While you may not necessarily need adverbs to put together complete sentences in Mandarin Chinese, you’ll inevitably need to cover them.
If you’ve been learning Mandarin Chinese for a while now, you’re probably familiar with the basic structure of a sentence in Mandarin. Like English, sentences in Mandarin can be assembled using a subject, verb, and object.
Sprinkling a few adverbs (called 副词 (fù cí)) here and there will improve your speech and writing, and provide more information about what you’re trying to convey.
If you want to learn some of the most common adverbs in Mandarin Chinese, you’re in the right place. The list below will cover different Mandarin Chinese adverbs, their meanings, and how to use them correctly.
Table of Contents:
Adverbs of place
Adverbs of place can come before or after the verb in a sentence. At times, they may even appear at the very start of a sentence.
Here are some of the most commonly used adverbs of place in Mandarin.
那里 / 那边 / 那儿 (Nàlǐ / Nà biān / Nà’er)
These three adverbs all mean “there”.
This often appears behind 在 (zài), which means “at” or “existing at”, as well as 去 (qù), which is a verb meaning “go”.
This phrase means “here”. This also often comes after 在 (zài).
You can use this phrase to say “everywhere”. You’ll sometimes hear it used at the start of the sentence.
哪儿都 / 哪里都 / 哪儿也 / 哪里也 (Nǎ’er dōu / Nǎlǐ dōu / Nǎ’er yě / Nǎlǐ yě)
都 (dōu) translates to “all”, while 也 (yě) translates to “also”.
Combining either of them with 哪儿 or 哪里 will give you **“anywhere” or “wherever”.
**哪儿都 and 哪里都 may sometimes also be used to convey the meaning of “everywhere”.
Adverbs of time
Adverbs of time give you an idea of when something happened.
This adverb of time means “now”. It can used alone or together with a verb.
后来 can be used to say “later”. It’s used to sequence past events and can only be used on two events that have already occurred.
This translates to “then” or “after that”.
然后 can sometimes be confused with 后来. It is also used to sequence events and is commonly used with 先 (xiān), which means “first”.
后来 _cannot _be used in this same manner.
以后 means “later”, “after”, or “in the future”. It can be used to refer to an event that happens after a certain time.
This phrase means “right away” or “immediately”. You might sometimes hear it being used at the start of the sentence.
This means “already” and usually comes before a verb phrase. You can add a 了 (le) at the end of the sentence to sound more natural.
还没有 (Hái méiyǒu)
This translates to “not yet”. You can often also eliminate the 有 from the sentence while retaining the meaning.
刚刚 or 刚 This means “just” or “just recently”. You can use it to describe events that have just happened in the immediate past.
This translates to “recently” or “lately”.
上次 (Shàng cì)
This phrase means “the last time”.
This translates to “today”. It can be used at the start or middle of the sentence.
Other related adverbs of time include 明天 (míngtiān), which translates to “tomorrow”, and 昨天 (zuótiān), which translates to “yesterday”.
今晚 (Jīn wǎn)
今晚 translates to “tonight”.
The word 晚 means “night”, so replacing the first word of the term changes its meaning. Take, for example, 明晚 (míng wǎn), which means “tomorrow night”, and 昨晚 (zuó wǎn), which means “last night”.
Adverbs of frequency
Adverbs of frequency let you know how often something is happening.
Both 常常 (chángcháng) and 经常 (jīngcháng) can be used to express “often”. When used as adverbs, both terms are interchangeable.
总是 (Zǒng shì)
This phrase means “always”. This can be used to describe an action that has become a habit or daily routine or something that happens all the time.
This means “usually”. It can be used to describe something that generally or typically happens.
有时 (yǒushí) and 有時候 (yǒu shíhòu) both mean “sometimes” and can be used interchangeably. However, you’ll hear people use 有时 (yǒushí) more often in conversations.
很少 (Hěn shǎo)
This translates to “seldom” or “rarely”.
从不 (Cóng bù)
从来 不 (cónglái bù), which can be shortened to 从不 (cóng bù), means “never” and is used to describe something that a person has never done before and will likely never do in the future. This is usually due to habit or specific rules a person chooses to follow.
从来 没 (Cónglái méi)
This also means “never”.
It can be confusing to differentiate 从不 (cóng bù) and 从来 没 (cónglái méi). 从来 没 (cónglái méi) can be used to describe something that has never happened in the past based on someone’s life experience, but there’s a chance it could happen in the future.
Adverbs of manner
Adverbs of manner can be used to demonstrate how something occurs.
小心地 (Xiǎoxīn de)
This translates to “carefully”.
慢慢地 (Màn man de)
This translates to “slowly” or “gradually”.
高兴地 (Gāoxìng de)
This means “happily”.
生气地 (Shēngqì de)
This translates to “angrily”.
Adverbs of degree
Adverbs of degree show the intensity or degree of an adjective, verb, or another adverb.
This means “very”. It is most commonly used together with an adjective.
New learners might be wondering how it compares to 非常 (fēicháng), which also translates to “very”.
One thing that differentiates both of them is the intensity or degree to which they modify an adjective. 很 can be thought of as “quite” or “relatively”, while 非常 is more often used to describe something extraordinary, so it can be likened to “extremely” in English.
This translates to “completely” or “entirely”.
相当 (Xiāng dāng)
This means “fairly” or “quite”.
This means “a little bit”. It is the shortened version of 有一点 (yǒuyīdiǎn), but you’ll commonly hear the 一 dropped in conversations.
When someone uses this phrase, it can often convey the meaning “a little too much for the speaker’s liking”.
You’ll notice that it’s frequently used in front of adjectives.
This can mean “quite”, “relatively”, or “rather”. It’s commonly used to express the difference between two things. You can also use it in a sentence without specifically stating what you’re comparing something to. Because of this, it can be used for general comparisons.
极其 (Jí qí)
极其 means “extremely”. It’s used before an adjective. It may describe something to a stronger degree compared to 非常 (fēicháng), but you’ll often hear 非常 (fēicháng) used more in casual conversations compared to 极其.
This means “too” or “excessively”. The actual meaning behind 太 depends on the context. It can be used to complain about something, or it can be used in a positive context to describe something that is too or overwhelmingly good.
You’ll notice that the sentence with 太 also often ends with 了 (le). This helps the sentence sound more native-like and natural.
Practice using Mandarin Chinese adverbs
Hopefully this has helped you understand Chinese adverbs and work out how to correctly position them in sentences.
With some practice, you’ll pick them up quickly.
There are some great Mandarin resources on this page that cover these in more detail if you need more.
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