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Common Chinese Patterns

Common Chinese Patterns

Martin Lavicka07 Apr 2015Leave a comment


Written by Lenka Matoušková

Chen, Ru and Zhu, Xiaoyan. Common Chinese Patterns 330. Taipei: Shulin, 2012. 330 p. ISBN 978-957-445-476-1; 350 TWD (paperback)

As it is apparent from the title, this book enumerates 330 of the most common patterns of Chinese grammar. The aim of the book is to clarify meanings of structures or collocations which are composed of Chinese words and thus to facilitate the study of the Chinese language. For this reason, the book is suitable for those who study Chinese. The book is not specifically designed for any particular level, but a certain knowledge of Chinese is required in many cases because there are included both easy and complex patterns which are explained via Chinese sentences. Apart from students the book is also a good tool for teachers, because the example sentences can be used as a demonstration of the use of the Chinese language when explaining grammar.

This book was first published in Taiwan in 2012 and is written in the traditional set of Chinese characters, but there also exists a former version from mainland China written in simplified characters, so it is possible to buy the book in simplified or traditional characters. There are also English translations of some parts in every chapter (i.e. explanations, example sentences and dialogues) which is an indisputable advantage of this book for non-native speakers.

The book presents 330 different patterns and every pattern is introduced on one page. There are two categories of set patterns in the book, i.e. set sentence structures and set phrases but they are not particularly distinguished from each other. Patterns are arranged in alphabetical order according to the pronunciation of the first character of the pattern. It means that it is not necessary to study the book from the beginning to the end, but it is possible to skip some pages and choose only the patterns which correspond to a reader’s language level and in which a reader is interested.

As regards the arrangement of the patterns, each pattern is introduced in four parts which are clearly separated from each other. Firstly, there is a brief explanation written both in English and Chinese. Secondly, there are stated four example sentences within the examples section and these sentences provide a concrete example of the pattern’s use. In this part, besides the English translations the sentences are also accompanied by pinyin transcriptions. Evidently, the transcriptions are not automatically generated, because there are distinguished changes in tones (for example the negative particle不bú, bù) and a proper pronunciation of some characters which can be pronounced differently (for example得de, dé, děi). After this section two dialogues (i.e. four sentences) follow. In this part readers will get to know in which situations the pattern can be used. Compared to the previous part, these sentences are not accompanied by a pinyin transcription but only with an English translation. Lastly, there are exercises which consist of two incomplete sentences which should be finished by the readers, or two empty lines to which readers should form their own sentences according to the task. The pinyin transcription and English translation is not included here.

Overall, within each structure there can be found ten example sentences which demonstrate the proper use of these grammar constructions. The discussed pattern is highlighted on the individual page, therefore, it is easy to find it in the text.

The authors of this work are native speakers so the given examples are based on their own experience and thus this book is a useful material that can be used in everyday communication. The book is practically oriented, there is less theory and lots of examples, therefore readers can increase their ability to use the structure accurately.

From my point of view there are only a few drawbacks in the book, for example even if explanations of patterns are sufficient, the practice parts could have been more extensive, e.g. a comparison of different patterns among themselves. There could also have been included solutions to the exercises and an indication of the language level of each pattern. Even though each pattern is explained, a literal translation into English is missing and it could have also been given here. Lastly, there are occasionally mistakes in the pinyin transcriptions of Chinese characters, such as亚太地区 Yà-Tài dìqū, p. 14 (“Yà-Tà”) and A和B相比A hé B xiāngbǐ, p. 114 (“A hàn B”).

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