Mandarin Grammar

State a Capability of a Person

Learning Objectives


  • Learn how to state a capability to perform or achieve certain actions in Mandarin.

Learning Video

Additional Notes

The Chinese word "会, huì " is a model verb, like the English word ‘can’, it indicates an innate ability, or an ability acquired through learning.


Similar to English, a model verb in Chinese is placed directly and used before a verb to express particular moods or attitudes.


The negative form of “会, huì" is “不会, bú huì",  meaning ‘cannot’ in English.


Let see three examples of using ‘huì’. First,

说中文。

huì shuō zhōng wén。

He can speak Chinese.


In the sentence,

  • “说, shuō”, is a verb, means to speak;

  • “中文, zhōng wén”, is a noun, means Chinese.


So, “说, shuō” plus “中文, zhōng wén” forms a phrase "说中文, shuō zhōng wén", that is to speak Chinese.


Next,

写汉字。

huì xiě hàn zì 。

He can write Chinese characters.


In the sentence,

  • “写, xiě”, is a verb, means to write;

  • “汉字, hàn zì”, is a noun, means Chinese characters.


So, “写, xiě” plus “汉字, hàn zì” forms a phrase “写汉字, xiě hàn zì”, that is to write Chinese characters.


Last,

做中国菜。

huì zuò zhōng guó cài。

He can cook Chinese food.


In the sentence,

  • “做, zuò”, is a verb, means to cook;

  • “中国菜, zhōng guó cài”, is a noun, means Chinese food.


So, “做, zuò” plus “中国菜, zhōng guó cài” forms a phrase “做中国菜, zuò zhōng guó cài”, that is to cook Chinese food.


How to use another modal verb “不会, bú huì”. It means “cannot” in English and “不会, bú huì” is a negative form of “会, huì” and it indicates a person is unable to perform an action.


We continue using our previous three examples to show how to use the modal verb “bú huì”.


First,

他会说中文。

tā huì shuō zhōng wén 。

He can speak Chinese.


For its negative form, you can say

不会说中文。

bú huì shuō zhōng wén。

He cannot speak Chinese.


Next,

他会写汉字。

tā huì xiě hàn zì。

He can write Chinese characters.


For its negative form, you can say,

不会写汉字。

bú huì xiě hàn zì。

He cannot write Chinese characters.


Finally, how about the negative form of  “他会做中国菜, tā huì zuò zhōng guó cài” (He can cook Chinese food.)?


Its negative form is:

不会做中国菜。

bú huì zuò zhōng guó cài。

He cannot cook Chinese food.



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