rules, nothing really stuck from learning back then. And now I’m on character 124 and I can read sentences.

In Chinese. Without pinyin. This is just amazing. Seriously – my
mind is blown.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and for making learning so much
fun. 🙂

On to the next video!


Darci mallon on Level 19 Unlocked Conversation Connectors

I need to take a pause from my studies for a moment to say with much gratitude, Thank you Phil and Luke! The course you’ve built has thus far been amazing for helping me learn and retain the characters. I just had to learn to trust you and do as I was told, which was exactly what I needed – confident, clear guidance. I had been ‘wandering around’ with many apps and a couple of courses, some indeed useful, but none addressed the key issue of how to actually remember the characters and their many aspects. At this point (only lesson 19), each time I don’t immediately recognize the character (rare occurrence now!) I ask
myself ” ok, where was this happening? oh ya, who was running the show? oh ya, what were they using? got it! presto! It comes to me! Thinking of a metaphor for the MB movie method – for me, it’s a wagon wheel (far fewer spokes than a bike wheel) and each spoke (an aspect of the movie) moves toward the centre (the character/s). Should I need a prompt, I just circle the rim, find the right spoke and I’m rolling! Once I started making up my own actors, sets and props, as you said I would, I remembered better – deeper. I realize I had not ‘solidified’ in my mind the earliest characters because I hadn’t ‘explored’ them enough. In fact, now when I see a character I don’t know, I think “Oh, I just haven’t been fully introduced to them yet; once I meet them in the course and they’re more ’rounded out’ I’ll always know who they are.” They’ll be a new friend!


Micaela Ellison on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 门口

Is there any difference between 入口 and 门口?


Joe Sutcliffe on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 手机

what is the difference between 电话 and 手机?Is it just than 手机 refers explicitly to mobile phone while 电话 has a slightly broader definition?


William Beeman on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 有些

Hi! in 有些人会担心父母长得胖的话,宝宝是不是比别的宝宝容易长胖

I thought that the construction 是不是 indicated a question. Is it serving some other function here?


Jiggy-Jay Diderich on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 认为

认为 and 想 both mean To Think is there any difference?


Micaela Ellison on It’s a Word! 来

What is the context for 我明年来中国? I keep missing it in Anki because I replace 来 with 去. Is the speaker outside of China but talking to someone in China? I can’t think of a context here where the speaker would be in China.


Micaela Ellison on It’s a Word! 丢

Thanks, that’s helpful! Coming back to the sentence 他们把面包丢在桌子上面

In Anki, I’m wondering again about the meaning of 丢. Can it mean both “to throw” and “to throw away”? If so, is the meaning of the example sentence “They tossed the bread onto the table”, or “They threw out the bread that was on the table”?


Niels-Christian Jakobsen on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 太太

Is there any particular rule for when one leaves out the genitive 的?


Georgia Swanson on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 过来


I have a question about the sentence “我才过来“ because in the next sentence, it has the 了 particle (我过来了)but the sentence with 才 does not contain the 了. These two sentences seem almost identical to me regarding the meaning, only that one has the element of “just now” and the other is just some time in the past. Is there a specific reason that 了 is in one and not the other?



Micaela Ellison on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 太太

I think the second sentence 我太太不来了 cannot also translate as “My wife did not come” because that would use 没 instead of 不. Is that right? And does the addition of 了simply add the idea of “now”? As in, my wife is not coming versus my wife is not coming NOW. It seems like the translation is based on the idea that the wife was originally going to come, but now she’s not (hence, the change).


William Beeman on It’s a Word! 死

Hi! In 那只小狗死在了马路旁–I don’t understand the position/function of 在 in the sentence. I know it can designate ongoing action, and also location, but I don’t see what it does in this sentence after the verb and before 了. Thanks!


William Beeman on It’s a Word! 少

这些钱对他来说不少–Can you guys parse this sentence to get the translation you provide? I found this very difficult though I believe I know all the words. I especially don’t get 对 in this construction.


William Beeman on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 多少

Hi again. I am trying to do these sentences without looking at the translations. In this sentence, however, 除了早上吃的那些以外,每天桌子上的饭有多少她就吃多少, there are a numbe of words that you didn’t translate directly. Like 每天, for example. And the construction 多少她就吃多少 really eludes me with the double 多少. Can you parse this? In setting up models for sentence patterns it helps to see the direct function of the sentence elements rather than a “gloss.” Thanks!


