Lesson 29 他们在做什么?

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Lesson 29 他们在做什么? 

The Mandarin Chinese particle zài – 在 has several functions. It is most commonly used to indicate location. When used before a place word, zài means “on” “at” or “in”.

Location – Zài

Here are some examples of zài as a location word:

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Pinyin English
他在家。 他在家。 tā zài jiā. He is at home.
書在那裡。 书在那里。 shū zài nà lǐ. The book is there.
他們在⽕車站。 他们在⽕车站。 tāmen zài huǒ chē zhàn. They are at the train station.

The negative forms of location phrases are formed by placing bù – 不 before zài – 在. Note that when bù is placed directly before a fourth-tone syllable like zài, the fourth tone of bù changes to a rising 2nd tone.

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Pinyin English
他不在家。 他不在家。 tā bú zài jiā. He is not at home.
書不在那裡。 书不在那里。 shū bú zài nà lǐ The book is not there.
他們不在⽕車站。 他们不在⽕车站。 tāmen bú zài huǒ chē zhàn. They are not at the train station.

Questions are formed with either the question particle ma – 吗 or the positive / negative sentence form – zài bú zài, 在不在.  Question adverbs such as nǎlǐ – 哪里 can also be used:

 

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Pinyin English
他在家嗎?,他在家吗? tā zài jiā ma? Is he at home?
書在哪裡? 书在哪里? shū zài nǎ lǐ? Where is the book?
他們在不在⽕車站? 他们在不在⽕车站? tāmen zài bú zài huǒ chē zhàn. Are they at the train station?

 

Zài is also used as a preposition to indicate where an action takes place:

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Pinyin English
他們在廚房吃東⻄西。 他们在厨房吃东⻄西。 tāmen zài chú fáng chī dōngxi. They are in the kitchen eating.

 

Continuing Action – Zài

Another use for zài – 在 is to show that an action is occurring at the present moment. Zài is placed before the verb it modifies:

 

Simplified Chinese Traditional Chinese Pinyin English
他們在看電視。 他们在看电视。 tāmen zài kàn diàn shì. They are watching TV.
她在考試。 她在考试。 tā zài kǎo shì. She is taking an exam.

 

The Adverb 正在(zhèng zài ,be doing…)

The Adverb 正在(zhèng zài) denotes an ongoing or progressive action at a certain point of time. It is more emphatic than 在( zài) when it serves the same function.

Example 1:

Chinese Pinyin English
A: 李友;你在做什么? lǐ yǒu; nǐ zài zuò shén me? Liyou; what are you doing?
B:我在练习写汉字。 wǒ zài liàn xí xiě hàn zì I'm practicing writing Chinese characters.

Example 2:

Chinese Pinyin English
我们现在正在上课;你别打电话。
wǒ mén xiàn zài zhèng zài shàng kè;nǐ bié dǎ diàn huà. We are having a class right now;Don’t make phone calls.

Example 3:

Chinese Pinyin English
A:你知道不知道王老师在哪儿? nǐ zhī dào bù zhī dào wáng lǎo shī zài nǎr? Do you know where teacher Wang is?
B:他正在办公室开会。 tā zhèng zài bàn gōng shì kāi huì. He is having a meeting in his office.

 

[Verb] + 来 (lái) + [Verb] + 去 (qù)

The character 来 means “to come” and 去 means “to go.” [verb] + 来 + [verb] + 去 is a set pattern that can be used with a number of verbs. It is similar to English phrases like “back and forth” and “to and fro.”

Chinese Pinyin English
小鱼在水里游来游去。 xiǎo yú zài shuǐ lǐ yóu lái yóu qù. The small fish is swimming back and forth in the water.
爷爷在公园里走来走去。 yéye zài gōng yuán lǐ zǒu lái zǒu qù. Granpa is walking back and forth in the park.

 

 

Practice the vocabulary for this lesson with games and activities!  Click on the picture below to download all the words in PDF.

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Quiz

Directions: Rearrange the words into complete sentences. Make sure to include punctuation marks.

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1) 喜欢,啃,最,骨头,他的,狗。
2) 小鱼,游来,里,水,游去,在。
3) 一起,和,上课,弟弟,我,去。
4) 我们,电视,在,一,看,家人,都。
5) 早上,游戏,我,想,电脑,玩。
6) 鸟,真,这,好看,只。
7) 她,眼睛,的,大,真。
8) 爷爷,睡觉,房间,里,在。

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