Sentence patterns and function words


Abbreviations and additions (11/13)

A balanced number of syllables in a phrase is important in written Chinese. Sometimes a syllable in a word can be omitted in order to form the abbreviated expression desired. Syllables can also be added to a word to form an expression, as shown in the following sentence which contains the co-verb take a certain form of transport and the resultative verb phrase to arrive by flying:   arrived in Taipei on a China Air flight.  As the word China Air after to take has two syllables, it would be desirable for the verb to be attached to another syllable . Similarly, the place name Taipei after the resultative verb arrive has two syllables, therefore the verb has another syllable, as in .


Alternatively, these additional syllables can be removed if needed. For instance, the verb in the article is used differently, sometimes on its own as in (a desirable four-character expression) and sometimes with another syllable as in 搭乘. Please see Newspaper reading tips below.

The following sentences have abbreviated elements. Can you identify these elements? Do you know why they are abbreviated?

Sometimes, if the syllables in the sentences have a natural break, then constructional function words can be omitted. For instance, if (I) don’t come (here), (we) won’t know each other is a conditional sentence. The meaning is still clear even without the function words and because the sentence has a natural break point. A five-syllable sentence with phrases of two against three is regarded as a desirable sentence pattern.


Sayings and slogans are often made up of three and four characters phrases, as we have already seen. There are also five and seven character expressions. A seven-character expression is formed by a four-character expression plus a three-character expression, as a phrase in Lesson 13, 你方唱罢我登场 one after another, changeable. It is used as a metaphor. It literally means when you finish singing it will be my turn to go on the stage.


AS. (11)

It is used as a co-verb in the following sentence. Its meaning is similar to , use the name (title) of… The description of the name in the following sentence is placed before the marker .





,前 访


Came to visit in the capacity of Director of the Shanghai City Social Work Association.



The clause contains the outcome and is often placed after the clause which contains the action leading to the outcome. …





两岸 间。


Both sides should establish the Three-Links as soon as possible, so that (unnecessary) travel time will be saved.


Four-character expressions (11/13)

A four-character phrase is desirable in a title. Such phrases are formed in the following ways.

two pairs of  two-syllable nouns



University teachers

a two-syllable verb with a two-syllable noun



Maintain principles

two sets of V-O in sequence



destroy old, establish new

a two-syllable adverb with a two-syllable verb



Work diligently

a two-syllable noun with a two-syllable stative verb



Excellent achievement

a two syllable adverb with a two syllable stative verb



Even closer








A commonly used four-character expression is formed from two double-syllable expressions, such as 排名第三 pecking order number three [lit. number three on the line]. The phrase is formed by two double character expressions: 排名 pecking order 第三 number three. 销量大增 the number (of copies) being sold increases on a large scale. The phrase is formed by a double-syllable noun 销量 followed by a combined two-syllable phrase (adverblarge and verb increase).


shĭ 使 (11)


使 is a verb which cannot be followed by a noun, but by a noun + its verbal clause, as shown in the following pattern:



s.            v.     o.


使                  s.          v.     o.


使        他女朋友 很着急

Xiao Li doesn't want to eat. This has made his girlfriend very worried.

学习    汉字  

使                        头疼。

Learning Chinese characters gives me a headache.


总是    使  老师           气。

He always makes the teacher angry.

The A clause can be a pronoun in 3, a v-o pattern in 2 or a sentence in 1, but all the B clauses in the above three sentences have verbal elements.


…bring the relationship of both sides even closer.


Newspaper titles and subtitles (11)


Titles and subtitles are the simplest summary of newspaper reports. Names of organizations in titles and subtitles are usually in abbreviated form. For instance, (NPC) is short for National People’s Congress.  The number of syllables in phrases is often balanced in titles. For instance, in the phrase , is not abbreviated, but is the abbreviation of . A four-character phrase is desirable in a title. Such phrases are formed in the examples on pages 78 and 79.


Western readers find many Chinese newspapers reports are repetitive. That is because the first paragraph is often the summary of the article, and the following paragraphs are based on elements mentioned in the first one but with more detail.