Language1 and Language2/Contrastive grammar

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DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ENGLISH AND CHINESE : This page covers difference between English and Chinese.

Alphabets :[edit]

Chinese language do not have alphabets but uses logographic symbols for its writing. In logographic system, symbols represent the word themselves and words are not made up of alphabetical system like English. Here is the comparison of between alphabets used in English and logographic symbols in Chinese .

A 诶

B 比

C 西

D 迪

E 伊

F 艾弗

G 吉

H 艾尺

I 艾

J 杰

K 开

L 艾勒

M 艾马

N 艾娜

O 哦

P 屁

Q 吉吾

R 艾儿

S 艾丝

T 提

U 伊吾

V 维

W 豆贝尔维

X 艾克斯

Y 吾艾

Z 贼德

Vowels and consonants :[edit]

English has more usag of vowels than Chinese which results in faulty pronunciations. Examples : ship /sheep



In Chinese, there are 24 vowel and 21 consonants while in English the number is much less.

Verb :[edit]

In English much information is carried by the use of auxiliaries and by verb inflections: is/are/were, eat/eats/ate/eaten, etc. Chinese, on the other hand, is an uninflected language and conveys meaning through word order, adverbials or shared understanding of the context.

In English, for example, the verb "to walk" has many forms compared to its Chinese equivalent: "to walk" (infinitive), "walk, walks" (present), "walked" (simple past), "walking" (present participle), etc. Chinese only has one basic form, used for every person and tense; thus "zǒu" (走) can equal all these forms. ("tā zǒu" 他走: he walks, "nǐ zǒu" 你走: you walk, etc.) In other words, Chinese does not express these differences through inflectional suffixes.


A special class of verbs called coverbs take the place of prepositions or postpositions in other languages. Sometimes, these coverbs can stand alone as a verb in its own right. One example is 给 (gěi), which can be used in both manners:

Preposition-like usage:

我给你打电话. (我給你打電話) (Wǒ gěi nǐ dǎ diànhuà.) (I'll give you a telephone call.)


请给我一杯可乐. (請給我一杯可樂) (Qǐng gěi wǒ yī bēi kělè.) (Please give me a glass of cola.)

Use of phrasal verbs: English, a number of short verbs combine with adverbs and preposition to form phrasal verbs which are commonly used in English. But in Chinese there is no use of phrasal verbs. Examples take on, give up etc. are not used in Chinese language.

To be verb'does not exist in Chinese :n Chinese, TO BE verb is not used unlike in English. Examples : In Chinese, the sentence would go like this: I go I will happy Above sentence in English. I will be going happy

In Chinese : We will always together

In English : We will always be together.

Word Order: [edit]

Negation English i a bit funny about negation =. It doesn’t like negating main verbs, so if there isn’t an auxiliary verb it will insert one and negate that. In Mandarin you can just negate the main verb Examples: 我不喜欢他。 Wǒ bù xǐhuan tā. I don’t like him. Here don't is a negation.

他们不吃肉。 Tāmen bù chī ròu. They don’t eat meat.

她不喝咖啡。 Tā bù hē kāfēi. She doesn’t drink coffee.

Adverbial manner : Words that add information about the verb such as time, manner and place are known as adverbials. In Mandarin these nearly always come before the verb. This is different to English which tends to put them all over the place depending on the situation.

他慢慢"wǒ bù chī jī" (我不吃鸡, literally: I not eat chicken) is equal to saying "I don't eat 地吃饭。 Tā màn man de chī fàn. He slowly eats.

你在这里等我。 Nǐ zài zhèlǐ děng wǒ. Here Wait for me

我今天下午用电邮发。 Wǒ jīntiān xiàwǔ yòng diànyóu fā. I will it by email this afternoon send..

Another difference between the two languages is that Chinese has a specific order for this extra information: time first, then manner and then place. This sequence is a general rule. Examples : 我明天要去上海 Wǒ míngtiān yào qù shànghǎi. Here this sentence means : I tomorrow will go to Shangai.

我们意外地在箱子里找到了一只猫。 Wǒmen yìwàide zài xiāngzi lǐ zhǎodàole yī zhī māo. We unexpectedly in the box found a cat

我上个星期匆匆地在我的房间里看了四本书。 Wǒ shàng gè xīngqí cōngcōngde zài wǒ de fángjiān lǐ kànle sì běnshū. I Last week quickly in my room read four books.

A typical word order to be followed unlike in English : This is a general word order for Mandarin that works most of the time. Note that Mandarin sentences are not always exactly like this, especially due to Mandarin being topic-prominent. Adjectives could be inserted before the subject and object: Sbj + Tme + Mnr + Plc + Neg + Aux + Vrb + Cmp + Obj (subject, adverbials, negative, auxiliary verb, verb, complement, object).

