Chinese : An Essential Grammar book cover
3rd Edition

An Essential Grammar

ISBN 9781003037606
Published March 30, 2021 by Routledge
338 Pages

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Book Description

This new and extended edition of Chinese: An Essential Grammar is an up-to-date and concise reference guide to modern Chinese (Mandarin) grammar.

Refreshingly jargon-free, it presents an accessible description of the language, focusing on the real patterns of use today. This Grammar aims to serve as a reference source for the learner and user of Chinese, irrespective of level, setting out the complexities of the language in short, readable sections.

It is ideal either for independent study or for students in schools, colleges, universities and adult classes of all types.

Features include:

  • Three new chapters on speech habits, writing conventions and new lexicalisation processes
  • Chinese characters, as well as the pinyin romanisation, alongside all examples
  • Literal and colloquial translations into English to illustrate language points
  • Detailed contents list and index for easy access to information
  • A glossary of grammatical terms.

Table of Contents




The Chinese language

Mandarin pronunciation

The Chinese vocabulary

Part I Nouns


1 Nouns

1.1 Noun features

1.2 Proper nouns

1.3 Common nouns

1.3.1 The plural suffix -men

1.3.2 Nouns and definite or indefinite reference

1.4 Nouns and conjunctions

1.5 Common nouns: countability

2 Numerals and nouns

2.1 Cardinal numbers

2.1.1 Two forms of the number two

2.2 Ordinal numbers

2.3 ‘Half’

