No.3&4 of 5 Common Spoken Chinese Mistakes to Avoid when you learn Chinese online

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Following the last posts with #1 Chinese never say 你(nǐ) 好(hǎo) 吗(ma)?!!! of 5 Common Spoken Chinese Mistakes to Avoid, and #2 我(wǒ) 是(shì)叫(jiào)Annie VS 我(wǒ)是(shì)Annie / 我(wǒ)叫(jiào)Annie (I‘m Annie) ,let's continue to # 3&4 that might show the difference in thinking ways between Chinese and English speaking people.

#3 我(wǒ) 去(qù) 美(měi)国(guó) 明(míng)年(nián)9 月(yuè) 。VS

我(wǒ) 明(míng)年(nián)9 月(yuè) 去(qù) 美(měi)国(guó)。

This is another very common grammar mistake because of putting Chinese into English shoes.


In English, it’s I’m going to the US next September, with the time phrase coming at the end usually. The structure in English is Subject+Verb/Action+Time, in another way, it’s somehow Who+What+Where+When+How. So most foreigners would directly put the rules to Chinese when they say this and put time phrase in the end. However, in Chinese, the order is changed to be Subject+Time/Way+Actions, or in another way, Who+When+How+Where+What.

Putting them in comparison:

English : Who+What+Where/When/How.

Chinese: Who+When/How/Where/What

The big difference is the priority of what. In English, “what” is usually coming earlier than when, where or how, but in Chinese, it’s usually coming after the details of where, when or how. It somehow shows the difference in national characteristics, isn’t it?

How to Avoid?

So to avoid this mistake, remember to put what in the end and explain when/where/how before saying whatJ.

For e.g.

昨天买了两本书I bought two books yesterday)√ | 我买了两本书昨天。×

坐飞机去上海。(I go to Shanghai by plane.)√ | 我去上海坐飞机。×

Simply, you can remember that the order is just opposite to English, helping remind you the differences of Chinese & English language.

Another very good sample is North & South in English, but in Chinese we say South & North, totally opposite.

When you say North West in English, we say West North in Chinese, as directions. This may also help you understand why our school’s name is South & North Mandarin instead of North & South Mandarin.

This “strange” name reminds our students of the differences in Chinese and Englishand helps them switch faster to Chinese language mind when they learn and speak Chinese :-)

It seems that it will be too long to add # 4, let's leave it for next post so it's not so much to read.If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By Frank Wu from SNMandarin Chinese Academy, and to be continued with #4.

I know there are also mistakes in my English writing.Any help from you in telling me is much more than appreciated.

Cheers to your Chinese learning.

Have a Nice Chinese New Year!

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