Speaking Chinese can be difficult. It is okay to make a few mistakes, but some mistakes make your Mandarin appear worse than it really is. These mistakes can even make you sound less intelligent than you are. Here are three common mistakes that do just that:
This (food) is moral.
The mistake: 这个很好 – zhège hěn hǎo. The grammar of the sentence is correct, but the usage is wrong. When you say zhège hěn hǎo, you are saying this is good, which talks about the quality or morality not taste.
The correct sentence is: 这个很好吃 or zhège hěn hǎo chī. Hǎo and chī function as a stative verb when combined. So this is the standard pattern of subject + hěn + stative verb. You just need to use the correct stative verb: hǎo chī.
China is is big.
The mistake: 中国是大。Zhōngguó shì dà. The problem here is that sentence patterns using the verb “to be” are some of the very first English sentences we learn as a child. We also use to be to link subjects and adjectives. As a result, it is extremely natural to simply translate the verb shì to Chinese. It’s also wrong.
The correct sentence is: 中国很大 or Zhōngguó hěn dà. Remember that adjectives in Chinese are frequently stative verbs. You want to follow the pattern of subject + hěn + stative verb. Remember that in this case just because the sentence has hěn, it doesn’t always translate to “very.” For example, tā hěn ǎi could mean he is short or he is very short. You can tell the difference based on how hěn is spoken. If hěn is emphasized, then the sentence most likely means he is very short.
I bought him.
Another easy mistake. Word order and grammar just don’t function the same in Chinese. To master the language, you need to practice so often that you start speaking English with Chinese word order (at times!).
The mistake: 我要买他一本书 or Wǒ yào mǎi tā yī běn shū. People make this mistake because of word order. In English if we buy something for someone, we can say, “I am going to buy a book for John,” or “I am buying John a book.” If you use this word order in Chinese, people hear, “I bought John.” The words “a book” sound like the start of the next sentence.
The correct sentences is: 我要买一本书给他 or Wǒ yào mǎi yī běn shū gěi tā. I am going to buy a book for him.
Take a minute and review this post again. You might even come back tomorrow and read it again. Memorize the correct versions and leave people with the right impression when you are speaking Chinese.