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Coffee or Tea?

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Coffee or Tea?
Welcome back! This lesson will focus on vocabulary used in a café. Let’s jump right in! When it’s all said and done, you’ll be able to:
  • Express that you like or dislike something
  • Compare two objects
  • Order a drink in a cafe
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
Complete Lesson (PDF)
Printable PDF version of this lesson

Coffee or Tea?

喜欢 ( xǐ huan ): to like; to be fond of
Radicals: 口 (mouth) and 欠 (owe)
Components for 1st Character: 口 (mouth), 士 (scholar), 艹(grass)
Components for 2nd Character: 欠 (owe), 又 (again)
喜欢 is a simple word to use. Just state your subject, 喜欢, and object or verb/object. Like this: 我喜欢中国. (I like China.) or 我喜欢说英文. (I like to speak English.) In contrast, use 不喜欢 to express dislike.
Memorization Hint: It’s common to see 喜喜 at a time of celebration, like a wedding. In English we might call it Double Happiness. When you see the two 口 in 喜, remember that by joining two people, the result is happiness. Now, that’s something we all like!

比较 ( bǐ jiào ): compare; contrast; relatively
Radicals: 比 (compare) and 车 (cart)
Sub-Word : 比 - to compare
较 - compare, comparatively
Phonetic: 匕 (bi) and 交 (jiao)
Components for 1st Character: 比 (compare)
Components for 2nd Character: 车 (cart), 亠 (lid), 父 (father)
Let’s say you prefer one thing over something else; or you like something more than another. Place 比较 before 喜欢 to show your preference. For example, if someone asks: 你喜欢英国吗? You could respond: 我比较喜欢中国 to show that you prefer China over England. Be sure to check out the grammar section for more information on how to use 比.
Memorization Hint: The two parts to 比 look very similar to the letter “b” but are slightly different. If you see 比较 and can’t remember it’s meaning, just take a look at the two “b’s” and compare them!

想 ( xiǎng ): to think; to want
Radical: 心 (heart)
Phonetic: 相 (xiang)
Component: 心 (heart), 木 (tree), 目 (eye)
想 can be used like 要 to show your desire for something. In Lesson 9, we learned 我要去北京. You can say the same sentence like this: 我想去北京.(I want to go to Beijing/I will go to Beijing) This sentence means “I want to go to Beijing.” Use 想 in sentences like “I think you’re tired” (我想你很累) to show your opinion.
Memorization Hint: Your heart and your eye are both used to determine whether you want something or if you feel a certain way.

星巴克 ( xīng bā kè ): Starbucks
Radicals: 日 (sun) and 己(oneself) and 儿 (legs)
Sub-Word : 星 - star, planet
巴 - great desire
克 - overcome
Phonetic: 生 (sheng)
Components for 1st Character: 日 (sun), 生 (life)
Components for 2nd Character: 己(oneself).丨(vertical line)
Components for 3rd Character: 儿 (legs), 口 (mouth), 十(ten)
Looking for a good cup of coffee in China? Starbucks is one option that can make you feel right at home. Need to know where it is? Just ask:请问, 星巴克在哪儿?
Memorization Hint: If you’re a frequenter of Starbucks, you know that a “great desire” can surely “overcome” unless you’ve had your cup today!

茶 ( chá ): tea
Radical: 艹 (grass)
Component: 艹 (grass), 人 (person), 一 (one), 亅(hook), 丶(dot)
Tea is a staple drink in China. Typically water is not clean enough to drink without boiling it, so people often drink hot tea. 我喜欢茶, 你呢?
Memorization Hint: Tea comes from plants. So, try to look first at the radical, 艹, for a hint when considering this character.

咖啡 ( kā fēi ): coffee
Radicals: 口 (mouth) and 口 (mouth)
Sub-Word : 咖 - coffee; a phonetic
啡 - morphine; coffee
Phonetic: 非(fei)
Components for 1st Character: 口 (mouth), 力 (power)
Components for 2nd Character: 口 (mouth), 非 (wrong)
This word is not a traditional Chinese word, and is an example of how the language has expanded to include new words as globalization brings along new things.
Memorization Hint: Memorization Hint: 咖啡 sounds similar to coffee!

杯 ( bēi ): a cup, measure word for drinks
Radical: 木 (tree)
Component: 木 (tree), 不 (no)
杯 is a measure word that is used like 个. 个 is a general measure word, but 杯 can only be used for drinks that typically come in a cup: 一杯茶, 一杯咖啡.
Memorization Hint: 杯 sounds like the word “bay”. A bay is full of water just as your cup may be!

喝 ( hē ): to drink
Radical: 口 (mouth)
Phonetic: 曷 (he)
Component: 口 (mouth), 日(sun), 勹 (wrap), 人 (person), 乚 (to co
喝 means to drink, simply enough. If you want to state that you’d like to drink some coffee, say: 我想喝咖啡. But, if you’d like to specifically say that you’d like to have “a cup” of coffee, use the measure word and say: 我想喝一杯咖啡.
Memorization Hint: Ever been exercising and needed to take a break because you were out of breath and parched? Probably, you were saying something like “he, he, he…” as you reached out for that first big gulp!

