5 More Essential Chinese Sentence Patterns

We got some great feedback for the first 5 Essential Sentence Patterns post, so here is part two with 5 more essential sentence patterns. Each of these sentence patterns are in common use in Chinese texts and formal speech, and also occurring in general conversation – depending on who you are talking to, of course. As usual we want to show you how you would see these patterns used ‘in the wild’, so below each pattern are some example sentences take from real-world sources. If you have any questions or suggestions about the topic then please let us know in the comments!

5 More Essential Chinese Sentence Patterns

Don’t let the examples below scare you if you’re just starting out learning Chinese, these sentence patterns can also be used for very basic sentences too!

一方面… 另一方面…

Pinyin: yī fāng miàn … lìng yī fāng miàn …
English: one aspect is… another is…; on the one hand… on the other hand

Example:

Traditional
一方面美國需要利用半島的緊張局勢,另一方面朝鮮又毫不示弱

Simplified
一方面美国需要利用半岛的紧张局势,另一方面朝鲜又毫不示弱

Pinyin
yī fāng miàn měi guó xū yào lì yòng bàn dǎo de jǐn zhāng jú shì, lìng yī fāng miàn cháo xiǎn yòu háo bú shì ruò.

English
On the one hand the US needs to take advantage of the intense situation on the (Korean) peninsula, but on the other hand North Korea hasn’t shown the slightest weakness.

一邊… 一邊…(一边… 一边…)

Pinyin: yī biān … yī biān …
English: doing… while at the same time doing…; simultaneously doing… while doing…

Example 1:

Traditional
等媽媽病情好轉之後,他也會一邊工作一邊照顧媽媽。

Simplified
等妈妈病情好转之后,他也会一边工作一边照顾妈妈。

Pinyin
děng mā mā bìng qíng hǎo zhuǎn zhī hòu, tā yě huì yī biān gōng zuò yī biān zhào gù mā mā.

English
While waiting for his mother’s condition to improve, he is also working and at the same time taking care of her.

Example 2:

Traditional
周杰倫除夕登上央視春晚,一邊唱歌一邊表演魔術

Simplified
周杰伦除夕登上央视春晚,一边唱歌一边表演魔术

Pinyin
zhōu jié lún chú xì dēng shàng yāng shì chūn wǎn, yī biān chàng gē yī biān biǎo yǎn mó shù

English
On New Year’s Eve Jay Chou took the stage for Central Television’s spring festival, singing while at the same time performing magic

首先… 其次… 最後(最后)…

Pinyin: shǒu xiān… qí cì… zuì hòu…
English: Firstly… secondly… lastly…

This sentence structure is usually spread over many sentences and sometimes paragraphs. Here are two smaller examples, but if while reading a passage of Chinese you see the telltale “首先”, then make sure to look ahead for the rest of the structure!

Example 1:

Traditional
我首先是老師,其次是研究者,最後才是詩人

Simplified
我首先是老师,其次是研究者,最后才是诗人

Pinyin
wǒ shǒu xiān shì lǎo shī, qí cì shì yán jiù zhě, zuì hòu cái shì shī rén

English
I’m first a teacher, second a researcher, and lastly a poet

Example 2:

Traditional
至少在今後十年裏,中國的最優先課題仍然是發展經濟,為此,首先需要韓半島的和平,其次是南北韓體制的穩定,最後是無核化。

Simplified
至少在今后十年里,中国的最优先课题仍然是发展经济,为此,首先需要韩半岛的和平,其次是南北韩体制的稳定,最后是无核化。

Pinyin
zhì shǎo zài jīn hòu shí nián lǐ, zhōng guó de zuì yōu xiān kè tí réng rán shì fā zhǎn jīng jì, wèi cǐ, shǒu xiān xū yào hán bàn dǎo de hé píng, qí cì shì nán běi hán tǐ zhì de wěn dìng, zuì hòu shì wú hé huà.

English
For at least the next ten years, China’s highest priority issue will be economic development. In order to achieve this, firstly peace on the Korean peninsula is needed, secondly is North and South Korean stability, lastly is denuclearisation.

不只…還有…(不只…还有…)

Pinyin: bú zhǐ … hái yǒu …
English: not only… but also…

Example 1 (link for this report now dead, but we’d already transcribed the text):

Traditional
吸菸不只會造成肺臟病變,還有可能引發掉牙危機

Simplified
吸菸不只会造成肺脏病变,还有可能引发掉牙危机

Pinyin
xīyān bùzhǐ huì zàochéng fèizàng bìngbiàn, háiyǒu kěnéng yǐnfā diàoyá wéijī

English
Smoking not only causes lung disease, but there’s also a danger that your teeth could fall out

Example 2 (a geeky one):

Traditional
MacBook Pro 謠指部:不只 Sandy Bridge 還有 Light Peak

Simplified
MacBook Pro 谣指部:不只 Sandy Bridge 还有 Light Peak

Pinyin
MacBook Pro yáo zhǐ bù: bù zhǐ Sandy Bridge hái yǒu Light Peak

English
Macbook Pro rumour mill: not just Sandy Bridge but also Light Peak

If anyone has another translation for 謠指部 then please post below, though rumour mill does seem suitable, more so than ‘ministry of rumours’ which is a more direct translation.

不僅是…更是…(不仅是…更是…)

Pinyin: bù jǐn shì … gèng shì …
English: not just… also…; not just… more…

Very similar in meaning to 「不只…還有…」but with more emphasis on an increasing scale or importance of a situation or thing, the examples below will clarify this further:

Example 1:

Traditional
美國的「重返亞洲」不僅是戰略,更是落實到實際行動

Simplified
美国的“重返亚洲”不仅是战略,更是落实到实际行动

Pinyin
měi guó de “chóng fǎn yà zhōu” bù jǐn shì zhàn lüè, gèng shì luò shí dào shí jì xíng dòng

English
The US’s “return to Asia” is not just a strategy, but more a fully realised operation

Example 2:

Traditional
這種需要耗費大量人力、物力、時間的深度報導傳遞的不僅是信息,更是新聞、知識和智慧,這些是搜索引擎無法給予的。

Simplified
这种需要耗费大量人力、物力、时间的深度报导传递的不仅是信息,更是新闻、知识和智慧,这些是搜索引擎无法给予的。

Pinyin
zhè zhǒng xū yào hào fèi dà liàng rén lì, wù lì, shí jiān de shēn dù bào dǎo chuán dì de bú jǐn shì xìn xí, gèng shì xīn wén, zhī shì hé zhì huì, zhè xiē shì sōu suǒ yǐn qíng wú fǎ jǐ yŭ de.

English
The type of indepth reporting that requires a large amount of manpower, resources, and time not only transmit information, but also news, knowledge, and wisdom – all of which cannot be provided by a search engine.

See what examples of these setnence structure you can find and post them in the comments, and don’t forget to post your translation or questions too! 😉

  • Awesome stuff. Great post!

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  • Thanks for these Dave. It is very good work. I’ve decided to print the patterns you’ve given us here, pin them up in front of me and make myself use them! I think I might be guilty of being a lot lazy with sentence structures. “to avoid looking like an idiot” has got me sucked right in!!!

  • 魏倪香

    Is there a sentence pattern for the saying “it USE TO BE …. BUT IS NOW…” ??

  • 周美琳

    魏倪香 I was looking for such a pattern before too, and now I usally use this: 本來。。。,後來。。。