Mandarin Grammar

Ask an Occupation

Learning Objectives


  • Learn how to ask an occupation of a person in Mandarin.

Learning Video

Additional Notes

First, we need to know purpose of using the structure "是...的, shì…de".


The structure "是...的, shì…de" is used to emphasize the specific information between "是, shì" and "的, de" in a sentence.


The structure is: "Subject + shì + specific information + de"


For examples,

"我和他是在大学认识的, wǒ hé tā shì zài dà xué rèn shí de 。" (We met at university.)


In this example, the specific information is “在大学认识, zài dà xué rèn shí”, which emphases the location they met.


Next,

"我是打的去饭店的, wǒ shì dǎ de qù fàn diàn de 。" (I took a taxi to the hotel.)


In this example, the specific information is “打的去饭店, dǎ de qù fàn diàn”, which emphases what vehicle I take to go to the hotel.


If we include a question word in the specific information, it becomes a question for asking the specific information you want to know.


For example:

"他是做什么的, tā shì zuò shén me de?" (What does he do?)


In this question,

The subject is "他, tā”" (he). 

The specific information is : "做什么, zuò shén me".

"zuò" means "to work at".

"shén me" is question word, means "what".

"zuò" plus "shén me" forms a phrase means "what ccupation".


We put "做什么, zuò shén me", what occupation between the "是...的, shì…de" structure to make it become a question to ask about his occupation.


Let’s see other examples:

"你朋友是做什么的, nǐ péng yǒu shì zuò shí me de? " (What does your friend do?)

"你男朋友是做什么的, nǐ nán péng yǒu shì zuò shí me de? " (What does your boyfriend do?)


How could you respond when a person asks you,

"你男朋友是做什么的, nǐ nán péng yǒu shì zuò shí me de?"  (What does your boyfriend do?)


You could reply: "我是, wǒ shì" + occupation


The structure is:  "Subject + 是 + occupation"


Occupations, in general, can be

  • "老师, lǎo shī" (teacher), or

  • "司机, sī jī" (driver), or

  • "飞行员, fēi háng yuán" (pilot), and so on.


For examples:

  • "我是老师, wǒ shì lǎo shī" (I am a teacher)

  • "他是司机 tā shì sī jī"  (He is a driver).

  • "我朋友是飞行员, wǒ péng yǒu shì fēi háng yuán" (My friend is a pilot).


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