For the most part, Chinese grammar is considered to be pretty simple, so this is a big advantage. Also, Chinese sentence structure isn’t too incredibly different from English. Like English, sentences have a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) form and often take the form of multiple clauses separated by commas. Verbs have no conjugations so this makes learning and using verbs much faster than in languages with many different conjugations to memorize. Verbs take on extra meaning about their completion or when they occurred by adding particles and understanding through context. There are also no plurals, definite articles (like “the”), or grammatical genders for nouns. There are more rules making typical sentence word order different from English, but we’ll get to that soon.
To familiarize yourself with basic grammar, I’d recommend working through the grammar articles on this website from AllSetLearning.com. It has extensive grammar points for all skill levels to get you started. One of the reasons I really like this website is that you can see the grammar points sorted within each level (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) all listed on one screen. I’m a huge proponent of this way of showing a lot of information at once as opposed to scouring through different articles and posts for information buried inside.
As a start, I would recommend that anyone first review the word order post, which will provide necessary understanding of basic sentence structure and its differences from English. After that, we can start filling in the gaps with more specific grammar points. I would recommend skimming through most or all of the Beginner A1 grammar points before starting to study characters. While you’re working on learning your first characters, I would recommend working through the Beginner A2 at the same time. This should give a good general idea of how Chinese grammar generally works for basic structures. The example sentences are directly translated so you will quickly become familiar with essential beginner words such as:
- pronouns like 我，你，他，她，它
- markers and particles like 们，的，地，得，吗，呢，吧
- basic verbs and adverbs like 是，在，有，去， 要，很, 会， 能，可以
- question words like 什么，谁，哪里， 怎么
- negations with不 and 没
- measure words like 个
After going through these grammar posts, you should have a basic working knowledge of Chinese grammar. This way, as you develop your knowledge of characters and words, you can begin combining these skills by reading in Chinese as soon as possible from sources that interest you. If you run into more complex grammatical structures that you don’t understand, you can always go back to the AllSetLearning website for more advanced grammar topics. Reading books or even the news in Chinese might seem a little daunting this early on, but there’s another tool that will really help you tremendously for this. That’s one thing we’ll be discussing in the next post.