Chinese Pronouns

Imagine if every time you wanted to refer to an object you had to give it's full name...

"Maria's new Aston Martin DB5 is wonderful. The Aston Martin DB5 handles like a dream, and the Aston Martin DB5 can hit 60mph in just 3 seconds. Maria loves the Aston Martin DB5."

See how clumsy and long that is?

Well, that's where pronouns come in.

With pronouns you only need to use the object's actual name once; and subject's not at all! From then on you can use pronouns like I, my, and it instead...

"My new Aston Martin DB5 is wonderful. It handles like a dream, and it can hit 60mph in just 3 seconds. I love it."

Much better.

Pronouns are words that are used in place of a noun. They can be the subject, the object, or complement. In Chinese, there are different kinds of Chinese pronouns.

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns substitute for the noun without repeating it. They can be divided into:

  • personal subject pronouns, which are used in place of the subject
  • personal direct pronouns, used in place of the object personal
  • indirect pronouns, used in place of the complement
  • reflexive pronouns, in connection with the reflexive verbs.

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns, that indicate the possession; they have the same form of the adjective possessive:

那个房子是我的 Nàge fángzi shì wǒde。- The house is mine.

我的

Wǒde

My / Mine

你的

Nǐde

Yours

他的

Tāde

His

她的

Tāde

Hers

我们的

Wǒmen de

Ours

你们的

Nǐmen de

Yours

他们的

Tāmen de

Theirs

那个房子是我的。

Nàge fángzi shì wǒde。

The house is mine.

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns show the position in the space and in the time.

那个房子是我的 Nàge fángzi shì wǒde。 - That house is mine.

这个

zhège (zhègè)

This

那个

nàge (nàgè)

That

这些

zhèxiē

These

那些

nàxiē

Those

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns, that don't specify the identity of the person or of the object. 

有人打过电话 Yǒurén dǎguò diànhuà。- Someone called.

某个

Mǒu gè

One / Some

有个

yǒu gè

There is a

有人打过电话

Yǒurén dǎguò diànhuà

Someone called

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns, that introduce questions:

shuí

who

什么

shénme

what

哪个

nǎgè (nǎge)

which

什么时候

shénme shíhòu

when

为什么

wèishénme

why

怎么

zěnme

how

哪儿

nǎ’er

where

多少钱

duōshǎoqián

how much

他是谁

Tā shì shuí ?

Who is he?

Personal Subject Pronouns:

In Chinese there are 10 personal subject pronouns: 5 for the singular, 5 for the plural.

Forms:

I

you (male)

you (female)

he

she

it

我们

wǒmen

we

你们

nǐmen

you [guys] (referring to more than one "you")

他们

tāmen

they (referring to males)

她们

tāmen

they (referring females)

它们

tāmen

they (referring to objects)

For example:

我是林萍。

Wǒ shì Lín Píng。

I am Lin Ping.

你是谁?

Nǐ shì shuí?

Who are you?

他是我的朋友。

Tā shì wǒde péngyou。

He is my friend.

她很漂亮。

Tā hěn piàoliàng。

She is pretty.

我们是中国人。

Wǒmen shì Zhōngguórén。

We are Chinese.

你们也来吗?

Nǐmen yě lái ma?

Are you [guys] coming too? (referring to more than one of "you")

他们喜欢旅行。

Tāmen xǐhuān lǚxíng。

They love traveling.

Direct Object Pronouns

In English, there are direct object pronouns, pronouns that directly receive the action of the verb. They answer the question what, or whom, like “me” “him” or “her”. In Chinese, direct object pronouns are the same words as subject pronouns. That is to say, “I” is “我” in Chinese, and “me” is also “我”. It is also the same case with words like “he/him” and “she/her” and “they/them”.

林萍看见他了。

Línpíng kànjiàn tā le。

Lin Ping saw him.

他看见林萍了。

Tā kànjiàn Lín Píng le。

He saw Lin Ping.

Reflexive pronoun

Reflexive pronouns are used in connection with reflexive verbs, in which the action reflects itself on the subject. When we want to express meanings like that, we put reflexive pronoun自己 zìjǐ after the pronouns we have covered today.

我自己

wǒ zìjǐ

myself

你自己

nǐ zìjǐ

yourself

他自己

tā zìjǐ

himself

她自己

tā zìjǐ

herself

牠自己

tā zìjǐ

itself (referring to an animal)

我们自己

wǒmen zìjǐ

ourselves

你们自己

nǐmen zìjǐ

yourselves

他们自己

tāmen zìjǐ

themselves (referring to males)

她们自己

tāmen zìjǐ

themselves (referring females)

牠们自己

tāmen zìjǐ

themselves (referring to animals)

Formal 您 nín and Informal 你 nǐ

In Chinese, there are two pronouns to refer to “you”, depending on the situation. If it is a formal occasion, people tend to use formal pronoun 您 nín, 您们 nínmen, whereas on ordinary occasions or in daily communication, their informal equivalents 你nǐ and 你们 nǐmen are used.

您好吗,林小姐?

Nín hǎoma, Lín Xiǎojiě?

How are you, Miss Lin?

你好,林小姐。

Nǐhǎo, Lín Xiǎojiě。

Hello, Miss Lin.

Chinese pronouns summary

  • Personal pronouns substitute without repeating the common or proper nouns. They can be divided in personal subject pronouns, personal direct pronouns, personal indirect pronouns and reflexive pronoun
  • Possessive pronouns indicate possession
  • Demonstrative pronouns show position in space and time
  • Indefinite pronouns, are used when we don't need to specify the identity of the person or object
  • Relative pronouns relate more propositions
  • Interrogative pronouns introduce questions
  • Direct and indirect pronouns have two forms, according to the position they have in the sentence
  • Reflexive pronouns are always used in connection with a reflexive verb
  • Formal and informal is not a matter of tradition in Chinese, but an important form of respect. Never say你nǐ, you, to your boss or an older genlteman!

That's it for this lesson.

Here are a few recommended Chinese lessons to try next!

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