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Last time we took a look at how to say, "How many people are in your family?" in Chinese. If you missed that discussion, take some time to
go back and answer the question in the reply.
(see all "20 Questions to Basic Fluency.")
Today we are looking at the present tense in Chinese and asking, “What are you doing?” Unlike some other aspects of Chinese, using verb tenses is pretty simple. Here is today’s question and answer:
Nǐ zài zuò shénme?
What are you doing?
Wǒ zài kàn diàn shì.
I am watching TV.
The word 在 (zài) in this context tells you that you are in the present continuous tense, or in simpler terms, it acts as the “-ing” that we put on the end of our verbs in English. So in our examples above, 在做 (zài zuò ) means “doing” and 在看 (zài kàn ) means “watching.” Just replace the 看电视 (diàn shì)in the answer to tell about different actions that you are doing. Here is a list of some common actions that work well in this pattern:
起床 － Qǐ chuáng – get up
做早饭 － Zuò zǎofàn – make breakfast
吃早饭 － Chī zǎofàn – eat breakfast
看报纸 － Kàn bàozhǐ – read the newspaper
喝咖啡 － Hē kāfēi – drink coffee
喝茶 － Hē chá – drink tea
洗碗 － Xǐ wǎn – wash dishes
上楼 － Shàng lóu – go upstairs
洗澡 － Xǐ zǎo – take a shower
刮脸 － Guā liǎn – shave (face)
化妆 － Huà zhuāng – put on make up
拢头发 － Lǒng tóufǎ - comb hair
上厕所 － Shàng cèsuǒ – use(go to) the bathroom
刷牙 － Shuā yá – brush teeth
穿衣服 － Chuān yīfú – put on clothes
下楼 － Xià lóu – go downstairs
开车 － Kāichē – drive a car
坐公共汽车 － Zuò gōnggòng qìchē – on the bus
坐地铁 － Zuò dìtiě – on the subway
走路 － Zǒulù - walk
骑车 － Qí chē – ride a bike
路上－ Lùshàng – on the road/on the way
上课 － Shàngkè – in class
上班 － Shàngbān – at work
玩 － Wán - play
吃午饭 － Chī wǔfàn – eat lunch
下课 － Xiàkè – get out of school
下班 － Xiàbān – get off of work
做作业 － Zuò zuo yè – do homework
整理 － Zhěnglǐ – straighten up
洗衣服 － Xǐ yīfú – wash clothes
睡午觉 － Shuì wǔjiào – take a nap
做晚饭 － Zuò wǎnfàn – make dinner
吃晚饭 － Chī wǎnfàn – eat dinner
上网 － Shàngwǎng – go on the internet
聊天 － Liáotiān - chat
取钱 － Qǔ qián – take out money
上街 － Shàng jiē – go shopping
买菜 － Mǎi cài – go grocery shopping
看书 － Kàn shū – read a book
休息 － Xiūxí - rest
睡觉 － Shuìjiào - sleep
Remember, when you add
在 (zài) in front of any of these actions, it means you are “doing” that action - for example, “sleep” will change to, “sleeping.” And if you have nothing to do, you might say
没事做！(Méi shì zuò!) “There’s nothing to do!”
Check out Peggy Lee to hear how this question and answer sounds from a native speaker.
Now it’s your turn. Practice using this pattern by writing what you are doing in the reply. Feel free to write the pattern out with different actions as many times as you want just to practice it. Remember, there is no substitute for repetition… there is no substitute for repetition… there is no substitute for… got it?
If you are looking for even more actions to work with, check out a previous post on free time activities. After just a little practice you'll have no problem posting status updates in Weibo, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or whatever social networking you're into.
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