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Are You Chinese?

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Are You Chinese?

Welcome to the second lesson in Chinese. In this lesson we'll build on the words from Lesson 1 and create some new sentences. When you finish this lesson you'll know:

  • Plural form of he/she/it
  • How to tell someone your name or ask theirs
  • How to tell someone your nationality or ask if they are a citizen of a specific country (three countries are covered in this lesson; China, America, and the UK)
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
Complete Lesson (PDF)
Printable PDF version of this lesson
Complete Lesson (PDF)
Printable PDF version of this lesson
Chinese Phrase Search Puzzle
Have a bit of fun looking for the new phrases you've learned.
Online Practice
Take our online practice test and see how well you do.

Are You Chinese?

In this lesson we picked 10 words which will help you to build some more basic phrases. We’ve introduced three countries (China, England and America) in this lesson; this will not only give you the ability to be able to talk about places and nationalities in this lesson, but in future lessons you’ll build on these words to speak about languages. The other words in this lesson are common words which are used frequently in Chinese to build sentences, you’ll encounter them often.

Be sure to use our printable Chinese flash cards to study the words offline. Spending a little time with the flash cards will make the lessons much easier. When studying the Chinese characters look at the radicals and character components as they often give you hints to the meaning of the word. Some words have phonetic components, you don’t need to learn the phonetics this early in your lesson but as you build your vocabulary you’ll start to recognize the phonetics - and in some instances you’ll actually be able to say the word before you know the meaning of it.

Let’s get started and take a detailed look at each of the Chinese words for this lesson.

呢 ( ne ): interrogative final
Radical: 口 (mouth)
Phonetic: 尼 (ne)
Component: 口 (mouth) and 尼 (phonetic - ne)
Like the question word 吗 learned in Lesson 1, the mouth radical here symbolizes asking a question while 尼 is for phonetic representation (ne). 呢 has a neutral tone and follows a pronoun to reflect a question toward someone else. For example, if someone asks you how you are (你好吗?), following your answer you can ask them the same question simply by saying: 你呢?

再见 ( zài jiàn ): goodbye
Radicals: 冂 (display case) and 见 (see)
Sub-Word : 再 - again/once more
见 - to see
Components for 1st Character: 冂 (display case) and 王 (king, prince)
Components for 2nd Character: 见 (see)
The radical 冂 (display case) combined with 王 (king, prince) make 再. The character 再 means again and 见, a radical in itself, means to see. Together, they translate as "again see", or see you again (commonly used as goodbye).
Memorization Hint: 再见 has the same ending sound as "see you again" – it rhymes.

们 ( mén ): plural suffix
Radical: 亻 (person)
Component: 亻 (person) and 门 (door)
们 is composed of the upright person radical and 门 (door). Place it after a pronoun to make the pronoun plural.
Memorization Hint: So perhaps if there’s a person at the door there may be others behind him, giving meaning to more than one.

中国 ( zhōng guó ): China
Radicals: 丨 (line) and 囗 (enclosure)
Sub-Word : 中 - middle/center
国 - country/nation
Components for 1st Character: 丨 (line) and 口 (box)
Components for 2nd Character: 囗 (enclosure) and 玉 (jade)
中 represents an arrow hitting a bull’s eye directly in the center, thus it means center. 国 is composed of a 玉 (jade) which is protected by an enclosure, thus it represents the idea of something valued enclosed within a wall or border.
Memorization Hint: Think of people as the valuable things within a border. Thus 国 gets its meaning for country. Putting 中 and 国 together comes to mean center country as China is the central country to all of Asia.

美国 ( měi guó ): America
Radicals: 羊 (sheep) and 囗 (enclosure)
Sub-Word : 美 - beautiful
国 - country/nation
Components for 1st Character: 羊 (sheep) and 大 (big)
Components for 2nd Character: 囗 (enclosure) and 玉 (jade)
美 combines both 羊 (sheep) and 大 (big) to represent beauty.
Memorization Hint: Sheep are a beautiful animal, we make much of our clothes from their wool. To have a big sheep would certainly very beautiful to a sheep herder, thus the combination of 大 (big) and 羊 (sheep) to make the 美 (měi) character. Together 美 with 国 it means beautiful country as a description for America the Beautiful.

英国 ( yīng guó ): UK, England
Radicals: 艹 (grass) and 囗 (enclosure)
Sub-Word : 英 - brave
国 - country/nation
Components for 1st Character: 艹 (grass) and 央 (center)
Components for 2nd Character: 囗 (enclosure) and 玉 (jade)
英 originally meant flower but is more commonly known as brave. It combines the 艹(grass) radical with the 央 (center) character. To stand in the center of a grassy area during battle may be considered quite brave.
Memorization Hint: 英 (yīng) together with 国 it means brave country, or England or the UK. After all, the English have always been looked upon as brave and courageous people.

是 ( shì ): is, are, am
Radical: 日 (sun)
Component: 日 (sun) and 正 (right/just)
是 is a picture of 日 (sun) over the 正 (right/just) character, in a slightly modified form.
Memorization Hint: To stand under the sun and proclaim something which you believe is just or right shows the world that you exist and are something.