An important rule In Chinese apart from word order the following makes useful guidelines - " Modifies preceed what they modify" while there is no such rule in English.Examples are below and modifiers are highlighted :

那是小李的书。 Nà shì Xiǎolǐ de shū. That is Xiaoli’s book.

那个很高的男人匆匆地走了。 Nàge hěn gāo de nánrén cōngcōng de zǒule. The tall man left in a hurry.

我不喜欢大的够。 Wǒ bù xǐhuan dà de gòu. I don’t like big dogs.


Chinese language gives importance to aspect not tense : English verbs express aspect and tense. Consider the difference between “I ate”, “I was eating” and “I have eaten”. They are all past tense, but the aspect in each one is different. There are different levels of completeness. This is what aspect is about. In Chinese most of the verbs have single form

Mandarin tends to just express aspect. The main way it does this is with the aspect particle 了 (le). 了 grammar is pretty difficult, but just remember that it’s about aspect and not tense. 了 can appear in sentences about the past, present and future Examples :

wǒ wǒ 当 当dāng 当dāng 了le 了le 兵bīng

。 [我當了兵。]

I became a soldier (and I still am; note that this is subjected to the context. One could say 那时,我当了兵[那時,我當了兵] - at that time, I became a soldier - and this sentence would not necessarily indicate that the speaker is still a soldier now).

。 [他看了三場球賽。] He watched three ballgames (and he probably has watched many during his lifetime; often used in a time-delimited context such as "today" or "last week").

No expression of time in Chinese verbs:In Chinese expressions are done with temporal adverbs. 'He future travel.' 'I tomorrow shop.' The Chinese do not talk in the present about the future being in the past, for e.g.: 'By Friday I will have gone...'.

Active and Passive voice :[edit]

Chinese language usually uses active voice while in English, passive voice is commonly used. Examples : English - It is always stressed. ......... Chinese - People always stressed......

To use passive voice, sentences are usually marked by passive marker, 被 bèi: For example : 我们 我们我们 被 被bèi 他 tā 骂 mà 了 le 。 [我們被他罵了。] We by him scolded (We were scolded by him).

他 tā 被 bèi 我 wǒ 打 dǎ 了 le 一 yí 顿 dùn 。 [他被我打了一頓。] He by me beaten (up) (He was beaten up by me).

Pronoun: [edit]

Use of pronoun: Use of pronoun is common in English but Chinese people usually use noun. The Chinese personal pronouns are : 我 wǒ "I, me", 你 nǐ "you", and 他/她/它 tā "he (him)/she (her)/it".

Singular/Plural [edit]

In Chinese plural forms are generally similar to singular. But sometimes plural marker is used to denote plural words - 们. For example : Plurals: 我们. wǒmen

(們) men

'Some other major Differences:[edit]

No nominative cases in Chinese : In Chinese, for example, I and me goes the same Similarly 'he' and 'him' also goes the same. For example : I am his brother or Me is his brother goes the same He is going to Dubai or Him is going to Dubai.

Here second sentence for each example will be considered wrong in English.

Chinese language requires classifiers : In Chinese language, classifiers are required to be counted. So when we have to specify a Amount of a countable noun classifiers have to be used while English does not use any classifiers. For example : --条 [條] tiáo for long, thin objects or animals (e.g. ropes, snakes or fish)

--把 bǎ for objects with handles (e.g. knives, umbrellas),l

--张 [張] zhāng for flat objects that can be counted as sheets in English ( photographs, fur, etc.).

Order of questioning: Chinese question are asked like ' you say what? ' while in English the same question will be asked like 'What did you say?' Another example : 我们 什么时候 吃 饭 ?

Wǒmen shénme shíhou chī fàn? When we eating? In English the above sentence would be: When are going to eat?

Another example : In Chinese : you did what? In English : What did you do?

"nǐ chī jī" (你吃鸡。/你吃雞。): "You eat chicken.?" In English : "Do you eat chicken?"

Usage of 的 to attach qualities to things : In Chinese the above symbol is used to attach qualities to the things. Examples 。Nà shì Xiǎolǐ de shū. That is Xiaoli’s book.

Chinese- a topic prominent language : Chinese is topic-prominent as it often prefers to In Chinese : project I have already made In English : I have already made the project put the topic first, not the subject. So a speaker might say “作业我已经做完了”, literally “homework I’ve already done”. While English is a subject prominent language. So the sentence would go like this : I've already done homework.

Another example : In Chinese- Project I have already made. In English - I have already made a project.

Another Example : In Chinese : model I have to make for science exhibition. In English : I have to make model for science exhibition.

Preference to the tone: Chinese language is a tone languge, unlike English. This means that it uses pitch for identifying the meaning of words.

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