2.4 Fractions, percentages, decimals, multiples and ‘every’

2.5 Approximation

3 Measures for nouns

3.1 Measures and

3.2 Other measure words

3.3 Abstract nouns

3.4 Material nouns

3.5 Collective nouns

3.6 Relationship between measures and nouns

4 Pronouns

4.1 Personal pronouns

4.2 Possessive pronouns

4.3 Demonstrative pronouns

4.4 Interrogative pronouns

4.5 Other pronouns

4.6 Pronouns and conjunctions

5 Adjectives and attributives

5.1 Attributives

5.2 Adjectives as attributives

5.2.1 Monosyllabic adjectives

5.2.2 Polysyllabic adjectives and de

5.2.3 Disyllabic adjectives and de

5.3 Nominal attributives

5.3.1 Nominal attributives and de

5.4 Prepositional and postpositional phrases as attributives

5.5 Verbal phrases or clauses as attributives

5.6 The order of sequential attributives

5.7 Demonstrative and numeral phrases with other attributives

5.8 Possessive pronoun and other attributives

5.9 Ér between adjectives

5.10 Omission of the noun following an attributive

5.11 Attributives in word-formation

Part II Verbs


6 Adjectival and nominal predicates; the verb shì

6.1 Adjectival predicates

6.2 Adjectival predicates and the verb ‘to be’

6.2.1 Adjectival predicates and degree adverbs

6.2.2 Adjectival predicates in the negative

6.2.3 Adjectival predicates followed by verbs

6.3 Non-gradable adjectives as attributives

6.3.1 Attributives of shape, colour or material

6.4 Nominal and pronominal predicates

6.4.1 Verbs resembling shì

6.4.2 Nominal predicates without a copula

6.5 The copula shì in its negative form

7 The verb yǒu; comparisons

7.1 The functions of yǒu

7.1.1 Yǒu indicating possession

7.1.2 Měi as negative of yǒu

7.1.3 Yǒu indicating change or development

7.1.4 Yǒu forming idiomatic expressions

7.1.5 Yǒu introducing adjectival predicates

7.2 Comparison

7.2.1 Emphatic or specific comparison

7.2.2 Negative comparison

7.2.3 Comparison: equivalence or similarity

7.3 Comparatives and superlatives

8 Verbs and aspect markers

8.1 Action, state and dative verbs

8.2 Action verbs

8.3 Aspect markers

8.3.1 Le

8.3.2 Guo

8.3.3 Zài

8.3.4 Zhe

8.4 State verb

8.5 Dative verbs

8.5.1 Dative verbs relating to spoken activity

8.5.2 Dative verbs and aspect markers

8.6 Causative verbs

8.7 Imperatives

8.7.1 Polite requests

8.7.2 Imperatives and aspect markers

9 Motion verbs and direction indicators

9.1 Motion verbs and simple direction indicators

9.2 Motion verbs and compound direction indicators

9.3 Motion verbs with metaphorical meaning

9.4 Direction indicators with specific meanings

10 Verbs and time

10.1 Time expressions

10.2 Point of time expressions

10.2.1 Detailed time expressions

10.3 Point-of-time expressions incorporating verbal phrases

10.4 Imprecise points of time

10.5 Indefinite points of time

10.6 Frequency expressions with měi

10.7 Time expressions in existence sentences

10.7.1 Time expressions in emergence or disappearance sentences

11 Verbs and location

11.1 Location expressions

11.2 Zài and postpositional phrases

11.2.1 Disyllabic postpositions

11.2.2 Disyllabic postpositions as location pronouns

11.3 Simple location sentences

11.4 Location phrases modifying main verbs

11.5 Location phrases in existence sentences

11.5.1 Shì in existence sentences

11.5.2 Zhe in existence sentences

11.6 Le in emergence or disappearance sentences

11.7 Order of sequence of time and location phrases

12 Verbs: duration and frequency

12.1 Duration expressions

12.1.1 Duration expressions and noun objects

12.1.2 Repetition of the verb in a noun-object-duration structure

12.1.3 Duration expressions and pronoun objects

12.1.4 Duration expressions in dative construction

12.1.5 Duration expressions and definite reference

12.2 Brief duration

12.2.1 Brief duration and instrumental objects

12.3 Frequency expressions

13 Verbs and complements

13.1 Complements

13.2 Complements of result

13.3 Potential complements

13.3.1 Potential complements using direction indicators

13.3.2 Metaphorical meanings of potential complements

13.4 Complements of manner and of consequential state

13.4.1 Modification of complement of manner

13.4.2 Complement of consequential state

13.4.3 Complements of manner or consequential state with a ‘verb + object’ verb

13.4.4 Adjectival complements of manner in comparisons

13.4.5 Complement-of-manner comparison with a ‘verb + object’ verb

13.5 Complement of location or destination

13.6 Degree complements

14 Verbs and adverbials

14.1 Adverbials of manner

14.1.1 Monosyllabic adjectives as adverbials of manner

14.1.2 Adverbials of manner with marked verbs

14.1.3 Adverbials of manner with unmarked verbs

14.1.4 Monosyllabic adverbial modifiers without de

14.1.5 Particular types of adverbials of manner

14.2 Attitudinal adverbial expressions

14.3 Referential adverbs

14.4 Referential adverbs with negatives

14.5 Order of sequence of referential adverbs

14.6 Order of adverbials in sequence

15 Modal and similar verbs

15.1 Modal, attitudinal and intentional verbs

15.2 Modal verbs

15.2.1 Modal verbs and adverbs of degree

15.2.2 Modal verbs and comparison

15.3 Attitudinal verbs

15.3.1 Wàngle and jìde

15.3.2 Gāoxìng

15.4 Intentional verbs

15.4.1 Negation of intentional verbs

Part III Sentences


16 Statements and the sentence particle le

16.1 Le as a sentence particle

