Chinese Word Order and English Word Order: How Similar?

30 Aug 2017

I get a lot of questions from absolute beginners about Chinese word order. “I heard it’s almost the same as English. Is it??

It’s not an easy question to answer, but the short answer is: “fairly similar for simple sentences.” And what does “fairly similar” mean exactly? Well, I recently made this video to answer that question!

You could almost make a list of sentence patterns, starting with the simple three-word “SVO” sentences (e.g. “I love you”), and see the Chinese and English word order slowly diverge as you add in more and more complexity. That goes a bit beyond the scope of that simple video, though.

TL;DR: similar, but you still need to study it a little!

P.S. IF you’re wondering where I got that awesome t-shirt, it’s from here.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. I think it’s more helpful to point out that Chinese syntax is more restrictive than English, in part due to a greater amount of inflection in English. I’ve mostly heard talk about Chinese SVO as easier for English speakers in comparison with the, mainly, initial challenges facing students of Japanese or Korean.

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