叫 ( jiào ): called
Radical: 口 (mouth)
Component: 口 (mouth)
叫 is to tell someone what you're called (i.e. your name). For instance you would say, "I'm called Nancy".
Memorization Hint: You can remember this character by the mouth radical and thinking of someone calling out a person’s name, thus the meaning called.

都 ( dōu ): all, both
Radical: 阝(city)
Component: 阝(city), 者 (person who does something)
You can place 都 after a plural subject to show "we all..." or "they all..." (我们都... 他们都...)
Memorization Hint: The radical for this character looks like the letter B. Just remember B stands for Both!

人 ( rén ): person, people
Radical: 人 (person)
Component: 人 (person)
人 is a pictograph of a standing person, thus it means person. This should be a very easy word to remember and you’ll see it often.
Memorization Hint: A two legged person is easy to remember.


Let's start off by exploring the plural form of pronouns. In Chinese there is a distinction between the singular and plural forms of pronouns. Looking at the three pronouns we learned so far (我, 你, and 他) each of them can be changed from singular to plural by adding the suffix 们 (mén). For example, we/us is 我们 (wŏmén) and they/them is 他们 (tāmén). You can be even more specific by saying 我们都是中国人, which means "We are all/both Chinese".

In Lesson 1 you learned how to greet someone by saying 你好 (nĭ hǎo). Now you can greet several people at once by saying 你们好 (nĭmén hǎo). It is worth noting here that common nouns, unlike pronouns, are typically neutral with respect to number. The singular and plural forms of common nouns are identical in both spoken and written language.

In this lesson we introduced three countries to our vocabulary. These three are good ones to remember as you’ll run into them quite often. You can check an English/Chinese dictionary to learn additional countries. Most countries include a prefix followed by 国 (guó). The meaning of 国 is country.


Question Particles

  • 呢 cannot be used to ask an original question, but is used to reflect a question back at the asker by prefacing it with an appropriate pronoun: 你好吗?... 我很好,你呢?(I'm fine, and you?)
  • 吗 can make a statement into a yes or no question only, but 呢 can reflect questions of any type.
Singular and Plural Nouns
  • Common nouns typically have no distinction between the singular and plural forms.
  • Pronouns are changed from singular to plural by adding the suffix 们.

Vocabulary Review:
  1. 呢 ne interrogative final
  2. 再见 zài jiàn goodbye
  3. 们 mén plural suffix
  4. 中国 zhōng guó China
  5. 美国 měi guó America
  6. 英国 yīng guó UK, England
  7. 是 shì is, are, am
  8. 叫 jiào called
  9. 都 dōu all, both
  10. 人 rén person, people
Ms. Zhang's business partner, Li Jia, is waiting for them to arrive for dinner. As he waits in the crowded restaurant, an old friend spots him and stops to chat. His friend is just leaving when Ms. Zhang and their guests arrive. Li Jia has had so many business meetings the last few days that he's really confused about which country Linda and Jim come from.
 Zài jiàn!
Mr. Li: 
 Nĭ hǎo!
Jim & Linda: 
 Nĭ hǎo!
Mr. Li: 
 你... 是英国人吗?
 Nĭ… shì yīng guó rén ma?
 Are you… British?
 不是, 我是美国人.
 Bú shì, wŏ shì měi guó rén.
 No, I’m American.
Mr. Li: 
 Tā ne? Tā shì bú shì zhōng guó rén?
 And him? Is he Chinese?
 不是, 我不是中国人. 我也是美国人. 我们都是美国人.
 Bú shì, wŏ bú shì zhōng guó rén. Wŏ yě shì měi guó rén. Wŏ mén dōu shì měi guó rén.
 No, I’m not Chinese. I’m also American. We’re both American.
Mr. Li: 
 我叫 Li Jia. 你们呢?
 Wŏ jiào Li Jia. Nĭ mén ne?
 I’m called Li Jia. And you?
 我叫 Linda.
 Wŏ jiào Linda.
 I’m called Linda.
 我叫 --!!
 Wŏ jiào --!!
 I’m called --!!
 to be continued...
Fill in the Blank:

你好, 我 __ Thomas. (called)
Nĭ hǎo, wŏ __ Thomas.
Hello, I’m called Thomas.

__ 是 中国人. (I)
__ shì zhōngguó rén.
I am Chinese.

他们 是 ______. (American)
Tā mén shì ______.
They are American.

___ 不是 英国人. (he)
__ bú shì yīngguó rén.
He isn’t English.

他是 ____ 人. (Chinese)
Tā shì ____ rén.
He is Chinese.

我 __ Mike. (called)
Wŏ jiào __.
I’m called Mike.

你是 ____ 人吗? (English)
Nĭ shì ____ rén ma?
Are you English?

他们__ 是中国人. (both)
Tā mén ____ shì zhōng guó rén.
They are both Chinese.

__, 我 不是 美国人. (no)
__, wŏ bú shì měiguó rén.
No, I’m not American.

我 是 美国 __. (person)
Wŏ shì měiguó __.
I am American.

____ 是 中国人. (they)
____ shì zhōngguó rén.
They are Chinese.

我叫 Carrie, ____? (and you?)
Wŏ jiào Carrie, ____?
I’m called Carrie, and you?

____! (goodbye)

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