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At the Market?

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At the Market?
Time for Lesson 14. Let’s go to the market! A Chinese market can be a fun place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, but only if you know how to bargain. Don’t worry, we’ll set you up with everything you need to know, like:
  • Ask if bargaining is possible
  • Understand the weight system for buying food
  • Exclaim surprise when something is really expensive
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
Flash Cards - Vocabulary
Complete Lesson (PDF)
Printable PDF version of this lesson

At the Market?

能 ( néng ): can, may
Component: 月(month), 匕(dagger), 厶 (private)
Use 能 to show or ask about ability to do something in a particular situation. Be sure to read the Grammar notes for information on the difference between 能 and 会.
Memorization Hint: If someone comes after you “privately” with a “dagger”, can you get away??

打折 ( dǎ zhé ): discount
Radical: 扌(hand)
Sub-Word : 打 - hit
折 - break off
Components for 1st Character: 扌(hand), 丁(diced)
Components for 2nd Character: 扌(hand), 斤 (axe)
If you go to a market in China it’s understood that you will bargain until the price is right. Department stores and malls have set prices and bargaining is a no-no. Not sure if you’re in bargaining territory? Just ask: 能打折吗?Once you find a price and product you like, if you need it again, go back to that same vendor. If they raise the price on you, just remind them the price they gave you last week. If they won’t match their previous price, just walk away as though you’ll purchase from someone else. It’ll work like magic!
Memorization Hint: There are a few hints we could give here… How about this? If you hit the price, a little bit will break off and make it cheaper! Can you come up with another one?

斤 ( jīn ): 0.5 kilograms
Radical: 斤 (axe)
Component: 斤 (axe)
When you’re at a fruit and vegetable market with your bargaining shoes on and ready to get started, you need to be able to talk about weight. A 斤 is equal to 0.5 kg, and is the standard unit for fruits, vegetables, flour, all the basics that are sold by weight. 多少钱一斤? (How much per 0.5 kg?)
Memorization Hint: Think of 斤 in its radical form, as an axe, breaking up the goods into measurable pieces.

甜 ( tián ): sweet
Radical: 甘 (sweet)
Component: 甘 (sweet), 舌 (tongue)
甜 is an adjective, so remember to use 很 to precede it.
Memorization Hint: This character’s components make it almost unnecessary to provide a hint! Sweet + tongue means a sweet taste.

苹果 ( píng guǒ ): apple
Radicals: 艹 (grass) and 木 (tree)
Sub-Word : 苹 - duckweed; apple
果 - fruit; result
Phonetic: 平 (ping)
Components for 1st Character: 艹 (grass), 平 (flat)
Components for 2nd Character: 木 (tree), 田 (field)
苹果 means apple. Apples are a very common fruit in China. Typically, for the sake of cleanliness, fruits are peeled before eating.
Memorization Hint: We know that 果 means fruit from Lesson 12 (remember, water fruit?). So, let’s look at 苹 for hints as to what kind of fruit we’re talking about. Lately, in agricultural regions of China, there is an abundance of apples. Imagine them falling “flat” onto the “grass” because they can’t be picked fast enough.

香蕉 ( xiāng jiāo ): banana
Radicals: 香 (fragrant) and 艹 (grass)
Sub-Word : 香 - fragrant
蕉 - banana
Phonetic: 焦 (jiao)
Components for 1st Character: 禾 (grain), 日 (sun)
Components for 2nd Character: 艹 (grass), 隹 (short-tailed bird), 灬 (fire)
Bananas in the market are sold by the 斤 in China, not the bunch. To tell a merchant you’d like to buy bananas, you can say: 我想买香蕉。
Memorization Hint: There’s no denying that a banana is fragrant. As for 蕉, well, can’t you just see all those short-tailed birds flying high above the grass to indulge on an afternoon snack of bananas.

西瓜 ( xī guā ): watermelon
Radical: 西 (west)
Sub-Word : 西 - west
瓜 - melon
Phonetic: 瓜 (melon)
Components for 1st Character: 西 (west)
Components for 2nd Character: 瓜 (melon)
Another popular fruit in China, watermelon is an especially popular fruit to eat with friends in the summer months.
Memorization Hint: Legend says that an exiled prince in Vietnam prayed for guidance to survive in a land with no food. A bird flew from the West and dropped a seed that blossomed into a melon. The prince called this melon the “melon from the west” or west melon. China’s version of the word comes from Vietnam.

尝试 ( cháng shì ): to try, to taste
Radicals: 小 (small) and 讠(speech)
Sub-Word : 尝 - taste
试 - test
Phonetic: Occasionally a market vendor may allow you to tast
Components for 1st Character: 小 (small), 冖 (cover), 二 (two), 厶(private)
Components for 2nd Character: 讠(speech) , 弋 (shoot), 工 (work)
Occasionally a market vendor may allow you to taste their fruit prior to purchase: 尝一尝吧 (try a little taste). While the full word, 尝试, means “to taste”, you’ll often find this word truncated to include just 尝: 我能尝吗?
Memorization Hint: Though not all vendors will allow it, look around to see if anyone is offering a free “taste test”!