Rick Angleland on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 行为


I wondered why you can’t just say 这种行为不好。

Then I noticed the 是…的 pattern, which I think refers to past/completed actions? So it’s obviously referring to a behaviour that has occurred, not just prohibiting a behaviour that may not have occurred yet?


Jiggy-Jay Diderich on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 哥们儿

Can 哥们儿 also be used for a single person instead of a group up bro’s?


William Beeman on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 宝贝(宝贝儿)

Could we get you guys or Annie or someone to pronounce this 宝贝儿
with the 儿 on video? I am sure my attempts would be seen as ridiculous.


Ann Bihari on It’s a Word! 花

Curious – would these character combinations always be the same meaning as in the example sentences above?

Or does the meaning depend upon the context of the sentence and that’s why they are not listed as new unlocked vocabulary? 花心 – fickle 花时间 – spend time


Jason Pon on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 以为

In my Anki deck, the card for 以为 has the written pinyin of yǐ wéi. I reckon it should be wèi? I can change it on my end but just wanted to confirm.


Dom Thomson on Vocab Unlocked from 互

What’s the difference between 互相 and 相互?


Sabrina Sutherland on Compound Final UEI (WEI): 对 duì,对不对 duìbuduì,对不起 duìbuqǐ

Does 对不起 work universally (e.g. I’m sorry, we’re sorry, they’re sorry, etc.) or is it only a first person singular statement and you would add the appropriate pronoun if it’s not for oneself? (Please note that I’m new to all of this, so I just want to make sure I use it properly.) Thank you!


对 duì – “correct”
对 duì – “towards (someone/thing)”
对 duì – “to treat (someone in a certain way)”
不/得 – Infixes (不 result of action cannot be achieved, 得 result of action can be achieved)
起 qǐ – to rise, rise to one’s level


From the article:得 de & 不 bu
The structure of these is Verb + 得/不 + Adjective. It refers to the possible actions in the Verb-How structure. For example, the word “听懂” (tīngdǒng) is “Listen” (听) and “Understand” (懂) and means “To understand.” If you add 不 or 得 in between, you are either saying “Listen – Not – Understand” OR “Listen- Obtain -Understand”

听不懂 tīngbudǒng – Cannot understand
听得懂 tīngdedǒng – Can understand

不好意思 bù hǎo yì si
我不好意思戴墨镜 bùhǎoyìsi dài mòjìng- embarrassed to wear sunglasses抱歉 bàoqiàn


William Beeman on Level 21 Complete

I appreciated this discussion on translation. Let me provide some experience gleaned from opera training. An opera singer must learn to sing in multiple languages. It is essential that one knows the meaning of the text in order to be able to interpret it, but it is also essential to understand how the grammar functions so that the singer can put the expression on the correct word or phrase.

Therefore studying an opera score always involves both a ruthlessly literal translation word-for-word, and an interpretive translation that renders the meaning. When studying Chinese in this course I also do both word-for-word and interpretive translation.


Ramona on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 不客气


Any good or funny story behind this? not (不) guest( 客) air / manner (气) ?? 🙂

Thanks guys!


客观 kèguān – Objective
主观 zhǔguān – Subjective


Michael Wells on Nasal Final IONG (YONG): 用 yòng,有用 yǒuyòng,不用 búyòng

I truly had a good belly laugh at that story, and I have no doubt it’ll seal those words in my memory. Plus, it just warms the heart to see a fit, successful young entrepreneur with a charming smile and a hell of a jawline being humble enough to share and laugh about his struggles with romance! Hahahaha


Jiggy-Jay Diderich on Level 16 Complete

I kind of forgot about the importance of adding images to the
unlocked vocab is it of that much importance/helpful?


Chris Lewis on BONUS: Stroke Order (Rule 6 of 12)

If your Chinese characters are ‘perfectly’ drawn (or good enough), and you don’t follow the stroke order, can experts tell if you haven’t followed the rules?

Does it really matter?


Liam Llamazares on Problem Initial J & Simple Final I (YI): 几个 jǐge, 个 ge5

Hey guys still loving the course. I have another question regarding the pronunciation of some of the Anki flash cards of Unit 2. In particular the ones where jǐ ge is involved (for example the one where there are 7 bottles of liquor or 8 moms). I was initially confused as sometimes it seemed like I was hearing the short 5th tone e and sometimes I was (unexpectedly) hearing the full e diptongue sound . I looked back over this video and realized that ge can also be used in 4th tone which I guess would explain everything. Am I correct in saying that ge is being
pronnounced with different tones in the flashcards? Does this happen in spoken chinese? Does it depend on the setting (formal/informal)?

