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What’s Your Name?

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What’s Your Name?

Welcome back! You can introduce yourself now, but may be wondering how to ask someone else their name. In Lesson 3, we'll focus on getting information from others. When done, you'll be able to:

  • Ask someone their name
  • Use pronouns to show possession
  • Use the "verb 不 verb" pattern to form questions
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
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.

What’s Your Name?

Be sure to spend time studying the roots of the character, it's composition, and make associations so you can easily remember it.

名字 ( míng zi ): name
Radicals: 口 (mouth) and 子 (child)
Sub-Word : 名 - name
字 - character
Phonetic: 子 (zi)
Components for 1st Character: 口 (mouth) and 夕 (evening)
Components for 2nd Character: 子 (child) and 宀 (roof)
名 by itself means name, but cannot be used alone. Here, the character 字 means letter or word. So, together, 名字 literally means the words of your name. You can remember to include 字 to complete the word for name, by considering its components. A child is the basis for mankind as words are the basis for language.
Memorization Hint: 名 is made of the 口 (mouth) radical and 夕 (evening) radical; whereas, 字 is made of the 子 (child) and 宀 (roof) components. Think of a parent calling out in the evening for their child to come home so that child can be under the roof where he belongs. The parent would certainly call the child by their name.

男 ( nán ): male
Radical: 田 (field)
Component: 田 (field) and 力 (power)
男 is made up of two parts: the radical 田, meaning field, and 力 which means power. If there was one symbol in Chinese which looks like power, I would have to say that it’s 力 – it just looks powerful. 男 is usually followed by 人 to describe a man (male person).
Memorization Hint: Men are often powerful and work in the fields. Think of a man holding a heavy bucket under his arm – the arm being the right portion of the 力 character.

女 ( nǚ ): woman
Radical: 女 (female)
Component: 女 (female)
A radical itself, which you'll see frequently in other characters, 女 means female. This character symbolizes a woman holding a baby. This character is usually followed by 人 to describe a woman (female person).
Memorization Hint: Take a short while to look at this character and you’ll see the shapeliness of a woman holding her baby. Women are very beautiful and have a nice eloquent shape, much as this character does. Women bring the new into the world (children), which sounds like nǚ.

孩子 ( haí zi ): child
Radicals: 子 (child) and 子 (child)
Sub-Word : 孩 - child
子 - child
Phonetic: 亥 (hai)
Components for 1st Character: 子 (child) and 亥 (last of twelve earthly branches)
Components for 2nd Character: 子 (child)
子 means child, but you’ll also see it as a noun suffix for small things. So, it’s part of 孩子 as a suffix. 孩 itself means child and also contains the child radical.
Memorization Hint: 子 is the child radical, it’s shown in this word twice emphasizing that it means child.

什么 ( shén me ): what
Sub-Word : 什 - what
么 - interrogative particle
Components for 1st Character: 亻 (upright person) and 十 (ten)
Components for 2nd Character: 丿(slash/line) and 厶 (private)
什 means mixed, or miscellaneous. 么 is an interrogative particle (interrogation part of a word), much like 呢 (ne) and is what makes 什 a question word.
Memorization Hint: With the 亻 (upright person) and 十 (ten) components, you can think of two people standing in front of each other. However, the second person is a bit mixed up and didn’t put his head in the right place. Thus first person is looking inquisitively at the second person. The second person, not realizing his mistake, responds by opening his hands, shrugging his shoulders and saying, “what?”. Also, since you see the 么 character you know a question is being asked. In the character 什 you can see the 十 (shi) character. Although this isn’t a true phonetic you can use it as a trigger to help you remember to start the word with an “sh” sound.

的 ( de ): possessive suffix
Radical: 白 (white)
Component: 白 (white) and 勺 (spoon)
的 can follow a noun to show possession. For example if you want to change me (我) to my, it becomes 我的. Later we’ll learn how to say “I have” something, but while 我的 (my) shows you own something, the meaning is slightly different. Use 我的 to refer to something that belongs to you.
Memorization Hint: Think of a couple sleeping. Both persons are sleeping on their sides in a spoon position. The one holding the other is surely showing possession of their loved one.

她 ( tā ): she
Radical: 女 (woman)
Component: 女 (woman) and 也 (also)
她 replaces the upright person radical in the gender neutral 他 with the woman radical.
Memorization Hint: Replacing the 亻(person) component of 他 with the woman radical changes 他 from he/she/it to the feminine version 她 meaning she.

它 ( tā ): it
Radical: 宀 (roof)
Component: 宀 (roof) and 匕 (spoon)
它 means it and uses the roof radical.
Memorization Hint: 它 can be thought of as someone under a roof; however, the character under the roof radical isn’t a person (人 or 亻) so it must be a pet or a thing.

那 ( nà, nèi ): that, there
Radical: 阝 (city) Note: 阝only means city when on the ri
Component: 阝(city) and月 (moon)
While this character is often pronounced as nà, as we'll practice in this lesson, it’s usually pronounced nèi when followed by a measure word which will be introduced in Lesson 4.
Memorization Hint: Picture yourself outside at night walking down a rural road. A stranger stops you and asks which city you're from. You point to a city under the moon and say "I'm from that city".

