City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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asked Mar 8, 2021 in Questions about Chinese Grammar by Ariel (34,480 points) | 347 views

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As a general rule, in the Chinese language, the subject in a sentence should be definite. However, an indefinite noun that is generic can serve as the subject as well.


yī gè rén bú néng méi yǒu liáng xīn 。

A man cannot be without conscience.

(一个人 means ‘any man’, not ‘a certain man’. It is ‘generic’and can serve as the subject.)

(Incorrect: 一个人在等你。)

Correct: 有一个人在等你。 yǒu yī gè rén zài děng nǐ 。

A man is waiting for you.

(一个人 means ‘a certain man’. It is indefinite; therefore, it cannot serve as the subject.)


xué shēng yīng gāi yòng gōng 。

Students should be diligent.

 (学生 is generic.)


nà gè xué shēng hěn yòng gōng 。

That student is diligent.

(那个学生 is definite.)


xióng māo hěn kě ài 。

Pandas are cute.

(熊猫 is generic.)

[1] Yip, P. C., Rimmington, D., Xiaoming, Z., & Henson, R. (2009). Basic Chinese: a grammar and workbook. Taylor & Francis.
answered Mar 8, 2021 by Ariel (34,480 points)

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