Beginner Chinese Grammar – How to Use 呢

呢 (ne) is one of the most common particles in Mandarin Chinese and has a wide range of uses.

It is often used as an interrogative particle at the end of interrogative sentences with the three most important usages

呢 (ne) can also be used at the end or middle of a statement as a modal particle.

How to use 呢 in Chinese – Questions

Asking “What About…?” with 呢

Let’s have a look at a short dialogue to start:

In this dialogue, it sounds redundant to repeat the question “你好吗?”, so the second speaker uses “你呢 (nǐ ne)?” to ask this question back to the first speaker.

This is a simple way to return the question that you’ve just been asked. It can be translated as “and you?“ or ”what about you?”.

Structure: (answer) + 你 (nǐ) / 你们 (nǐmen) + 呢 (ne)

  • A: 今天你累吗?
  • jīntiān nǐ lèi ma?
  • Are you tired today?
  • B: 不累,你呢?
  • bù lèi, nǐ ne?
  • Not tired, how about you?
  • A: 你想喝什么?
  • nǐ xiǎng hē shénme?
  • What do you want to drink?
  • B: 我想喝咖啡,你们呢?
  • wǒ xiǎng hē kāfēi, nǐmen ne?
  • I want to drink coffee, how about you?

呢 (ne) can also be used in more general contexts, as an equivalent to the English “what about…?” or “how about…?”.

It is usually used when the speakers have already asked a similar question and don’t want to repeat the question all over again.

Subject + 呢 (ne)?

  • A: 星期二你有空吗? xīngqí’èr nǐ yǒu kòng ma? Are you free on Tuesday?
  • B: 没有。méiyǒu. I am not.
  • A: 星期三呢?xīngqísān ne? How about Wednesday?
  • A: 这个多少钱?zhège duōshǎo qián? How much is this?
  • B: 四十。sìshí. Fourty.
  • A: 那个呢?nàgè ne? What about that?

Asking Whereabouts of Someone/Something with 呢

When you hear people seemingly use the 呢 (ne) without any context, they are usually asking where someone or something is, and they expect that the person or thing to be there somewhere.

For example, you are meeting with two of your friends, John and Peter, by the school gate, and when you go there only John shows up…

You can just ask John “彼得(Peter)呢?” It is used to express “How come the person or the thing is not here? Where did the person or the thing go?”

Person/thing + 呢 (ne)?

  • 妈妈呢?
  • māmā ne?
  • Where’s mom (who is supposed to be around here)?
  • 我的手机呢?
  • wǒ de shǒujī ne?
  • Where’s my mobile phone (which is supposed to be around here)?

Expressing Curiosity with 呢

呢 (ne) can be used in a multiple-choice question or open question to produce a casual, relaxed, and friendly tone, which emphasise that people are curious, interested, happy, or eager to find out the answer.

呢 (ne) can be translated as “I am wondering” or “I am interested to know”. 

Structure #1 – Choice questions + 呢 (ne)?

  • 这个好不好吃呢?
  • zhège hǎobù hào chī ne?
  • Is this delicious?
  • (I am wondering if this is tasty or not?)
  • 明天我们上不上数学课呢?
  • míngtiān wǒmen shàng bù shàng shùxué kè ne?
  • Will we have math class tomorrow?
  • 他喜欢足球还是篮球呢?
  • tā xǐhuān zúqiú háishì lánqiú ne?
  • Does he like football or basketball?

Structure #2 – Open questions + 呢 (ne)?

  • 你要哪个呢?
  • nǐ yào nǎge ne?
  • Which one do you want?
  • (I am curious about which one you want)
  • 你们去哪儿呢?
  • nǐmen qù nǎ’er ne?
  • Where are you going?
  • 我们怎么去医院呢?
  • wǒmen zěnme qù yīyuàn ne?
  • How do we get to the hospital?

All these questions are grammatically correct without 呢 (ne), but by adding 呢 (ne) at the end, the speakers imply that they are curious about the answer and are eager to find it out. 

Examples:

  • 他喜欢不喜欢中国菜?
  • tā xǐhuān bù xǐhuān zhōngguó cài?
  • Does he like Chinese food?
    • (a general question)
  • 他喜欢不喜欢中国菜呢?
  • tā xǐhuān bù xǐhuān zhōngguó cài ne?
  • Does he like Chinese food?
    • (the person is curious to know whether he likes the Chinese food or not)  

Do not use 呢 (ne) and 吗 (ma) together and do not replace 吗 (ma) with 呢 (ne)。

You can use a choice question+ 呢 (ne) or an open question + 呢 (ne) to substitute:

In Alternative Questions with 还是 (háishi)

When 呢 is used in an alternative question, it will be placed after the two options provided, which are commonly connected by “还是 (háishi)”.

“呢” after the latter option can be omitted.

