Hi, Yangyang here again! What's the best holiday gift I could give you, aside from helping you avoid some more common Chinese mistakes?
This is the fifth in a series of posts on the most common mistakes English speakers make when speaking Chinese.
In my years of teaching Chinese, I have come to notice that English speakers tend to make similar mistakes over and over again. Today, I am going to tell you the most common mistake #7.
The goal here is to become aware of these mistakes to help you avoid making them in the first place!
Mistake #6: Confusion about “verb + default object” verbs
In Chinese, there’s such a concept called “verb-plus-default-object-verb”. For example, the English word “to read” can either be “kàn” (看) or “kàn shū” (看书) depending on how you use it. “Kàn shū” (看书) is a “verb-plus-default-object-verb”.
In English, you can say “I like to read magazines”, “I like to read boks”, “I like to read novels”. “to read” for these three sentences is “kàn” (看).
However if you just want to say “I like to read” without referring to anything specific, you’ll have to assign a default object to the verb “to read”, which is “book - shū” (书).
The idea is pretty simple: if you don’t specify, we’re going to specify for you by assigning an obligatory object to your verb. So “to read” in the sentence “I like to read” is “kàn shū” (看书). We call such verbs as “kàn shū” (看书) “verb-plus-default-object-verbs.”
So in Chinese, when you say “I like to read”, you are literally saying I like to read books”.
If you have something specific to refer to, for example, if you want to say “I like to read newspaper”, you should go right ahead and use that specific thing – “newspapers” to replace the default object- “book - shū” (书). (Remember, in this case, you need to get rid of the default object “book - shū” (书).
kàn shū (看 书 / 看 書) = read + book
I like to read (books).
wǒ xǐ huān kàn shū。
I like to read newspapers.
wǒ xǐ huān kàn bào zhǐ。
I like to read novels.
wǒ xǐ huān kàn xiǎo shuō。
The following list covers some common "verb-plus-default-object-verbs" .
chànɡ ɡē (唱 歌) = sing + song
I like to sing.
wǒ xǐ huān chànɡ ɡē。
I like to sing Chinese songs
wǒ xǐ huān chànɡ zhōnɡ wén ɡē。
chī fàn (吃 饭 / 吃 飯) = eat + meal
I like to eat.
wǒ xǐ huān chī fàn。
What do you want to eat?
nǐ xiǎnɡ chī shén me？
kāi chē (开 车 / 開 車) = drive + car
I drive to work everyday.
wǒ měi tiān kāi chē shànɡ bān。
What car do you drive? (lit. You drive what car?)
nǐ kāi shén me chē？
pǎo bù (跑 步) = run + step
I like to run (jog) in the morning.
wǒ xǐ huān zǎo shàng pǎo bù。
I like to run marathons.
wǒ xǐ huān pǎo marathon。
qǐnɡ kè (请 客 / 請 客) = treat + guest
My treat today. (lit. Today I treat.)
jīn tiān wǒ qǐnɡ kè。
I like to treat friends to meals.
wǒ xǐ huān qǐnɡ pénɡ you chī fàn。
tiào wǔ (跳 舞) = dance + dance
Can I invite you to dance? (lit. I can invite you to dance ma?)
wǒ kě yǐ qǐnɡ nǐ tiào wǔ ma？
Can you dance Cha Cha?
nǐ huì tiào Cha Cha ma？
你会跳 Cha Cha吗？/ 你會跳 Cha Cha嗎？
To speak (To talk)
shuō huà (说 话 / 說 話) = speak + remarks
She likes to talk (speak).
tā xǐ huān shuō huà。
I can speak Chinese.
wǒ huì shuō zhōnɡ wén。
zuò fàn (做 饭 / 做 飯) = cook + rice
Do you cook often? (You often cook ma?)
nǐ chánɡ chánɡ zuò fàn ma？
Can you cook Italian food?
nǐ huì zuò yì dà lì cài ma？