一共 ( yí gòng ): altogether, combined
Radicals: 一 (one) and 八 (eight)
Sub-Word : 一 - one
共 - total
Components for 1st Character: 一 (one)
Components for 2nd Character: 八 (eight), 二 (two), |(vertical line)
So, you’ve tasted and weighed and bargained, and now you’re ready to pay. You can ask the total price with this phrase: 一共多少钱? How much is it altogether?
Memorization Hint: If you put everything together that you’d like to buy, it becomes “one” purchase. You’re asking for the “total” of everything as “one”.

哎呀 ( āi ya ): interjection of wonder or surprise
Radicals: 口 (mouth) and 口 (mouth)
Sub-Word : 哎 - interjection of surprise
呀 - particle to express surprise
Phonetic: 艾 (ai) and 牙 (ya)
Components for 1st Character: 口 (mouth), 艹(grass), 乂 (govern)
Components for 2nd Character: 口 (mouth), 牙 (tooth)
You can use this phrase when you’re surprised by something. For example, if you ask the price of apples and are told: 苹果是 8 块一斤. You might respond: 哎呀!很贵!
Memorization Hint: Both of these characters (when said with the emotion to show you’re really astounded that such a price would be suggested) cause you to open your mouth wide when saying them. Take note of the radicals and you’re all set with this expression.


一 is a very versatile character. In this lesson we learned a new word that uses it; do you remember? It means “altogether”… Go look it up real quick—I’ll wait.

Okay, so we have one new vocabulary word that uses一, but there are other ways we can use一 within this lesson. Consider尝试. By omitting 试 and placing 一 in the middle, (尝一尝) the meaning is altered very subtly and now implies “a little”, or more accurately, “a little taste.”

Conveniently, the same thing can be done with 试. 试 literally means “test” and can act as a noun or a verb, often appearing in compound form. If you change it to试一试 the meaning becomes “a little test” or “a little try.” 试一试 can be used in any situation where you’d like to try something out, from shopping for clothes to trying a new dance move.

一 can be placed between many characters to this same effect. Notice that the words we’re discussing here are all verbs. While it doesn’t work with every verb, there are some common words you already know that work just fine. What do you think 看一看 means? How about 说一说吧? I think you’ve got it.

Alright, now 去学中文吧!

Grammar: Expressing Ability
  • 能 and 会 can both mean “can” and are used to show ability to do something.
  • 会 can alternately mean “will” or “shall”
  • Use会 to express that an ability is learned (我会说中文), use能 to express possibility (能打折吗). Knowing which word to use in which situation can take a lot of practice, as there are always exceptions to the rule. As your studies continue, the usage of these two words will become more clear.
Vocabulary Review:
  1. 能 néng can, may
  2. 打折 dǎ zhé discount
  3. 斤 jīn 0.5 kilograms
  4. 甜 tián sweet
  5. 苹果 píng guǒ apple
  6. 香蕉 xiāng jiāo banana
  7. 西瓜 xī guā watermelon
  8. 尝试 cháng shì to try, to taste
  9. 一共 yí gòng altogether, combined
  10. 哎呀 āi ya interjection of wonder or surprise
Jim found the fruit section of the large market and decides to buy some for his upcoming visit to his family.
 Píng guǒ duō shǎo qián yí jīn?
 How much are apples per 0.5 kilograms?
 Yí kuài sān máo yí jīn.
 1 kuai and 3 mao per 0.5 kilograms.
 Hěn tián ma?
 Are they sweet?
 Hěn tián! Cháng cháng ba.
 They’re sweet! Try it.
 (Jim tastes a small piece)
 很好! 香蕉也有吗?
 Hěn hǎo! Xiāng jiāo yě yǒu ma?
 It’s good! Do you also have bananas?
 有, 香蕉也很甜. 我的水果都很甜.
 Yǒu, xiāng jiāo yě hěn tián. Wǒ de shuǐ guǒ dōu hěn tián.
 Yes, the bananas are also sweet. My fruits are all sweet.
 好. 我想买8斤苹果, 5斤香蕉. 一共多少?
 Hǎo. Wǒ xiǎng mǎi bā jīn píng guǒ, wǔ jīn xiāng jiāo. Yī gòng duō shǎo?
 Okay. I want to buy 4 kilograms of apples and 2.5 kilograms of bananas. Altogether, how much is it?
 Yī gòng sān shí sì kuài liù máo qián.
 Altogether, it’s 34 kuai and 6 mao.
 好的. 在这儿能打折吗?
 Hǎo de. Zài zhèr néng dǎ zhé ma?
 Alright. Can I get a discount here?
 能. 你说吧.
 Néng. Nĭ shuō ba.
 Yes. Speak (your price).
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