牛奶 ( niú nǎi ): cow’s milk
Sub-Word : 牛 - cow
女 - woman
Phonetic: 乃 (nai)
Components for 1st Character: 牛 (cow)
Components for 2nd Character: 女 (woman), 乃 (to be)
In English, when we say “milk” it is implied that we are talking about cow’s milk. Keep in mind that in Chinese you must say the word for “cow” and “milk” to refer to milk. 奶 can be paired with 茶 to describe tea with milk: 奶茶.
Memorization Hint: Take a moment to memorize the radical for cow, 牛. The two radicals, 牛 (cow) 女 (woman), offer a big hint to this character’s meaning.

放 ( fàng ): to put, to place
Radical: 攵 (tap)
Phonetic: 方 (fang)
Component: 攵 (tap), 方 (square)
放 is often used with 在. For example, “to place something somewhere” is represented by 放 (object) 在 (place): 请你放一点儿牛奶在我的咖啡.
Memorization Hint: The phonetic 方 looks like a fang… Just say the word “fang” but open up your mouth so you can show off your teeth (and to change the vowel sound to ah).


The simplest way to order something is to say “I want ____” or “I think I want ____” Let’s say you’d like a cup of coffee. How would you say that? If you said “我想要一杯咖啡” or “我要一杯咖啡” you got it just right!

While 杯 does mean “cup” it is considered a measure word, so it should precede anything that would commonly be drunk from a cup. You should omit the measure word when you’re talking about a drink generally. For example, “I like tea” (我喜欢茶) or “I like to drink tea” (我喜欢喝茶)do not use a measure word. If you add the measure word, 我喜欢一杯茶, the meaning becomes more like “I like one cup of tea, ” and it’s not really clear what you mean.

Typically the tea you get in a restaurant will be traditionally Chinese, like green tea or chrysanthemum tea. But, if you to go a Western style café there will be other choices. Do you like milk in your tea or coffee? If you need to ask for it, you can say: 请你放一点儿牛奶在我的咖啡.

Notice the use of 请 here. In Lesson 12, we learned 请问 (May I ask…), so you already know that 请 means “please”. 请你 means “Please, will you…” and can be placed at the beginning of any sentence to make a request.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m craving a hot drink right about now. Go grab one and get going with the Grammar section!

Grammar: Comparatively Speaking
  • 比较 should be used with 喜欢 to discuss that, relatively speaking, someone prefers one object or action over another. Follow the pattern: Subj. 比较喜欢 Object. (the object being that which is preferred)
  • 比 can be used alone to compare two objects more succinctly. “A 比 B + Adjective” shows that A is more Adjective than B. For example, 咖啡比茶贵, means Coffee is more expensive than tea.
Vocabulary Review:
  1. 喜欢 xǐ huan to like; to be fond of
  2. 比较 bǐ jiào compare; contrast; relatively
  3. 想 xiǎng to think; to want
  4. 星巴克 xīng bā kè Starbucks
  5. 茶 chá tea
  6. 咖啡 kā fēi coffee
  7. 杯 bēi a cup, measure word for drinks
  8. 喝 hē to drink
  9. 牛奶 niú nǎi cow’s milk
  10. 放 fàng to put, to place
Ms. Zhang and Mr. Li meet at the new Starbucks for a hot drink and business meeting. It’s conveniently located near their office, but Ms. Zhang has never been there, so she asks directions along the way.
Ms. Zhang: 
 请问, 星巴克在哪儿?
 Qǐng wèn, xīng bā kè zài nǎr?
 Excuse me, where’s the Starbucks?
 在那儿. (pointing)
 Zài nàr.
 Over there.
Ms. Zhang enters Starbucks and spots Mr. Li near the order counter and greets him.
Ms. Zhang: 
 Nĭ hǎo ma?
 How are you?
Mr. Li: 
 我很好. 你呢? 你想喝什么?
 Wǒ hěn hǎo. Nĭ ne? Nĭ xiǎng hē shén me?
 I’m fine, you? What would you like to drink?
Ms. Zhang: 
 我也很好. 我要一杯茶. 我不喜欢咖啡. 你要喝什么?
 Wǒ yě hěn hǎo. Wǒ yào yì bēi chá. Wǒ bù xǐ huan kā fēi. Nĭ yào hē shén me?
 I’m fine, too. I’d like a cup of tea. I don’t like coffee. What will you drink?
Mr. Li: 
 Wǒ bǐ jiào xǐ huan kā fēi.
 I prefer coffee.
Ms. Zhang: 
 好的.我们要一杯茶, 一杯咖啡. 多少钱?
 Hǎo de.Wǒ mén yào yì bēi chá, yì bēi kā fēi. Duō shǎoqián?
 Okay.We’d like one tea and one coffee. How much is it?
 Wǔ shí kuài bā máo.
 50 kuai and 8 mao.
Ms. Zhang: 
 好. 请你放一点儿牛奶在我的茶.
 Hǎo. Qǐng nĭ fàng yì diǎnr niú nǎi zài wǒ de chá.
 Okay. Please put a little milk in my tea.
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