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Making Sense of Grammar
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Why do some Chinese words appear at the beginning of the sentence?
asked Mar 4 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by admin (24,470 points)

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Chinese is a topic-prominentlanguage, which means that the topic (what the sentence is about) comes at the beginning of the sentence. A topic is roughly equivalent to the X in the English expression “As for X, …”. (1) and (2) show how topics come first in Chinese sentences.

(1) Zhāngsān wǒ yǐjīng jiàn – guo le

     Zhangsan I already see GUO LE

     Zhangsan, I’ve already seen (him). 

(2) zhèi – kē          shù yèzi hěn dà

     this – classifier tree leaf very big

     This tree, (its) leaves are very big. (Li & Thompson, 1989, p. 15) 

In (1) and (2), Zhangsan and the tree are what the sentences are about, hence they appear at the beginning of the sentence.


Li, C. N., &Thompson, S. A. (1989). Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. Univ of California Press.

answered Mar 4 by admin (24,470 points)
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