16.2 Functions of sentence le

16.2.1 Summing-up function of le

16.2.2 Le as both sentence particle and aspect marker

16.3 Cases where sentence le is not used

16.4 Ultimate versatility of sentence le

17 Questions

17.1 Question-word questions

17.1.1 Zěnmeyàng

17.1.2 Duō in questions

17.1.3 Ne in questions

17.2 General questions with ma

17.3 Surmise questions with ba

17.4 Affirmative-negative questions

17.5 Alternative questions with háishì

17.6 Tags indicating suggestion

17.7 Tags seeking confirmation

17.8 Rhetorical questions

18 Subject and predicate; topic and comment

18.1 Dual patterning of sentence structures

18.2 Subject-predicate sentences

18.3 Topic-comment sentences

18.3.1 Further ways to form topic-comment sentences

18.4 Topic | subject-predicate sentences

18.4.1 Notional passive sentences

18.5 Subject | topic-comment sentences

19 Prepositions and coverbs

19.1 Coverbs

19.1.1 Coverbs of place and time

19.1.2 Coverbs of methods and means

19.1.3 Coverbs of human exchange and service

19.1.4 Coverbs of reference

19.1.5 Coverbs and comparison

19.2 Disyllabic prepositions

20 and bèi constructions

20.1 The construction

20.1.1 The construction and complements

20.1.2 Le and zhe as complements in sentences

20.1.3 and resultative complements

20.1.4 Nòng and gǎo in sentences

20.1.5 Negative sentences

20.1.6 and modal verbs

20.1.7 and indefinite reference

20.2 The bèi construction

20.2.1 Ràng and jiào

20.2.2 The bèi construction with an agent

20.2.3 Negative bèi sentences

20.3 The bèi construction versus the notional passives

21 Serial constructions

21.1 General features of serial constructions

21.2 Semantic varieties in serial constructions

21.3 Adjectives or state verbs in serial constructions

21.4 Dative constructions

21.5 Causative constructions

21.5.1 Qǐng in a causative construction

21.5.2 Extended causative constructions

21.6 Extended serial constructions

22 Emphasis and the intensifier shì

22.1 Shì as an intensifier

22.2 The shì … de construction

22.2.1 Subject and object emphasis in shì … de sentences

22.2.2 Shì … de construction and

22.3 Shì without de for progression and projection

22.3.1 Contexts for shì (without de) sentences

22.3.2 Shì and comparison

22.3.3 Shì and negation

22.4 Shì and topic-comment sentences

22.4.1 Shì implying reservation

22.4.2 ‘Verb/adjective + shì + verb/adjective’ implying reservation

22.5 Repetition and emphasis

23 Abbreviation and omission

23.1 Three types of abbreviation

23.2 Conventional abbreviations as subjectless sentences

23.3 Contextual abbreviation

23.4 Cotextual omissions

23.4.1 Cotextual omissions and headwords

23.4.2 Cotextual omissions in answers

23.4.3 Contextual/cotextual omissions in extended passages

24 Composite sentences: conjunctions and conjunctives

24.1 Types of composite sentence

24.2 Conjunctions and conjunctives

24.2.1 Meanings and functions of composite sentences

24.2.2 Paired conjunctives

24.3 Composite sentences as parallel structures

24.4 Verbs taking object clauses

25 Exclamations and interjections; appositions; and apostrophes

25.1 Exclamations

25.1.1 Exclamations with tài

25.1.2 Question-word questions as exclamations

25.2 Interjections

25.2.1 Tone variations in interjections

25.3 Appositions

25.4 People being addressed [apostrophe]

Part IV Paragraphs


26.1 A diary

26.2 A letter

26.3 A dialogue

26.4 A welcome speech

26.5 A description

26.6 An explanatory piece of writing

The way to learn Chinese words

26.7 An argumentative piece of writing

Part V Speech habits: meaning and form


27.1 Universal, cotextual or contextual omissions and abbreviations

27.1.1 Sentence patterns (1)

27.1.2 Sentence patterns (2) 

27.2 Sentence extension following paragraph patterns

27.3 Further features of sentence extension

27.3.1 Sentences extended by illustration or exemplification

27.3.2 Sentences extended by reasoning

27.3.3 Sentences extended by detailing or amplification

27.3.4 Sentences extended by result or purpose

Part VI Writing conventions: classical quadrisyllabic patterns or idioms


28.1 An overview of four-character or quadrisyllabic idioms

28.1.1 The distinction between quadrisyllabic patterns and quadrisyllabic idioms 

28.1.2 The internal structure of quadrisyllabic idioms

28.2 Quadrisyllabic idioms at work

28.3 How quadrisyllabic idioms mix comfortably with other rhythms in writing

Part VII Contemporary developments in Chinese: new syntatctic and lexical tendencies


29 Contemporary linguistic developments

29.1 New syntactic tendencies

29.1.1 Shift of word classes

29.1.2 Extensive use of pseudo-)suffixes or (pseudo-)prefixes

29.1.3 Multi-syllabic coinages on 'attributive + headword' syntactic pattern

29.2 New ways of lexicalisation

29.2.1 Direct borrowings

29.2.2 Semantic/phonetic calques (total or partial)

29.2.3 Intra-language transliterations

29.2 4 Internet neologisms

29.2.5 Neologisms occurring in conversational exchanges

29.2.6 Abbreviations from quadrisyllabic idioms


Glossary of grammatical terms



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Yip Po-Ching is former Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds.


Don Rimmington is Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies and former Head of the East Asian Studies Department at the University of Leeds.