Chinese Pronouns

Imagine if every time you wanted to refer to an object you had to give it's full name...

"Maria's new Aston Martin DB5 is wonderful. The Aston Martin DB5 handles like an dream, and the Aston Martin DB5 can hit 60mph in just 3 seconds. Maria loves the Aston Martin DB5."

See how clumsy and long that is?

Well, that's where pronouns come in.

With pronouns you only need to use the object's actual name once; and subject's not at all! From then on you can use pronouns like I, my, and it instead...

"My new Aston Martin DB5 is wonderful. It handles like a dream, and it can hit 60mph in just 3 seconds. I love it."

Much better.

Pronouns are words that are used in place of a noun. They can be the subject, the object, or complement. In Chinese, there are different kinds of pronouns.

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns substitute for the noun without repeating it. They can be divided into:

  • personal subject pronouns, which are used in place of the subject
  • personal direct pronouns, used in place of the object personal
  • indirect pronouns, used in place of the complement
  • reflexive pronouns, in connection with the reflexive verbs.

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns, that indicate the possession; they have the same form of the adjective possessive:

那个房子是我的 Nàge fángzi shì wǒde。- The house is mine.

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Wǒde
我的
My / Mine
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Nǐde
你的
Yours
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Tāde
他的
His
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Tāde
她的
Hers
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Wǒmen de
我们的
Ours
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Nǐmen de
你们的
Yours
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Tāmen de
他们的
Theirs
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Nàge fángzi shì wǒde
那个房子是我的
The house is mine.

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns show the position in the space and in the time.

那个房子是我的 Nàge fángzi shì wǒde。 - That house is mine.

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Zhège
这个
This
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nàgè
那个
That
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zhèxiē
这些
These
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nàxiē
那些
Those

Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns, that don't specify the identity of the person or of the object. 

有人打过电话 Yǒurén dǎguò diànhuà。- Someone called.

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Mǒu gè
某个
One / Some
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yǒu gè
有个
there is a
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Yǒurén dǎguò diànhuà
有人打过电话
Someone called

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns, that introduce questions:
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shuí
who
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shénme
什么-
what
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nǎge
哪个
which
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shénme shíhòu
什么时候
when
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wèishénme
为什么
why
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zěnme
怎么
how
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nǎ’er
哪儿
where
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duōshǎoqián
多少钱
how much
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Tā shì shuí ?
他是谁
Who is he?

Personal Subject Pronouns:

In Chinese there are 10 personal subject pronouns: 5 for the singular, 5 for the plural.

Forms:

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I
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you
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he
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she
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it
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wǒmen
我们
we
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nǐmen
你们
you
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tāmen
他们
they (referring to males)
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tāmen
她们
they (referring females)
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tāmen
它们
they (referring to objects)

For example:

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Wǒ shì Lín Píng。
我是林萍。
I am Lin Ping.
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Nǐ shì shuí?
你是谁?
Who are you?
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Tā shì wǒde péngyou。
他是我的朋友。
He is my friend.
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Tā hěn piàoliàng。
她很漂亮。
She is pretty.
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Wǒmen shì Zhōngguórén。
我们是中国人。
We are Chinese.
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Nǐmen yě lái ma?
你们也来吗?
Do you come too?
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Tāmen xǐhuān lǚxíng。
他们喜欢旅行。
They love traveling.

Direct Object Pronouns

In English, there are direct object pronouns, pronouns that directly receive the action of the verb. They answer the question what, or whom, like “me” “him” or “her”. In Chinese, direct object pronouns are the same words as subject pronouns. That is to say, “I” is “我” in Chinese, and “me” is also “我”. It is also the same case with words like “he/him” and “she/her” and “they/them”.

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Línpíng kànjiàn tā le。
林萍看见他了。
Lin Ping saw him.
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Tā kànjiàn Lín Píng le。
他看见林萍了。
He saw Lin Ping.

Reflexive pronoun

Reflexive pronouns are used in connection with reflexive verbs, in which the action reflects itself on the subject. When we want to express meanings like that, we put reflexive pronoun自己 zìjǐ after the pronouns we have covered today.

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wǒ zìjǐ
我自己
myself
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nǐ zìjǐ
你自己
yourself
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tā zìjǐ
他自己
himself
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tā zìjǐ
她自己
herself
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tā zìjǐ
它自己
itself
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wǒmen zìjǐ
我们自己
ourselves
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nǐmen zìjǐ
你们自己
yourselves
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tāmen zìjǐ
他们自己
themselves (referring to males)
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tāmen zìjǐ
她们自己
themselves (referring females)
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tāmen zìjǐ
它们自己
themselves (referring to objects)

Formal 您 nín and Informal 你 nǐ

In Chinese, there are two pronouns to refer to “you”, depending on the situation. If it is a formal occasion, people tend to use formal pronoun 您 nín, 您们 nínmen, whereas on ordinary occasions or in daily communication, their informal equivalents 你nǐ and 你们 nǐmen are used.

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Nín hǎoma, Lín Xiǎojiě?
您好吗,林小姐?
How are you, Miss Lin?
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Nǐhǎo, Lín Xiǎojiě。
你好,林小姐。
Hello, Miss Lin.

Chinese pronouns summary

  • Personal pronouns substitute without repeating the common or proper nouns. They can be divided in personal subject pronouns, personal direct pronouns, personal indirect pronouns and reflexive pronoun
  • Possessive pronouns indicate possession
  • Demonstrative pronouns show position in space and time
  • Indefinite pronouns, are used when we don't need to specify the identity of the person or object
  • Relative pronouns relate more propositions
  • Interrogative pronouns introduce questions
  • Direct and indirect pronouns have two forms, according to the position they have in the sentence
  • Reflexive pronouns are always used in connection with a reflexive verb
  • Formal and informal is not a matter of tradition in Chinese, but an important form of respect. Never say你nǐ, you, to your boss or an older genlteman!
That's it for this lesson.
Huí tóu jiàn! (回头见)

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Lin Ping
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