City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Dec 16, 2020 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (17,790 points) | 31 views

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什么 shén me is used in rhetorical questions to convey a more contentious enquiry:

(a) Following an adjective:

你忙什么?

Nǐ máng shén me ?

What are you so busy with?

你急什么?

Nǐ jí shén me?

What are you so worried about?/ There is no hurry./There’s nothing to worry about.

这道题难什么?

Zhè dào tí nán shén me?

What’s so difficult about this question?

(b) Preceding a noun:

吃什么!

Chī shén me!

What do you mean (eat) fish?/What fish?

(implies ‘There isn’t any fish.’)

看什么电影!

Kàn shén me diàn yǐng !

There is no way you are going to the cinema!

摆什么架子!

Bǎi shén me jià zǐ!

You’ve got nothing to be proud of!/Don’t give yourself airs!

(c) After a verb:

你哭什么?

Nǐ kū shén me?

What are you crying for?

你嚷什么?

Nǐ rǎng shén me?

What are you shouting for?/What’s all the shouting about?

你埋怨什么?

Nǐ mái yuàn shén me?

What are you complaining about?/Why are you making such a fuss?

(d) With 有 yǒu idioms:

这有什么用?

Zhè yǒu shén me yòng ?

What’s the use of (doing) this?

这些书有什么意思?

Zhè xiē shū yǒu shén me yì sī ?

What’s so interesting about these books?

[1] Yip, P. C., Rimmington, D., Xiaoming, Z., & Henson, R. (2009). Basic Chinese: a grammar and workbook. Taylor & Francis.
answered Dec 16, 2020 by Ariel (17,790 points)

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