Option 1 + 呢,还是 + Option 2 (+ 呢)

  • A: 我们今天在家吃饭呢,还是去饭店吃饭(呢)?
  • wǒmen jīntiān zàijiā chīfàn ne, háishì qù fàndiàn chīfàn (ne)?
  • Shall we have dinner at home today, or go to the restaurant for dinner?
  • B: 我都可以。
  • wǒ dōu kěyǐ.
  • I can do both
  • A: 你什么时候出国留学?明年呢,还是后年(呢)?
  • nǐ shénme shíhòu chūguó liúxué? Míngnián ne, háishì hòu nián (ne)?
  • When will you study abroad? Next year, or the year after?
  • B: 我还没有想好。
  • wǒ hái méiyǒu xiǎng hǎo.
  • I haven’t figured it out yet.

In Rhetorical Questions

“呢” can also be used in rhetorical questions to soften the tone.

You can remove “呢” can be removed without changing the meaning, but it will make the tone of the question tougher.

Rhetorical questions + 呢?

  • 考试这么简单,你怎么会不及格呢?
  • kǎoshì zhème jiǎndān, nǐ zěnme huì bù jígé ní?
  • The exam is so simple, how can you fail?
  • 我哪里有钱买房子呢?
  • wǒ nǎ li yǒu qián mǎi fángzi ní?
  • Where can I have money to buy a house?

How to use 呢 in Chinese – Statements

呢 (ne) at the End of a Statement

呢 at the end of the statement can express the meaning of convincing someone of something, which conveys a tone of affirmation and slight exaggeration. 

  • A: 我得回家了。
  • wǒ dé huí jiāle.
  • I have to go home.
  • B: 再坐会儿,现在还很早呢。
  • zài zuò huì er, xiànzài hái hěn zǎo ne.
  • Sit for a while, it’s still early.
  • A: 你做的中国菜真好吃!
  • nǐ zuò de zhōngguó cài zhēn hào chī!
  • The Chinese food you cooked is so delicious!
  • B: 多吃点,还有呢。
  • duō chī diǎn, hái yǒu ne.
  • Eat more, there’s more.

呢 at the end of a statement can also indicate a continuous state, suggesting to pay attention. 

正(zhèng)……呢、V+着 (zhe)……呢、……着 (zhe)呢

  • 别去找爸爸,他正生气呢。
  • bié qù zhǎo bàba, tā zhèng shēngqì ne.
  • Don’t go to Dad, he is angry.
  • 不要出门了,外面下着雨呢。
  • bùyào chūménle, wàimiàn xiàzhe yǔ ne.
  • Don’t go out, it’s raining outside.
  • 我没时间玩,忙着呢。
  • wǒ méi shíjiān wán, máng zhene.
  • I don’t have time to play, I’m busy.

呢 in the Middle of a Statement

When 呢 is used in the middle of a sentence, it usually denotes a pause and draws the listener’s attention to what is said after the pause.

It sometimes has a comparative meaning.

  • 小王喜欢安静,小李呢,喜欢热闹。
  • xiǎo wáng xǐhuān ānjìng, xiǎo lǐ ne, xǐhuān rènào.
  • Xiao Wang likes peace, and Xiao Li likes lively.
  • 我在学校当老师,姐姐呢,在公司做职员。
  • wǒ zài xuéxiào dāng lǎoshī, jiějiě ne, zài gōngsī zuò zhíyuán.
  • I work as a teacher at school, and my sister works as a clerk in the company.

That’s the end of another Chinese Grammar article!

We hope all the information given on this page helped you understand the usage of this particle in Chinese, and that this particle won’t have any more secrets for you.

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how to use 呢

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is 呢?

呢 is one of the most common particles in Mandarin Chinese and has a wide range of uses.

How to use 呢?

It is often used as an interrogative particle at the end of interrogative sentences with three most important usages: asking “what about” questions, asking whereabouts of someone or something, and expressing curiosity. 

Some common sentence structures are:

(answer) + 你 (nǐ) / 你们 (nǐmen) + 呢 (ne) ?

person/thing + 呢 (ne)?

Choice questions + 呢 (ne)?

Option 1 + 呢,还是 + Option 2 (+ 呢)?

How to pronounce 呢?

呢 is pronounced ‘ne’, with a neutral tone.

What are some examples of a sentence with 呢?

今天我不累,你呢?jīntiān wǒ bù lèi, nǐ ne? | I’m not tired today, how about you?

我的手机呢?wǒ de shǒujī ne? | Where is my phone?

你要哪个呢? nǐ yào nǎge ne? | Which one do you want?

我没时间玩,忙着呢。wǒ méi shíjiān wán, máng zhene. | I don’t have time to play, I’m busy.

What are some other Chinese particles I should learn?

You should definitely learn about the particle since it is very often used (and is the most common character of the language!).

is another common particle to learn.

Other very useful grammar to master is the difference between 不 and 没 as well as 还是 and 或者.

Is learning Chinese difficult?

As with any foreign languages learning Chinese comes with a few challenges, however if your interest in the language is genuine and you are determined to study it, you’ll overcome the difficult parts more easily.

The Chinese language follows a Subject + Verb + Object pattern, just like many European languages, and do not conjugate verbs, so that’s a good start!

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