Speaking Chinese: 300 Grammatical Points

Speaking Chinese: 300 Grammatical Points

Edited by Cao Shan (New World Press, 2000)

Review by: John Pasden

If you suspected that this book is dry because of the title, you were right on the mark. Dry doesn’t necessarily mean bad, though. I mean, come on, the book is all about grammar. And I do mean all about grammar, almost excessively so. The book is divided into two parts: Morphology (part 1) and Syntax (part 2). Then each part is broken down into chapters such as “Nouns,” “Verbs,” Optative Verbs,” and “Measure Words” in part 1, and “Sentence Elements,” “Aspects of an Action,” and “Ways to Express Emphasis” in part 2. Of course there are many more.

Yes, this book was organized and written by incredibly anal linguists. In this book you will find grammatical explanations such as: “Chinese grammar stipulates that an object must not directly follow an intransitive verb, and the object should go together with a preposition to form a prepositional structure to precede the verb, acting as an adverbial adjunct. i.e., preposition + object + intransitive verb.” Exciting, eh? Fortunately there are pretty easy to follow sample sentences which illustrate the grammar points. The grammar points become surprisingly lucid when you look at the examples. Examples of both correct and incorrect Chinese sentences are given for each grammar point, which is a very useful method.

Furthermore, the book is bilingual (simplified Chinese) throughout. Every chapter heading is given in both Chinese and English, and every grammar point is explained in both Chinese and English. This is great for any linguist nerds who want to learn grammar words like “adverbial adjunct” in Chinese. The one exception to this bilingualism is the sample sentences. They are given in Chinese only, with pinyin underneath. The characters are relatively simple, though, and should not pose a comprehension problem to intermediate students of Chinese.

I recommend this book to any intermediate student of Chinese who doesn’t mind a grammar-centered approach to language. I went through this entire book and discovered quite a few elements of my own Chinese to correct from it. I bought this book in China.


John Pasden

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


  1. I bought this book a while ago and have recently started using it quite a bit. For me it’s more of a bathroom book–I read a point or two at a time and try to incorporate them into my writing and speaking.

    I agree that the example sentences are useful and pretty easy to understand (even for someone like me whose character knowledge is still dragging).

  2. leonardo Says: July 9, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    This page is very important for me.I would like to study chino – mandarin, but I can not buy this book because where I live there is not bookstore.I live in campoalegre,Huila.Colombia.Can you help me?please…..thank you.

  3. Leonardo, fortunately for many of us, Chinese is phrase-centered, unlike Spanish, where without grammar “eres nada”.

    So, go ahead and get started with chino, and don’t worry about the grammar until you know lots of chino! Vaya, hombre

    One source of free lessons is http://www.fsi-language-courses.net
    A different approach is http://www.chinesepod.com/

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