Beginner Level Grammar – Questions in Chinese

Save this page in your favourites, you’ll need it as soon as your first Chinese lesson! That is because today we will introduce questions in Chinese and every interrogative word you need to know.

Questions, as in any language, are I-NE-VI-TABLE!

It’s best to learn them early on to widen your vocabulary and open a multitude of doors. Asking questions is the best way to to broaden your knowledge.

By the end of this page, you’ll be able to ask about time, people, locations and much more…

Questions in Chinese – 谁 shéi

Questions in Chinese – 什么 shénme

Questions in Chinese – 哪 nǎ

Questions in Chinese – 什么时候 shénme shíhòu

Questions in Chinese – 哪儿 / 哪里 nǎ’er / nǎ lǐ

Questions in Chinese – 怎么 zěnme

Questions in Chinese – 多少 duōshǎo

Questions in Chinese – Brief Introduction

You will learn the Chinese interrogative pronouns very early on in your language journey. Don’t fear! They are just question words, short and easy to remember.

Unlike in English where sentence words go at the beginning of the sentence, when you ask a question in Mandarin, there is no need to change the structure of the sentence. 

You simply replace the noun with an interrogative pronoun.

For example, consider this exchange:

The question word 哪儿 (where) simply goes where the location word (in this case, Beijing) goes.  

MeaningQuestion word
Questions about people (Who?)谁 shéi
Questions about things (What?)什么 shénme
Questions about specific things (Which?)哪 nǎ
Questions about time (When?)什么时候 shénme shíhòu
Questions about places (Where?)哪儿 nǎ’er, 哪里 nǎ lǐ
Questions about character, process, style (How? How is it?)怎么 zěnme,怎么样 zěnme yàng
Questions about quantity or number (How much?)几 jǐ,多少 duōshǎo

Who in Chinese – 谁 shéi

QuestionAnswer
谁是你的女儿? (shéi shì nǐ de nǚ’ér?)她是我的女儿。  (tā shì wǒ de nǚ’ér)
Who is your girlfriend?She is my girlfriend
这是谁的书? (zhè shì shéi de shū?)这是我朋友的书。(zhè shì wǒ péngyǒu de shū)
Whose book is this?          This is my friend’s book.
你找谁? (nǐ zhǎo shéi?)我找小明。(wǒ zhǎo xiǎomíng)
Who are you looking for?I’m looking for Xiaoming.
谁的身体最好? (shéi de shēntǐ zuì hǎo?)他的身体最好。(tā de shēntǐ zuì hǎo)
Who has the best bod?He has the best bod.
谁的家在上海? (shéi de jiā zài shànghǎi?)我的家在上海。(wǒ de jiā zài shànghǎi)
Whose home is in Shanghai?My home is in Shanghai.

What in Chinese – 什么 shénme

QuestionAnswer
这是什么?(zhè shì shénme?)这是一本书。(zhè shì yī běn shū)
What’s this?This is a book.
这些是什么? (zhèxiē shì shénme?)这些是照片。(zhèxiē shì zhàopiàn)
What are these?These are pictures..
你包里有什么书? (nǐ bāo li yǒu shé me shū?)我包里有英语书和汉语书。(wǒ bāo li yǒu yīngyǔ shū hé hànyǔ shū)
What books are in your bag?In my bag there are English books and Chinese books.
你在听什么歌? (nǐ zài tīng shénme gē?)我在听英语歌。(wǒ zài tīng yīngyǔ gē)
What music are you listening to?I’m listening to English music.
你喜欢喝什么?(nǐ xǐhuān hē shénme?)我喜欢喝茶。(wǒ xǐhuān hē chá)
What do you like to drink?I like to drink tea.
你最喜欢看什么电影?(nǐ zuì xǐhuān kàn shénme diànyǐng?)我最喜欢看喜剧片。(wǒ zuì xǐhuān kàn xǐjù piàn)
What movies do you like to watch?My favorite to watch is comedies. 

Which in Chinese – 哪 nǎ

NOTE – Often after 哪 there is a measure word or number.

