Ways of Asking Questions

One simple way of asking questions in Chinese is to add the interrogative particle “吗” to the end of the sentence. The sentence order doesn’t change.

S EV N 吗?
shì xiǎowánɡ mɑ?
小王 吗?

Are you Xiao Wang?

màikè’ěr shì měiɡuórén mɑ?
迈克尔 美国人 吗?

Is Michael an American?

xìnɡ mɑ?
吗?

Is she surnamed Li?

Another way of asking questions is to use the “positive + negative” form of the verb (i.e. by immediately following the positive form of the verb with its negative form). "吗" is always omitted in this kind of sentence pattern.

S EV Negative N?
shì búshì xiǎowánɡ?
不是 小王?

Are you Xiao Wang (or not)?

màikè’ěr shì búshì měiɡuórén?
迈克尔 不是 美国人?

Is Michael an American (or not)?

xìnɡ búxìnɡ lǐ?
不姓 李?

Is she surnamed Li (or not)?

“Are they the same?” you may ask. Actually, there is a slight difference between the “吗” question and the “positive + negative” type of question. The “吗” question carries a sense of doubt and is answer-seeking, while the “positive + negative” question hints that the person who proposed the question seems to know the answer, but is not sure about it.

The Answer

In Chinese, the word order of the answer is usually the same as the word order of the question. So, to answer questions in Chinese, you simply repeat the verb in its positive or negative form and remove the interrogative word “吗”. Besides, there is no need to add “yes” or “no” in the answer as in English.

nǐ shì xiǎowánɡ mɑ?

A: 你 是 小王 吗?

Are you Xiao Wang?

wǒ búshì xiǎowánɡ(bù, wǒ bú shì xiǎowánɡ .)

B: 我 不是 小王。(not: 不, 我 不是 小王。)

I am not Xiao Wang

nǐ xìnɡ búxìnɡ lǐ?

A: 你 姓 不姓 李?

Are you surnamed Li?

wǒ búxìnɡ lǐ (bù, wǒ búxìnɡ lǐ.)

B: 我 不姓 李。(not: 不,我 不姓 李。)

I am not surnamed Li.

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