How to Ask Questions in Chinese???

Asking questions is an important of life. It’s how we learn, it’s how we discover, it’s how we process new information and decide how to move forward. Kids are great at asking questions because they have no fear, but sometimes adults forget the importance of being inquisitive. 
As a Chinese learner, learning specific Chinese question words and phrases is key, as this will help you ask questions about everything you see and hear. So in this post, we're going to break down the most common question words and phrases to empower you to go crazy with questions. Are you ready?
Let's start with the simplest and most common of them all - 吗 (ma). If you want to ask a question in Chinese, one of the easiest ways to do it is simply say something and then tag 吗 to the end of your statement. Like:
Tā xǐhuān tiào zhè zhī wǔ.
She likes to dance to this song.
+ 吗
Tā xǐhuān tiào zhè zhī wǔ ma?
Does she like to dance to this song?
Of course, not all questions in Chinese simply require 吗 (ma) at the end, that would be too easy. Below are the top 9 question words / combinations that you need to know.

Top 9 Chinese Question Words


#1: 谁 (shéi) – who 


This question word is all about people. Your Chinese-learning journey will no doubt put you in contact with lots of new people, and so inevitably you’ll be asking and talking about others. Like: “Who said my Chinese was getting so good?” :)

Example 1:

Tā shì shéi?
Who is she?
Example 2:
Shéi xiǎng hé wǒ yīqǐ qù gōngyuán?
Who wants to go to the park with me?

#2:什么 (shén me) – what 

This question word is probably one of the most popular ones, and it will certainly become a go-to for almost any conversation in Chinese. Use 什么 (shén me) for objects, abstract words and actions.
Example 1:
Nǐ xiǎng mǎidiǎn er shénme? 
What would you like to buy?
Example 2:
Nǐ xiǎng chī diǎn er shénme?
What would you like to eat?

#3: 哪里 (nǎ lǐ) – where 

This is a locational related question word, so use it for getting around, understanding where things are situated etc. In Mandarin, you can either use 哪里 (nǎlǐ) or 哪儿 (nǎr), the later more commonly used in northern China, especially in Beijing. Both are acceptable, but for now don’t stress about it – just pick one and start asking where!
Example 1:
Nǐ zài nǎ lǐ?
Where are you?
Example 2:
Chāojí shìchǎng zài nǎ'er?
Where is the supermarket?

#4: 哪个 (nǎ ge) – which 

For figuring out what is what, which is which, this question word translates to ‘which’ or ‘that’. Especially useful for when you go shopping and ask questions like: “Which watermelon is sweeter?”
Example 1:
Nǎge yǐnliào shì nǐ de?
Which drink is yours?
Example 2:
Nǎge shǒujī bǐjiào hǎo?
Which cell phone is better?

#5: 什么时候 (shénme shíhou) – when 

The literal translation of 什么时候 (shénme shíhou) is “What time?”. It can be used as a standalone, or tagged on to a longer question.
Example 1:
Nǐ shénme shíhòu huí jiā?
When are you coming home?
Example 2:
Nǐ shénme shíhòu zǒu?
What time do you go?

#6: 为什么 (wèishénme) – why 

In Chinese, 什么 (shénme) which we’ve covered above means ‘what’. When we add 为 (wèi) to 什么 (shénme) the meaning changes to ‘what for’. So this question word can be used to ask questions like: “Why are you always playing video games?”
Example 1:
Nǐ wèishénme xīyān?
Why do you smoke?
Example 2:
Tā wèishéme bù gāoxìng?
Why is he not happy?

#7: 怎么 (zěnme) – how 

The simple translation of 怎么 (zěnme) is ‘how come’, but it can also mean ‘what’ and ‘why’ depending on the situation. This question word has a lot of usages, as well as plenty of forms. Here are a few examples: 怎么办 (What’s to be done?), 怎么了 (What’s up? What’s going on?), 怎么样 (How was it? How are things?), 怎么搞的 (What went wrong?), 怎么说呢 (How come?).
Example 1:
Nǐ zěnme qù Běijīng?
How do you go to Beijing?
Example 2:
Nǐ zěnme zhèyàng bù dǒngshì?
How can you be so thoughtless?

#8: 多少 (duōshǎo) – how many 

The answer to what is the most common question in Chinese? 多少钱? (How much money?) Remember that this question word is used to ask about amounts higher than ten.
Example 1:
Zhè ge fángjiān yǒu duōshǎo rén?
How many people are there in this room?
Example 2:
Nǐmen diàn lǐ de wifi mìmǎ shì duōshǎo?
What is the wifi password in your store?


几 (jǐ) – how many (under ten) 

If 多少 (duōshǎo) is used for amounts higher than ten, then 几 (jǐ) is used for amounts less than 10. An easy way to remember is that 几 (jǐ) is short and sweet, so it must be used for small numbers. We also use 几 (jǐ) to ask about the time, like the example below.
Example 1:
Xiànzài jǐ diǎn?
What time is it now?
Example 2:
Wǒ yǐjīng gěi tā dǎle hǎojǐ gè diànhuàle.
I have already called her several times.
- - -
So there you have it, 9 great question words and phrases that will have you engaging in conversations right, left and center. Not sure how to use these question words? Then all you need to do is ask! :)


How to say hello without using 'Ni Hao' 



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