Help! My Chinese Sentences Are Ungrammatical!


Photo by Marcelo Vaz on Unsplash

 

Have you heard of this expression?

 

你吃,我不饿。(Literally: You eat first. I’m not hungry.)

 

Do you think this Chinese sentence is grammatical?

 

The fact is, it isn’t.

 

Here’s the correct way of expressing it:

 

吃,我不饿。(Please go ahead. I’m not hungry.)

 

In our daily lives, most of us go for ‘functionality’ and do not pay much attention to grammar when we speak. We tend to overlook the accuracy of our expressions as long as we can understand the meaning.

 

The problem is, how we speak translates to how we write.

 

That’s why many students write ungrammatical sentences, or 病句 in their compositions and open-ended comprehension questions. In fact, they tend to construct Chinese sentences by literally translating them from the English language, following the English sentence structures and ways of expression.

 

So, what’s the big deal?

 

Imagine saying this:

妹妹的其中一只右脚受伤了。(My sister has injured one of her legs.)

 

And inviting this comment:

请问你妹妹是蜈蚣吗? (Is she a centipede?)

 

(Adapted from a popular internet joke)

 

It’s not exactly what you hope for, right?

 

Ungrammatical sentences can be awkward to read, cause confusion in the reader, change the meaning of the message and make a laughing stock of you. Moreover, they adversely affect the quality of your writing in open-ended Chinese comprehension answers and Chinese compositions.

 

To express your ideas and opinions completely, fluently and clearly, you need to observe Chinese grammar rules.

 

What should you do if you want to write grammatically sound sentences?

 

You need to recognise the different types of ungrammatical sentences!

 

In a rush? Download this article in English and Chinese + more practices on ungrammatical sentences all collated in a pdf! Grab your free copy here:

 

 

5 Common Types of Ungrammatical Sentences

 

1) Missing components 成分缺少*

 

Incorrect sentence

 

姐姐和弟弟很少吵架,(?) 会教弟弟做功课。

The siblings do not squabble and will help the younger brother with his homework. (This English sentence is also wrong.)

 

Diagnosis:

 

The subject after the comma is missing. Before the comma, the subject is ‘The siblings’ (姐姐和弟弟) and not ‘The elder sister’ (姐姐). Without the subject in the second part of the sentence, it sounds like the siblings help the younger brother with his homework. Thus, after the comma, we need to insert the subject, ‘The elder sister’ (姐姐) to emphasise that it is she who helps her brother with his homework.

 

Suggested corrections:

 

A) 姐姐和弟弟很少吵架,姐姐还会教弟弟做功课。

The siblings seldom squabble. The elder sister will help her younger brother with his homework.

 

B) 姐姐和弟弟很少吵架,姐姐甚至会教弟弟做功课。

The siblings seldom squabble. The elder sister even helps her younger brother with his homework.

 

*Currently, the official Chinese term for this type of ungrammatical sentence is 成分残缺, but we have renamed it to better reflect the missing component in the sentence.

 

2) Incorrect sequence of parts of speech 语序排列不当

 

Incorrect sentence

 

我的家很靠近学校,我走路回家在放学后

My house is near my school, so I walk home after school. (This English sentence is correct.)

 

Diagnosis:

 

By writing the phrase 放学后 (after school) at the end of the sentence, the student is following the English sentence structure. In Chinese, the adverbial phrase 放学后 should be placed before the verbal phrase 走路回家.

 

Suggested corrections:

 

A) 我的家很靠近学校,放学后,我走路回家

My house is near my school. After school, I walk home.

 

B)(因为)我的家离学校很近,(所以)放学后我都会走路回家。

As my house is near my school, I always walk home after the school.

 

C) 我的家在学校附近,每天放学后,我都自己走路回家。

My house is near my school so every day after school, I will walk home.

 

3) Redundant components 成分多余

 

Incorrect sentence

 

许多学生一回家只顾着看手机,不管父母,也不理父母

Many students are glued to their mobile phones the moment they reach home. They ignore and disregard their parents. (There is redundancy in the English sentence too.)

 

Diagnosis:

 

Ignore (不管) and disregard (不理) convey a similar meaning. Hence, it is redundant and cumbersome to use both words in the sentence. You can replace the words with a suitable Chinese idiom (成语).

 

Suggested corrections:

 

A) 许多学生一回家只顾着看手机,对父母置之不理

Many students are glued to their mobile phones the moment they reach home. They ignore their parents.

