1. There are four tones in Mandarin and neutral one: ā á ǎ à + a

Yes, everyone who knows anything about the Mandarin language will know the language is notorious for its dreaded tones but actually they are not that difficult, with practice comes perfection. There are four main tones – a flat, rising, dipping and falling pitch – but you mustn’t forget the neutral tone which doesn’t have any tone and is light and quick in pronunciation.

2. Chinese Pinyin words can be without initials e.g. 安ān;饿è;恩ēn

The Chinese language went under simplification and romanization in the fifties making it a lot easier to learn. So along with Chinese characters there is also Chinese Pinyin which uses the roman alphabet to represent the pictographic characters’ sounds. Chinese Pinyin has three components, initials, finals and the tones.

nǐ hǎo

Underlined here are the finals, and not underlined are the initials. As you can see initials always go at the front of a syllable and the finals at the end with the tone on top of a vowel. Usually you put these three parts together and a word is formed however words can also consist of only a final.

è = means hungry

3. When writing Pinyin, there is special rule as to where to put the tone mark

Most people learning Mandarin Chinese will usually start from Pinyin so when you’re writing Pinyin where do you put the tone mark? It’s actually a pretty clear and simple rule, firstly they always go above the vowel and never the consonants. Secondly the vowels usually having a ranking order:

a, e, i, o, u, ü.

a and e trump all other vowels. If a pinyin word has more than one vowel, the tone mark will always usually go on the highest ranked vowel with the following exceptions: io and iu, where the final vowel takes the mark.

4. The basic sentence pattern of Chinese is: subject + verb + objectSVO

If you break down the grammatical patterns to their core you will find that actually the sentence structures in Mandarin Chinese are not too dissimilar to that of the English language and are much simpler. Like many other languages it shares the SVO sentence pattern.


S  +    V     +   O

Wǒ     xǐhuān  hànyǔ

我      喜欢     汉语。

I        like    Chinese

5. Sentences ending with ? Indicate interrogative mood

Using this character at the end of the sentence is one of the simplest ways to ask a question in Mandarin.


Nǐ xǐhuān hànyǔ ma?


Do you like Chinese?

6. The order of expressing date in Chinese is...年(year...月(month...日(day

Remember that for the Chinese it’s month before day, can be confusing if you’re used to the alternative.


D.O.B: 1993年 09月 12 日

7. There are abundant measure words in Mandarin

The English language also uses measure words e.g. ten pieces of cake. However what distinguishes between the two languages is that each Mandarin noun requires a measure word whereas in English you can just say e.g. five dogs. These measure words are also varied in that some seem random but some are used if they indicate the shape or size of the object (noun). Once you learn it you shouldn’t forget.

The most common measure word and a general one which you can use if you forget other measure words is 个

e.g. 十个人 – ten people

Other examples include

一杯咖啡 – A cup of coffee

两碗米饭 – Two bowls of rice

三本书 – Three books

8. Chinese Radicals can indicate meaning of the Character

Who said learning Chinese characters are hard? If you start to learn these wonderfully beautiful pictograms you will find that there is a logical system behind it all. Chinese characters are made of strokes and strokes form radicals and radicals can indicate the meaning of the character.


讠- This is called the speech radical as it’s related to speaking, you can see this in the following characters.

说 – to speak, 语 – spoken language, 请 – to ask, 谢 – to thank, 词 – words

氵- This is another common radical which is related to water or liquids. You can see this in the following characters.

渴 – to be thirsty, 海 – the sea, 江 – the river, 游泳 – swimming, 油 – oil

9. The same sounds/pinyin may have different Chinese characters to express different meanings.

For example the pinyin hàn has at least for four different characters and meanings:汉 – Chinese,  汗 – sweat, 旱 – drought, 憾 - regret

10. The same Chinese character may have different pronunciation to express different meanings.

For example the Chinese character 好 has at least two different pronunciations for different meanings.

Hǎo (好) – good, e.g. 你好!- hello,  他很好 – He is very good, 好人 – good person.

Hào (好) e.g. 爱好 – hobby,好吃 – delicious,好奇 – curious

And we’ve reached the end, that’s our top 10 things you need to know about learning Mandarin. Has this gotten you interested in learning this wonderful language, well, we can help you with authentic professional 1-to-1 online lessons with a native Chinese tutor. Register to get your free trial lesson and consultation today.

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