QuestionAnswer
哪位是新来的老师?(nǎ wèi shì xīn lái de lǎoshī?)这位是新来的老师。(zhè wèi shì xīn lái de lǎoshī.)
Which one is the newly arrived teacher?That one is the newly arrived teacher.
苹果和香蕉你最喜欢哪个?(píngguǒ hé xiāngjiāo nǐ zuì xǐhuān nǎge?)我最喜欢香蕉。(wǒ zuì xǐhuān xiāngjiāo.)
Apples and bananas, which is your favourite?My favourite is bananas.
您在哪个公司工作? (nín zài nǎge gōngsī gōngzuò?)我在天一公司工作。(wǒ zài tiān yī gōngsī gōngzuò.)
Which company do you work at?I work at Tianyi.
你最喜欢哪种颜色? (nǐ zuì xǐhuān nǎ zhǒng yánsè?)我最喜欢红色。(wǒ zuì xǐhuān hóngsè.)
What is your favourite colour?My favorite color is red.
你的生日是哪天?(nǐ de shēngrì shì nǎ tiān?)我的生日在8月1号。(wǒ de shēngrì zài 8 yuè 1 hào.)
Which day is your birthday?My birthday is August 1st.

When in Chinese – 什么时候 shénme shíhòu

QuestionAnswer
你什么时候来的中国?(nǐ shénme shíhòu lái de zhōngguó?)我今年3月来的中国。(wǒ jīnnián 3 yuè lái de zhōngguó.
When do you come to China?I come to China this March.
你打算什么时候吃饭?(nǐ dǎsuàn shénme shíhòu chīfàn?)我打算12点吃饭。(wǒ dǎsuàn 12 diǎn chīfàn.)
What time do you plan on eating?I plan on eating at twelve.
这是什么时候的书?(zhè shì shénme shíhòu de shū?)这是去年的书。(zhè shì qùnián de shū.)
When is this book from?This is last year’s book.
现在什么时候了? (xiànzài shénme shíhòule?)现在下午4点。(xiànzài xiàwǔ 4 diǎn.)
What time is it?It’s 4pm.
你什么时候去超市?(nǐ shénme shíhòu qù chāoshì?)我跟你一起去。 我等一会儿就去。(wǒ gēn nǐ yīqǐ qù. Wǒ děng yīhuǐ’er jiù qù.
What time are you going to the supermarket?I’ll go with you, I’m going in a bit.

Where in Chinese – 哪儿 nǎ’er, 哪里 nǎ lǐ

NOTE – “哪儿” is more common in spoken language. It is also more commonly heard in the north, while 哪里 is more often heard in southern China.

QuestionAnswer
你去哪儿? (nǐ qù nǎ’er?)我去银行。(wǒ qù yínháng.)
Where are you going?I’m going to the bank.
你知道超市在哪里吗? (nǐ zhīdào chāoshì zài nǎlǐ ma?)超市在负一楼。(chāoshì zài fù yī lóu.)
Do you know where the supermarket is?The supermarket is in the basement.
包子店在哪儿?(bāozi diàn zài nǎ’er?)包子店在超市的旁边。(bāozi diàn zài chāoshì de pángbiān.)
Where is the dumpling shop?The dumpling shop is next to the supermarket.
你的家在哪儿?(nǐ de jiā zài nǎ’er?)我的家在李丽家旁边。(wǒ de jiā zài lǐlìjiā pángbiān.)
Where is your home.My home is next to Lily’s home.
你从哪里回来的?(nǐ cóng nǎlǐ huílái de?)我从饭店回来的。(wǒ cóng fàndiàn huílái de.)
From where are you returning?I’m returning from the restaurant.

How in Chinese – 怎么 zěnme

NOTE – The question ‘How is it? 怎么样? zěnme yàng’ is also often used daily.

