Asking Yes / No Questions in Mandarin

There are two ways to ask yes / no questions in Mandarin: with the “ma” particle, or by using a positive / negative sentence structure.
Ma

The particle “ma” can be added to the end of any sentence to make it into a question. For example, if you want to ask, “Have you eaten?” (which is a standard greeting), you would say, “chī bǎo le ma?” 吃飽了嗎?

The answer to this question could be, “chī bǎo le” (I have eaten) 吃飽了, or “hái méi” (not yet) 還沒.

Postive / Negative

An alternate way to ask questions is to include both the positive and negative forms of the verb.

Negative verbs are usually formed with “bù” 不 as in “bù hǎo 不好” (not good), but occasionally the particle “méi 沒” is used, as in “méi yǒu” 沒有 (don’t have). Note that both “bù” and “méi” are used in front of the verb.
Examples

    Nǐ yào bu yào qù Běijīng? (Do you or don’t you want to go to Beijing?)
    你要不要去北京?
    Or:
    Nǐ yào qù Běijīng ma?
    你要去北京嗎?

    Tā yǒu méi yǒu bǐ jì běn? (Does he or doesn’t he have a notebook?)
    他有沒有筆記本?
    Or:
    Tā yǒu bǐ jì běn ma?
    他有筆記本嗎?

    Nǐ zhī bù zhī dào tā de míng zi? (Do you or don’t you know his name?)
    你知不知道他的名字?
    Or:
    Nǐ zhī dào tā de míng zi ma?

In the examples above, the verbs are yào (want); yǒu (have); and zhī dào (know).

When the positive / negative form is used with two-character verbs (like zhī dào), the verb is split after the first character, as in “zhī bù zhī dào.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *