nar3 + ma


Modul 2.3  "ni3 zhi1dào xi3shou3jian1 zài nar3 ma?"  when does "nar3" need "ma"? I thought it is a word that defines a question.
Thank you for information


Nǐ zhīdào xǐshǒujiān zài nǎ'er ma?

This is a good question.  One supposes that using nǎ'er should be enough.  But, it probably uses the same structure as its English translation.  Note that when we ask "do you know where the restroom is?", one can be snarky and simply answer "yes".  This is what I think the 'ma' triggers, that is it is a yes/no question.  However, one expects a little more from the person giving the answer, i.e. where?

One could just say "xǐshǒujiān zài nǎ'er ?" but that may sound a bit abrupt, like turning to someone and asking "where are the restrooms?".  By asking "do you know where the restrooms are", we give them the option to answer "no", or in Chinese, I suppose:

Duìbùqǐ, wǒ bù zhīdào.


thank you Robert-C7 for the quick answer - it sounds rich in meaning. But than - in the concrete case - "ma" is not so good, because Dave  does want to know where it ist.


A question or statement in English can be made just by tonal inclination.
However in Chinese as you can tell by the answers above, 吗 "ma" makes it clear.



I will do my best to clear this up. 你知道洗手间在哪儿吗? does indeed mean "do you know where the bathroom is? However, in this sentence 哪儿 is not functioning as a question word, in much the same way that 'where' in "do you know where the shop is?" is also not fulfilling this function.
This, as Robert said, makes the question a little less direct and a little less rude than simply saying 洗手间在哪儿? This is no different to English where we could say "where's the toilet?" which (if we don't pay attention to our tone) sounds abrupt and maybe rude. Compare that with,"you wouldn't happen to know where the toilet is, would you?" and although we do take the long way round, it could in no way be misconstrued as being rude, and this goes exactly the same for the two examples in Chinese above.

Keep up the good work and 加油!

   -   Lin Ping


Thank all of you for your answers. My last question - just to be sure I do understand it right: ( I am not an English native Speaker): 吗  belongs to 你知道.....  吗? and defines the sentence as a question.  洗手间在哪儿 is  in this case not the question. Therefore  I should not say: 你知道洗手间在哪儿 because it would mean "you know where....."
thank you very much!


Yes, saying "你知道洗手间在哪儿" would be a statement of fact, like saying to someone "you know where the bathrooms are located".  That would probably sound more like an accusation.

Also, as a general rule, questions with question words such as "哪儿" can be answered by replacing the question words with the answer while questions involving "" are usually answered with a yes/no type of answer and a often a restatement of the sentence, with modifications, but without the "".

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