QuestionAnswer
这件衣服怎么样?(zhè jiàn yīfú zěnme yàng?)挺好看的。(tǐng hǎokàn de.)
How about these clothes?Looks pretty good.
怎么样才能说好汉语?(zěnme yàng cáinéng shuō hǎo hànyǔ?)多听多说。(duō tīng duō shuō.)
How can I really speak good Chinese?Listen and speak more.
你怎么没去吃饭?(nǐ zěnme méi qù chīfàn?)我还不饿。(wǒ hái bù è.)
How have you not eaten?I am still not hungry.
你眼睛怎么红了?(nǐ yǎnjīng zěnme hóngle?)我刚才哭了。(wǒ gāngcái kūle.)
How did your eyes get so red?I just cried.
你的卧室怎么这么乱?(nǐ de wòshì zěnme zhème luàn?)我还没收拾呢。(wǒ hái mò shōushí ne.)
How is your bedroom so messy?I still haven’t cleaned.

How much in Chinese – 几 jǐ,多少 duōshǎo

There are two words for asking “how much” or about numbers in Chinese. 

NOTE – Before 几, you can also add the question word 哪 however you cannot use it before 多少.

QuestionAnswer
一年有多少天?(yī nián yǒu duōshǎo tiān?)一年有365天。(yī nián yǒu 365 tiān.)
How many days are there in a year?There are 365 days in a year.
你女儿几岁了?(nǐ nǚ’ér jǐ suìle?) *我女儿3岁了。(wǒ nǚ’ér 3 suìle.)
How old is your daughter? My daughter is 3 years old.

*Note that 几 is used here because the child is assumed to be young, likely around or under 10 years of age.

你有几个孩子?(nǐ yǒu jǐ gè háizi?)我有4个孩子。(wǒ yǒu 4 gè háizi.)
How many children do you have?I have four children.
你喜欢哪几个颜色? (nǐ xǐhuān nǎ jǐ gè yánsè?) *我喜欢红色,绿色,蓝色。(wǒ xǐhuān hóngsè, lǜsè, lán sè.)
Which colours do you like?I like red, green, and blue.

*Note that the use of 哪几 means “which colours” where the same question without the 几, would mean “Which colour do you like?”, implying a singular colour. While 哪 is often used before 几, it cannot be used before 多少。

这个星期,你哪几天有空?(zhège xīngqí, nǐ nǎ jǐ tiān yǒu kòng?)我星期二和星期三有空。(wǒ xīngqí’èr hé xīngqísān yǒu kòng.)
This week, which days are you free?I am free on Tuesday and Wednesday.
在这篇文章里,你哪几个词不认识?(zài zhè piān wénzhāng lǐ, nǐ nǎ jǐ gè cí bù rènshí?)很多我读不认识。(hěnduō wǒ dú bù rènshí.)
In this article, which of the words don’t you recognize?I don’t recognize many of the words.

There you go! You now know everything about questions in Chinese. Now you should be ready to make your own.

In our Grammar Bank we have mentioned other grammar points or aspect of the language that you might want to know more about:

And it doesn’t stop here! We actually have FULL guides about these topics:

Check out the most common Chinese radicals before checking all 214!

Learn how to count in Chinese in this short but efficient video!

Questions in Chinese – FAQ’s

How to say Who in Chinese?

Who in Chinese is 谁 shéi.

How to say What in Chinese?

What in Chinese is 什么 shénme.

How to say When in Chinese?

When in Chinese is 什么时候 shénme shíhòu.

How to say Where in Chinese?

Where in Chinese is 哪儿 nǎ’er or 哪里 nǎ lǐ.

哪儿 nǎ’er is used mainly in the North of Chinese whereas 哪里 nǎ lǐ is used in the South.

What is the structure of a Chinese question?

Unlike in English where sentence words go at the beginning of the sentence, when you ask a question in Mandarin, there is no need to change the structure of the sentence. 

You just replace the noun with the interrogative pronoun.

I don’t even know how to make a sentence, can you help?

Of course!

Our first advice would be to start taking classes with a professional teacher.

That way, you get a structured course and can monitor your progress.

If you cannot take classes at the moment, you can learn some basic Chinese grammar to make sentences here.

Don’t forget to also check our Grammar Bank that we are frequently updating with new grammar points.

Chinese Grammar Bank

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