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Lesson 5 – Intemediate – The Features of the Subjects and the Predicates

It is inevitable for overseas students to learn the sentence structure and sentence element if they want tolearn Mandarin Chinese well. Among so many grammar points, the subject and Predicate is an important one for students to learn.

To learn the Subject and Predicate, we should first know the characteristics of the subject and predicate, which is the first step for students to learn Mandarin in this aspect.

Generally speaking, a sentence can be separated into two parts, the subject group and the predicate group. The former is the object of the description, illustration and explanation, while the later part is used to explain, describe and illustrate the subject. Therefore, students study in China should know that the kernel of the subject section and the predicate section is the subject and predicate.

Two typical examples are illustrated below to explain this to help foreign students learn Chinese:
① 他们上个星期游泳了。
② 街上的人真多。
The subject part of sentence ① is “他们” and the predicate part “上个星期游泳了”. And the subject is “他们” while the predicate is “游泳”. For sentence ②, the subject group is “街上的人” and the predicate group is “真多”. The subject is “人” and the predicate is “多”.

The subject and predicate are two essential parts to any single sentence and none of them should be neglected. In the sentence “他们游泳”, if we just say “他们” or “游泳”, the meaning will be incomplete without certain language environment. But students who study Chinese should know that the non-subject sentences and the single-word sentences are two exceptions.

In the Chinese sentence with a verbal predicate, the relationship between the subject and the predicate is not always the relation of actor and action. The subject could be either the agent or the recipient or none of them. For examples:
① 我吃了两个馒头。(我——agent)
② 我的馒头叫哥哥吃了。(馒头——recipient)
③ 我是老师。(我——neither agent nor recipient)
Those examples are often used to help students study Mandarin Chinese. These sentences are available without any language context. Location words are the subjects in the existential sentences like “桌子上放着一本书(桌子——location)”.

Sentence structures of Chinese language are strictly limited by the context. If the recipients of the action are given information, they would be placed before the predicate as the theme. Teachers in Chinese learning programs will tell students that the theme is the phenomenon of textual level. When the recipients are used as the theme, they are no longer the subjects.

In Chinese language, the adjectives can be used to describe the nature, status and change of things or person. No subject word can be used to illustrate the feature and quantity. The subject-predicate phrases are also can be functioned as description. The following sentences are often seen when you learn Chinese online free:
① 他很努力。(adjective as predicate)
② 他北京人,瘦高个儿,圆脸庞,大眼睛。(noun phrases as predicate)
③ 他学习好,工作好,身体好,是个三好学生。(subject-predicate phrases as predicate)

Normally speaking, the subjects are followed by the predicates. But students who learn Chinese in China should know the inverted sentences in which the predicates come first. In this condition, the subjects are unstressed. When being written, the comma should be used after the predicate to separate form the subject. For example, “真多啊,街上的人”.

If you attend to the one-on-one Chinese learning programs, teachers will tell you some special conditions in which the subjects could be omitted. The first one is in the dialogue or the continuous utterance. For instance, “我今天上午去北海划了两个钟头的船,下午又去操场打了一场球,所以很累。”

In the imperative sentences, the subjects can either appear or be omitted. Here are some examples: “劳驾,让开点儿”, “快去开门”. But in certain context, the predicative verbs and predicate can be omitted too. For example,
① A:黑板上的字是谁写的?
② A:下星期,咱们老校友在北京聚会,你参加吗?

After learning the characteristics of the subjects and the predicates, students can pay much attention to what they say in daily conversation to improve their Chinese.

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