What makes the Chinese structure different from English? (1)

Complement is a typical element in Chinese language. It usually goes after a verb or an adjective to describe the result, degree, direction, possibility, state, quantity or duration of an action.

My second secret focuses on the COMPLEMENT OF DURATION, which indicates how long an action or a state lasts. For example:

I slept for six hours last night.

The above sentence can be expressed in the following two ways.

Pattern one:

Subject+ specific time + verb + duration + 的(de) + object

我              昨天晚上       睡     了四个小时(的           觉)。

Wǒ  zuótiān wǎnshàng shuì    le sì ge xiǎoshí (de      jiào).

Pattern two:

Subject+ specific time +( V)O+V + duration

我              昨天晚上       睡觉  睡 了四个小时。

Wǒ zuótiān wǎnshang shuìjiào shuì le sì ge xiǎoshí.


  • In the above sentences, there are two phrases about TIME ( “昨天晚上zuótiān wǎnshang” & “四个小时sì ge xiǎoshí” ). A specific time should go before the verb and duration of time after the verb.
  • “睡觉shuìjiào” is a VO(verb-object) structure word, which is very common in Chinese language. For the majority of VO structure words, we need to separate them and place the complement between them. In the first Chinese sentence, pattern one, “觉jiào” can be omitted because “睡shuì” means to sleep, “觉jiào” means a sleep. “shuì睡” is clear enough to express the action of sleeping when it goes with a complement. But for most of other VO structure words, which O is not the only object for the noun, you need to keep the object.
  • In pattern two, ( ) means sometimes the FIRST VERB is optional. But I haven’t found the rule for it yet so the FIRST VERB better be kept. With more communication with a native Chinese, you will find out what words we can omit the FIRST VERB.

 You can also longer sentences by adding more elements. For example:

Subject+ specific time + place + verb + duration + (的 de)+ object

我              昨天晚上       在家       睡    了六个小时  (的              觉)。

Wǒ zuótiān wǎnshang   zàijiā    shuì   le liù ge xiǎoshí (de         jiào) 。

I slept six hours at home last night.

Subject+ specific time + method + place + verb + duration + (的 de)+ object

我              昨天晚上         开车       回家       睡      了六个小时 ( 的            觉)。

wǒ  zuótiān wǎnshang   kāichē     huíjiā    shuì    le liù ge xiǎoshí (de         jiào).

Last night I drove home and slept six hours.


Ⅰ. Please try to translate the following sentences into Chinese.

  1.  I swam two hours yesterday.
  2. I chat with my brother for one hour yesterday.
  3. I cooked three hours this morning.

Ⅱ. Change the following statement sentences into questions.

Example : 昨天我们跳舞跳了两个小时。Zuótiān wǒmen tiàowǔ tiào le liǎng gè xiǎo shí

Pattern one: 昨天你们跳舞跳了多长时间?Zuótiān nǐmen tiào wǔ tiào le duōchǎngshíjiān?

Pattern two: 昨天你们跳了多长时间舞?Zuótiān nǐmen tiào le duō chǎng shíjiān wǔ ?

  1. 昨天我爬山爬了三个小时。Zuótiān wǒ páshān pá le sānge xiǎoshí .
  2. 今天早上我吃饭吃了半个小时。Jīntiān zǎoshang wǒ chīfàn chī le bàn ge xiǎoshí.
  3. 从这儿到北京,骑车要骑一个小时。Cóng zhèr dào Běijīng,qíchē yào qí yī ge xiǎoshí.
  4. 昨天我们划船划了两个小时。Zuótiān wǒmen huáchuán huá le liǎng ge xiǎoshí.

Ⅲ. Make sentences with given words or expressions.

Example: 开会 kāihuì(VO)   yī ge bàn xiǎoshí (Time Expression)

我们开会开了一个半小时。Wǒmen kāihuì kāi le yīgebàn xiǎoshí.

  1.  听音乐tīng yīnyuè                             二十分钟èrshí fēnzhōng
  2. 跳舞tiàowǔ                                        半个小时bàn ge xiǎoshí
  3. 坐火车zuò huǒchē                           七个小时qī ge xiǎoshí
  4. 找钥匙zhǎo yàoshí                          几分钟jǐ fēnzhōng

I am an accomplished Mandarin teacher with 5 years experience teaching Chinese to English speakers. I am able to apply diverse teaching techniques based on preferred learning styles. Many of my students passed HSK4 and HSK5 with high scores. Please BOOK my Chinese Courses on italki.

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Comment by Michael Brennan on May 1, 2015 at 12:12pm



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