 

B) 许多学生一回家只顾着看手机,对父母不理不睬

Many students are glued to their mobile phones the moment they reach home. They disregard their parents.

 

4) Inappropriate collocation 搭配不当

 

Incorrect sentence

 

妈妈吩咐家务给我和弟弟。

Mom instructed the housework to my brother and I. (The English sentence is incorrect too.)

 

Diagnosis:

 

We can only instruct 人 (a person) and not 事情 (matter) to do something. To use ‘instruct’ directly with the ‘matter’, you need to change the sentence to 妈妈吩咐的事,我都做好了。 (I have completed the matter/task that Mom instructed me to do.) You need to write 的 after 吩咐 to use it with 事情.

 

Suggested corrections:

 

A) 妈妈吩咐我和弟弟做家务。

Mom instructed my brother and me to do the housework.

 

B) 妈妈吩咐我打扫房间。

Mom told me to clean my room.

 

C) 妈妈吩咐弟弟做功课。

Mom told my brother to do his homework.

 

5) Inappropriate conjunction 关联词不当

 

Incorrect sentence

 

石头是一个不起眼的石头,也很多人想买石头,而且价钱越出越高。

There isn’t anything unique about the stone, and also many people want to buy it and keep offering a higher price for it. (This English sentence also contains conjunctions that do not clearly explain the meaning of the sentence.)

 

Diagnosis:

This sentence conveys the meaning that the price of an ordinary stone increases when people are vying for it.

 

To better convey the meaning, you can use不但……而且 (not only…but also) and 虽然……但 (although).

 

不但……而且 conveys the progress of a situation and includes additional information.

虽然……但 conveys a twist in the situation. We expect that no one would buy an ordinary stone but in reality, people are interested in buying it.

 

Suggested corrections:

 

A) 这个不起眼的石头不但有很多人想购买,而且人们还以高价购买。

Not only are many people interested in buying this ordinary stone, but also they are offering a high price for it.

 

B) 虽然石头不起眼,有很多人想购买它,甚至还愿意出高价购买。

Although this stone is ordinary, many people want to buy it. They are even willing to pay a high price for it.

 

C) 虽然这是一个不起眼的石头,却有很多人想购买它。

Although this stone is ordinary, many people want to buy it.

 

 

Now that you know the different types of ungrammatical sentences, how can you improve your skills in detecting them?

 

  • Use simple sentences for a start and master them before attempting complex sentences. As a beginner, it is more manageable to express one or at most two ideas in a sentence. Once you are confident of writing simple sentences, challenge yourself to write complex sentences.

 

  • After writing a sentence, read it silently to check if it sounds awkward or if it falls under the types of ungrammatical sentences mentioned above.

 

  • Practise correcting ungrammatical sentences to increase your language sensitivity.

 

As the Chinese saying goes,“读书破万卷,下笔如有神”(pore over thousands of books and eventually you will write well), if you read a variety of genres such as prose, news and fiction, and pay attention to fluent and beautifully written sentences, in time, you will be able to write well.

 

Do you want this article in English and Chinese + more practices on ungrammatical sentences all collated in a pdf? Download your free copy here:

 

 

Here’s a comment from one of our readers (shared with permission):

 

Original Chinese article by: Ng Mei Wan

 

Mei Wan majored in Chinese and was an Ex-Chinese teacher in a Singapore independent school. Currently registered with MOE-IRS, she has taught local students, international students and adults at government and private schools in Singapore, accumulating more than 10 years of teaching experience.

 

Article translated by: Fun Language Learning

 

语句不通顺,怎么办?

 

在写作和回答阅读理解问题时,常常会语句不通顺,怎么办才好?

 

其实,在我们的日常生活中,我们经常会忽略语句不通顺的问题。比如:

 

你吃,我不饿。

 

你觉得以上的语句正确吗?大家都能听得懂,往往就会忽略了句子的毛病。

 

其实,以上这句是病句。正确的说法应该是:

 

吃,我不饿。

 

****************************

知识点

 

病句,就是有毛病的句子。本地学生的病句很大可能是受到英语的影响而产生的。

 

影响力和重要性

 

书写有毛病的句子,会使语句读起来很不通顺,让读者一头雾水,影响我们要表达的讯息,也很容易闹出意想不到的笑话:

病句:妹妹的其中一只右脚受伤了。

评语(笑一笑):请问你妹妹是蜈蚣吗?

