Posts tagged: mandarin made easy

Dec 18 2009

Mandarin Chinese Pronouns are Easy

In this article I want to demonstrate how simple Mandarin Chinese is when learning the pronouns and related vocabulary.   In English we have the following basic pronouns:

I
We
You
He/She/It
They

We don’t have a plural pronoun for “You” i.e. when addressing a crowd.   We simply say “you” or “all of you”.   French however does have a word for this i.e. “vous” and Chinese also has a word to convey “you” in the plural.   However Mandarin Chinese is very easy when it comes to learning pronouns.   Let’s pretend for example we could just add an “s” to make the pronouns plural like so :

I = I
We = Is
You = You
All of you = Yous
He = He
They = Hes

Can you imagine how much easier English would be to learn if we could apply a rule like this ? Instead someone learning English must learn each individual pronoun.   However, in Mandarin Chinese this is exactly what they do.   There are only 3 basic spoken pronouns as follows (Pinyin Romanized Chinese) :

I = Wo
You = Ni
He/She/It = Ta

So already you can see that in order to learn 5 English words in Mandarin you only need to learn 3 – Wo, Ni & Ta.   In spoken Mandarin Chinese they don’t verbally differentiate between “he” “she” and “it”.   These are all the same spoken word (however they are written differently).  Therefore when speaking about someone and referring to them as “Ta” we don’t know if we are talking about a boy or girl.   This may sound a bit strange but when you think about it it’s quite logical.   Through the context of the conversation we know whether we are talking about a male or female or thing.

If I am talking about my wife I have no need to explain that she is female as the context already explains that.   Therefore when referring to her in Chinese in the 3rd person “Ta” is sufficient. Of course there are times where I do have to ask the person I am speaking with if they are talking about a male or female, but this isn’t that often.   Due to this reason, many Chinese learners of English often mix up the 3rd person pronouns referring to their husband as “she” and to their girl friend as “he” etc.   This is one of the biggest basic problems for native Mandarin Speakers as they are un accustomed to having different spoken 3rd person pronouns and therefore constantly make this mistake.

Now let me demonstrate how easy it is to learn how to say “We”, “You – plural” and “They”.   In Mandarin Chinese you don’t need to learn 3 new words,  you simply add another word to convey the idea of plural.   That word is “men”.

We = Wo men (i.e “I” + plural “men”)
You plural = Ni men (i.e “You” + plural “men”)
They = Ta men (i.e “He/She/It” + plural “men”)

Here we have another example of “Buy 1 get 2 free” or “learn 1 get 2 free”.   Simply by learning 1 word, “men”,  we learn how to convey 3 new words in Mandarin Chinese.   Therefore by knowing how to pronounce these 4 words :  Wo, Ni, Ta & Men we can say 8 equivalent English pronouns :  I, We, You, You plural, He, She, It & They.

However,  not only that but there are more free words that you gain by knowing how to say simply Wo,  Ni,  Ta & Men.

Look at these English sentences :

She gave the ball to her
He gave the ball to him
He gave the ball to me
They gave the ball to them
They gave the ball to us

Notice we can’t say :

She gave the ball to she
He gave the ball to he
He gave the ball to I
They gave the ball to they
They gave the ball to we

No,  but a learner of English must learn 5 more words to be able to speak correctly.   If someone said “she gave the ball to she” of course we would understand the meaning of the foreigner,  but it’s still incorrect grammar.   In Mandarin Chinese this problem doesn’t exist because that’s exactly how they speak.   Let me replace the pronouns above with their Mandarin Chinese pinyin versions to illustrate

“Ta” gave the ball to “ta”
“Ta” gave the ball to “ta”
“Ta” gave the ball to “wo”
“Ta men” gave the ball to “ta men”
“Ta men” gave the ball to “wo men”

The above sentences are grammatically correct in Mandarin.   So you have just gained another 5 more words for free. By knowing how to say just Wo,  Ni,  Ta & Men (4 words) you can say the following 12 English words :  I,  Me,  We,  Us, You, You plural, He, Him, She, Her, It, They, Them.

Isn’t that easy ?

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