Thanks for the help, your course is a blast!


Liam Llamazares on Problem Initial Q & Simple Final I (YI): 七 qī

Hi guys its me again. Quick question to me the q sounds kind of like a “tch” sound. Is a correct way of trying to pronounce q to aim for the “tch” sound while your tongue is touching the middle of your bottom teeth (I certainly hope so as this is what I’ve been doing :D). Once again, thanks for the help!


Aariel Holley on Vocab Unlocked from 海

I realize that there are no vocab flashcards for new words unlocked in the HW set. From now on, are we just learning the vocab words through the context of the grammar sentences in the grammar sets?

1:35:25 Pronunciation Critique

1:42:09 Movies! 

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


Ann Bihari on Make a Movie 进

-en location: my friend Tench’s house
actor: julie
props: magic flying carpet and wishing well

Julie is exploring in the backyard at Tench’s house. She finds an old wishing well and a red carpet rolled up to the side. She unrolls the carpet and it swooshes away and then comes back to hover right in front of her, moving back and forth, coaxing her to get on. she hops on and then zoom, the magic carpet GOES IN to the well. Julie is scared! what happens next…?


Deborah Driscoll on Make a Movie 广

Gru is in the living room of my ang set, busily unpacking a portable factory for his minions to work in. He keeps on pulling out pieces and it gets bigger… And bigger… And bigger, like a vast sea filling the room! Looking at all the pieces spread all over the floor he falls down on top of them frustrated and starts crying (drop component) calling out ‘This is just too VAST!’ Of course, then the door opens and a vast amount of minions flood into the room to help finish the task.


Deborah Driscoll on Make a Movie 床

The Cheshire cat is standing at the top of a tree, which is growing in my ang set kitchen. He stares up at the vast nebula above him and suddenly he has a moment of inspiration and creativity ….. He excitedly rushes down the tree, chops it down, makes it into a beaitiful bed and then…the moment passes….he flops down and falls fast asleep on it, because he is after all very lazy and the bed is very comfortable.


Deborah Driscoll on Make a Movie 店

My sister Danielle (di) is planning to open a new store selling freshly ground coffee ( my ‘zhan’ prop is an old fashioned coffee grinder). However the only place she can rent is the bathroom of her friend Ann’s house! Undeterred she paints the whole bathroom like a vast starry sky, starts grinding coffee, puts an ‘open’ sign on the bathroom door and…. The coffee store is ready for business!


Tim Amos on Make a Movie 救

The EVIL DJ (from Zoolander) has trapped RIVERDANCE in the (-ou set) bathroom, they are all madly (river-) dancing to the DJ’s evil music. Jillian Anderson (as Scully) bursts in the RESCUE them.


Denis Aganin on Make a Movie 龄

My actress comes into the apartment (entrance) and sees a T-Rex obediently opening its mouth to let the Sergeant count its teeth in order to find out its age. After he’s done he pets the T-Rex on its head waves at my actress.


Ramona on Make a Movie 知

My Zhi-actor is in front of my childhood home holding a cute small colourful frog in his hand. Come on Ramona, give this cute fellow a kiss, you know what they say, it may turn into a prince! I’m freaking out as this poison dart frog (矢 ) is so close to my mouth ( 口)!

Please take it away, it has poison!! You should KNOW this! Sorry Ramona, I didn’t KNOW it!


Robert Carver on Make a Movie 轻

Kiera Knightly (qi) is outside the Lake O apartment, struggling to help my one-armed best friend (又) lift a 50lb dumbell (工) , when it slips out of their hands and lands on the hood of Kiera’s Ferrari (车), which, being so LIGHT, flips into the air and floats away like a balloon as the two dumbfoundedly look on.


William Edmeades on Make a Movie 届

Keyword: Session (of a meeting or conference)
Actor: Jacinda Ardern (NZ prime minister)
Set: Bathroom in -e set
Props: Giant axe (尸), and Isaac Newton (由 – as he created calculus, the style of maths where we can ‘derive’ numbers from)

Isaac Newton was getting his brand new laptop ready in the bathroom (as to not be disturbed), so that he can talk to Jacinda Ardern over Zoom about predictions for the number of covid-19 cases that New Zealand is likely to see over the coming weeks. He conversed with Jacinda and everything was going fine until the Zoom session started freezing over and over and over again causing Isaac to become so frustrated that he grabbed the giant axe above him and chopped up the laptop!

8 September, 2020