(改写自网络笑话)

 

中文的词语搭配和句子表达,有一定的规则要遵守,那才可以流畅地,明确地、充分地表达自己的想法和意见。要较好地回答阅读理解的开放题,以及写好一篇作文,正确地使用词语和句子是很重要的。

 

要避免写不通顺的语句,同学们应该做什么呢?

 

没错,他们需要好好地认识病句。

 

常见的五大病句类型

 

1) 成分缺少*

 

病句:

 

姐姐和弟弟很少吵架,会教弟弟做功课。

 

正确句子(建议):

 

A) 姐姐和弟弟很少吵架,姐姐还会教弟弟做功课。

B) 姐姐和弟弟很少吵架,姐姐甚至会教弟弟做功课。

 

诊断:

 

句子的主语是姐姐和弟弟,逗号以后要强调是谁会教弟弟功课。句子前面的主语是姐姐和弟弟,而不是姐姐,所以逗号以后需要再次强调。

 

* 目前的专业术语是“成分残缺”,但为了强调成分的缺少,我们选用了另一个表达方式。

 

2) 语序排列不当

 

病句:

 

我的家很靠近学校,我走路回家在放学后。

 

正确句子(建议):

 

A) 我的家很靠近学校,放学后,我走路回家

B)(因为)我的家离学校很近,(所以)放学后我都会走路回家

C) 我的家在学校附近,每天放学后,我都自己走路回家

 

诊断:

 

学生把“在放学后”放在最后,主要是受了英语句式影响。在华语句式中,状语(在放学后)应该在动词前面。

 

3) 成分多余

 

病句:

 

许多学生一回家只顾着看手机,不管父母,也不理父母。

 

正确句子(建议):

 

  1. 许多学生一回家只顾着看手机,对父母置之不理
  2. 许多学生一回家只顾着看手机,对父母不理不睬

 

诊断:

 

不管和不理的意思相同,如果重复就会显得多余和累赘,可以用成语代替,选写一个合适的成语,就可以清楚表达不理会父母的意思了。

 

4) 搭配不当

 

病句:

 

妈妈吩咐家务给我和弟弟。

 

正确句子(建议):

 

A) 妈妈吩咐我和弟弟做家务。

B) 妈妈吩咐我打扫房间。

C) 妈妈吩咐弟弟做功课。

 

诊断:

 

吩咐,意思是交代。吩咐后面的搭配应该是“人”而不是“事情”。

如果要在吩咐后面表达事物,可把句子写成“妈妈吩咐的事,我都做好了。”“吩咐的事”是表示,这件事是妈妈吩咐的。吩咐后面,需要加“的”,“的”后面可以写“事情”。

 

5) 关联词不当

 

病句:

 

石头是一个不起眼的石头,也很多人想买石头,而且价钱越出越高。

 

正确句子(建议):

 

A) 这个不起眼的石头不但有很多人想购买,而且人们还以高价购买。

B) 虽然石头不起眼,有很多人想购买它,甚至还愿意出高价购买。

C) 虽然这是一个不起眼的石头,却有很多人想购买它。

 

诊断:

 

句子要表达当原本不起眼的石头被人们争着要购买时,石头的价值就随之提升。

 

要较好地表达句子的意思,可以使用关联词“不但……而且”,“虽然……但”。

 

关联词“不但……而且”可以进一步说明事情的进展,有递进的意思,句子读起来更丰富。关联词“虽然……但”表示事情有了转折,不起眼的石头是事情的基础,根据这个基础去推测,应该是没人愿意购买的,事实却是它引起人们的购买欲望。用有转折意思的关联词,可以让句子对起来更丰富。

 

如何加强对病句的敏感度?

 

  • 在书写时,一开始可以选用简单句,先搞好简单句,再挑战复杂句。在一个句子里,尽可能表达一个或最多两个意思,搞定简单句后,才来挑战复杂句。

 

  • 每写完一个句子,心里默默地念读一下,看看句子是否通顺,检查句子有没有缺少成分、直接从英文翻译过来,或者含以上的小毛病。

 

  • 多做病句修改练习,也可以增加感受和领悟句子的能力。

 

所谓“读书破万卷,下笔如有神”,平日多阅读各类中文读物如:散文、新闻和故事书,学习使用意思明确、流畅而优美的词语和句子,经过时间的积累,日后就可以“下笔如有神”了。

 

欢迎下载这篇博文和病句练习。

 

 

作者:吴美韵

新加坡教育部注册讲师
主修中文,曾执教于新加坡自主中学和补习中心

从事语文教育工作十余年,除了本地学生还教过国际学生和成人。