Forum Rocket Chinese Chinese Vocab How to differentiate "ta" as he/her in conversation

How to differentiate "ta" as he/her in conversation


Hello. It seems to me, as a noob, that there is no clear distinction in the description of "he" or "her" when using "ta": eg. "Ta shi Yingguoren" could refer to either gender. I see that the characters are different, and get that, but not the spoken word. Is it purely a question of context? Thanks.


Yes, that is what I have observed. It is interesting that the character is different. Context is key.


Thanks, again!


There is no difference.


1. 他是中国人 (Tā shì zhōngguó rén) 2. 她是中国人 (Tā shì zhōngguó rén) The first sentence translates to "He is Chinese.". The second sentence translates to "She is Chinese." The only difference is the Chinese character for he/she. They both sound identical. 3. 他们是中国人 (Tāmen shì zhōngguó rén) 4. 她们是中国人 (Tāmen shì zhōngguó rén) Here, sentence 3 translates to "they are Chinese" and sentence 4 translates to "they are Chinese" but with the added distinction that they are all women. So, like in English, context is key when dealing with homonyms.


Its good to know, I kept wondering what the difference was!


My Chinese friends and coworkers, who are all incredibly fluent in English, each sometimes have trouble with "he" and "she" in English because there is no difference in spoken Mandarin. I just go with it and figure out what they mean by context- it's the least I can do since they humor my occasional attempts at Chinese! Interestingly, my friend who speaks Tagalog also has the same issue with English.


When the Chinese talk about animals, such as a dog or cat or horse, do they use tā for he or she? Can tā also be for it?


They use 它 (tā) to refer to animals (I think but am pretty certain).



Yes, there is no difference between the pronunciations of 他,她 and 它. In spoken Chinese we must gauge the gender by the context which can cause confusion for us Chinese just as much for foreigners. Interestingly, although we can differentiate the genders in written Chinese, this wasn't always the case and it is a relatively recent addition to the language.

Good work everybody and 加油!

   -   Lin Ping

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