这 ( zhè, zhèi ): this, here
Radical: 辶 (movement)
Component: 辶 (movement) and 文 (script)
这, as well, has two pronunciations. Usually zhè, as we’ll practice in this lesson, is more commonly pronounced zhèi when followed by a measure word as introduced in Lesson 4.
Memorization Hint: X marks the spot! Remember this when you see this character and you’ll know it means ‘here’ or ‘this’.


In Lesson 1 you learned the neutral writing for tā (he/she/it). Now, if you know that the person is female you can write tā as 她 (notice the female radical), or if you are speaking about a thing or animal you can write tā as 它. However, if you’re unsure or if you’re writing about a combination of genders, you default to the他 (neutral) writing of tā. For example, if you were speaking about a group of people which included both men and women you would write it as 他们. Although you can write tā in different ways in Chinese, all three are pronounced exactly the same way - using the first tone.

Let’s consider the ways we know how to say our name and ask others’ their name. In Lesson 1, we introduced 叫, which means to be called. Now, we also know the word for ‘my’ and ‘name’, so we can construct the sentence ‘My name is Sam’ by saying 我的名字是 Sam.

So, how can we ask someone “What’s your name?” The word for what is 什么. It is not incorrect to directly translate here, but it is more common in Chinese to put the question word at the end of the sentence like this: “Your name is what?” If you came up with 你的名字是什么?You’re absolutely right!

If you have the opportunity to meet a Chinese person, remember that their answer will be their Family Name first, followed by their Given Name - the opposite of what we say in English. Now that you’ve finished Lesson 3, it’s time to go to your favorite Chinese restaurant and practice a few phrases. Can you remember how to say Hello and How are You? Be sure to ask your waiter his name!


Yes/No Questions

You can ask a yes/no question in two ways:

  • Compose a sentence and complete it with the question particle, 吗.
  • Use the pattern "verb 不 verb". For example: 他是美国人吗? (Is he American?) can also be asked by saying 他是不是美国人? (He is or is not American?).

Gender in Nouns and Pronouns

  • Common nouns are neutral with respect to gender as Chinese makes no distinction between masculine, feminine, and neutral nouns.
  • Pronouns have no distinction between genders in the spoken form; however, they do distinguish gender in the written form (i.e. 他, 她, and 它).
Vocabulary Review:
  1. 名字 míng zi name
  2. 男 nán male
  3. 女 nǚ woman
  4. 孩子 haí zi child
  5. 什么 shén me what
  6. 的 de possessive suffix
  7. 她 tā she
  8. 它 tā it
  9. 那 nà, nèi that, there
  10. 这 zhè, zhèi this, here
Jim has jumped out of his chair, yelling, as something furry runs across his foot. A child rushes into the restaurant and reaches between Jim’s legs to snatch up the small kitten that had given Jim a fright. The group gets back to the business of getting to know one another. Ms. Zhang remembers that Jim and Linda have grown children and asks about them.
 Tā shì wŏ de!
 It’s mine!
Mr. Li: 
 Nĭ de míng zi shì shén me?
 What is your name?
 我的名字是 Jim.
 Wŏ de míng zi shì Jim.
 My name is Jim.
Ms. Zhang: 
 Nĭ mén de hái zi shì nán hái ma? Shì nǚ hái ma?
 Are your children boys? Are they girls?
 Tā mén dōu shì nán haí. Nĭ de hái zi ne?
 They’re all boys. And your child?
Ms. Zhang: 
 Shì nǚ hái.
 A girl (child).
 Tā jiào shén me?
 What’s she called?
Ms. Zhang: 
 他叫 Jin Jin.
 Tā jiào Jin Jin.
 She’s called Jin Jin.
The food arrives and Linda and Jim become preoccupied with wondering what everything is.
 Nà shì shén me?
 What’s that?
 Zhè shì shén me?
 What’s this?
Fill in the Blank:

她是____吗? (female person)
Tā shì ____ ma?
Is she a woman?

____是你的. (that)
____ shì nĭ de.
That is yours.

____是什么? (it)
____ shì shén me?
What is it?

他们是不是____国人? (beautiful)
Tā mén shì bú shì ____ gúo rén?
Are they American?

我____名字是 Carrie. (possessive suffix)
Wŏ ____ míng zi shì Carrie.
My name is Carrie.

你的名字是____? (what)
Nĭ de míng zi shì ____?
What is your name?

他____你的孩子? (is or isn't)
Tā ____ nĭ de haí zi?
Is he your child?

他是你的____? (question particle)
Tā shì nĭ de ____?
Is he your child?

他是____人吗? (male)
Tā shì ____ rén ma?
Is he a man?

你的____叫什么? (child)
Nĭ de ____ jiào shén me?
What is your child called?

他是____吗? (male person)
Tā shì ____ ma?
Is he a man?

你的____是什么? (name)
Nĭ de ____ shì shén me?
What is your name?

她们____女人 (is)
Tā mén ____ nǚ rén.
They are women.

____好! (you)
____ hǎo!

那不是 ____. (her + possessive suffix)
Nà bú shì ____.
That isn’t hers.

__ 不是他的. (that)
__ bú shì tā de.
That isn’t his.

____是我的. (this)
____ shì nĭ de.
This is mine.

____! (goodbye)

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