Many of you may already know it’s a common phenomenon for Chinese sentences to end with interjections, which serve to express one’s tone or emotion. However, are you familiar with how and in what situations they’re used? In this article, we’ll have a closer look of the below 5 common interjections, and discuss their applications.
Expressing exclamation in statements
nǐ de jiā zhēn dà a
Your home is really big!
nǐ bié chídào a
Don't be late!
jīntiān de tiānqì duō hǎo a
How nice is today’s weather!
Expressing the feeling of surprised in questions
zěnme tā jīntiān méi shàngxué a
How come he didn’t go to school today?
zhè ge rén shì shéi a
Who’s this person?
wǒmen xiànzài zài nǎli a
Where are we now?
Soften the tone when giving commands, requests or suggestions in statements
Place at the end of statements to soften the tone when giving a command, request or suggestion
It can also act as ‘let me’ or ‘let’s’
nǐ bāng wǒ ná bēi shuǐ ba
Help me to get a cup of water.
nǐ chūqù ba! wǒ bù xiǎng zài gēn nǐ shuō le
Get out! I don’t want to talk to you anymore.
wǒmen yì qǐ qù tī zúqiú ba
Let’s go play football together!
wǒ sòng nǐ huíjiā ba
Let me send you home.
Seek for confirmation in questions
Place at the end of questions when you’re not 100% sure of your thought and are seeking for confirmation
It is, therefore equivalent to ‘right?’, ‘isn’t it?’
tāmen bú zài jiā ba
They aren’t at home, right?
tā bú huì gàosu nǐ ba
He won’t tell you, will he?
tā chángcháng kàn zhe nǐ, shì xǐhuān nǐ ba
He often looks at you, he likes you, is it?
Produce a casual tone in both statements and questions
nǐ de xīn qúnzi hěn piàoliang ne
Your new dress is very pretty!
tā huì bú huì wàngjì wǒ de shēngrì ne
Will he or not forget my birthday?
wǒmen zěnme qù túshūguǎn ne
How do we go to the library?
Ask bounce back questions
wǒ jīntiān wǔ diǎn xiàbān, nǐ ne
I get off work at five today, what about you?
wǒ ài pǎobù, tā ne
I love running, what about him?
Short version of ‘where?’
Place at the end of an object, to create a short version of ‘where’s that object?’
This application is often used when you’re in a rush or urgently seeking something
wǒ de qiánbāo ne
Where’s my wallet?
wǒ de shǒujī ne
Where’s my mobile phone?
Replace the ending了(le) in both statements and questions to produce a relaxed tone
You can substitute 啦(la) at the end of any statement or question that originally ends with了(le), to make the sentence sound relaxed or delightful
It even has the function of creating a ‘cute’ tone if you extend the vowel
wǒ yǐjīng bānjiā la
I already moved home.
wǒ xiànzài lái la
I’m coming now!
nǐ bú yào zài kū la
Don’t cry anymore.
nǐ gāngcái mǎi shénme la
What did you just buy?
nǐ jīnnián duō dà la
How old are you?
Emphasize an obvious fact in statements
It can be considered as ‘as you know’, ‘as obviously’, ‘as a reminder’
It also has the function of creating a ‘cute’ tone if you extend the vowel
tā háishì xiǎo háizi, bù dǒngshì ma, bié jièyì
He’s still a child, therefore not very sensible. Please don’t mind.
wǒ kàn bu dǒng yīngwén ma
(You know,) I can’t read English.
tā hěn máng ma, suǒyǐ méiyǒu shíjiān fā nǐ duǎnxìn
(You know,) he’s very busy, so doesn’t have time to send you texts.
Add ‘cute’ element to state an expectation in statement
It makes the tone sound more ‘cute’ when specifying your expectation
It’s close to the meaning ‘you should’
It’s specifically useful when you want to blame someone, however, with a ‘cute or soft’ tone
nǐ zěnme bù zǎo shuō ma
How come you didn’t tell earlier!
nǐ zìjǐ zuò ma
Do it yourself.
nǐ zǒu màn diǎn ma
tā wèishénme yào zhèyàng zuò ma
Why did he have to do this!
As a Topic Marker
Place at the end of a topic – often a subject or object, followed by further information or comment
It’s similar to the meaning: ‘about the topic’, ‘regarding the topic’
It serves to give a pausing moment before giving further information or feedback to the topic, hence it’s particularly useful when you’d like to sound patient or gentle
zhè jiàn shìqíng ma, wǒ yě bù qīngchǔ
About this matter, I’m also not sure.
nǐ ma, zuò shì zǒngshì bú rènzhēn
You’re just not serious when doing work all the time.