Chinese Grammar - Use a Model Verb “néng”

Updated: May 16, 2020

How to Use a Model Verb “néng” in Mandarin

Learning Highlight

  • Learn how to use a model verb “néng”to make a request or seek for permission to perform an action in Mandarin Chinese.

The grammatical structure we learn today is:

Subject + "能, néng" + Verb + "吗, ma"?

It is one of interrogative sentence structures.

  • “能, néng” means “can” or “may”. It is a modal verb to make a request or seek for permission to perform an action.

  • “吗, ma” is a question word to indicate an interrogative mood. “吗, ma” is put at the end of a declarative sentence to turn it into a question. “ma” is pronounced in a neutral tone in such a case.

For an example,


néng zuò zhèr ma?

Can I sit here?

In this question sentence,

  • 我, wǒ” is a subject, means “I”.

  • 能, néng” is a modal verb, means “can” or “may”.

  • 坐, zuò” is a verb, means “to sit”.

  • 这儿, zhèr” is a pronoun, means “here”.

  • 吗, ma” is a question word.

When putting them together, "我能坐这儿吗, wǒ néng zuò zhèr ma?"

means “Can I sit here?”.

Let’s see more examples,


néng yòng nǐ de bǐ ma?

Can I use your pen?


néng qù pài duì ma?

Can she go party?

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