Flour is an important ingredient in just about every baking recipe.
Whether you’re making a cake, brownies, cupcakes or a loaf of bread, flour is a necessity.
Even though you can’t taste it, most recipes require cups of it!
Because without flour, you’d have a gooey, sticky, unbaked mess. Your masterpiece might still taste okay, but it’d lack texture and a pretty presentation, for sure.
What does the Chinese language have in common with flour?
As beginner Chinese learners, we learn how to string simple, basic sentences together using a subject, verb and object.
But sometimes, we need to sprinkle in a few little words to add a tad bit more detail.
These words are adverbs.
Adverbs give your sentences more clarity and detail. They help you express yourself better and provide extra information that might be important.
Although these words are tiny, they’re quite powerful.
Just like how flour is tasteless, but makes a world of a difference when it comes to baking.
So in this blog post, I’m here to teach you how to use Mandarin Chinese adverbs in your everyday speech, the four different types and 28 adverbs you absolutely must know.
Let’s dive in!
How Chinese Adverbs Work
Before diving into the Chinese adverbs important to everyday speech, we’ve got to cover the basics.
Understanding how Chinese adverbs work is just as important as learning them. Adverbs are powerful little words, but they require a basic formula. Without knowing how they work or where to insert them into sentences, your Chinese adverbs wouldn’t be very powerful at all.
The first step to understanding how to use adverbs in Mandarin is simple—go back to the basics. And by basics, I mean let’s review basic sentence structure.
Chinese follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) pattern, just like English. We begin to construct the simplest of sentences using this formula. For example:
- 我吃早饭。 (Wǒ chī zǎo fàn) — I eat breakfast.
- 我喜欢你。 (Wǒ xǐ huān nǐ) — I like you.
- 我看电影。 (Wǒ kàn diàn yǐng) — I watch movies.
While you can certainly communicate a number of ideas by using simple sentences like these, adding adverbs to them makes your sentences clearer, more detailed and more native-sounding.
There are four main types of Chinese adverbs: adverbs of frequency, adverbs of time, adverbs of place and adverbs of manner.
Before determining where to place your adverb in a sentence, you must first determine which type of adverb you’re going to use.
Learn 28 Chinese Adverbs: Essential Ingredients for Superb Chinese Sentences
Now that we’ve reviewed basic Chinese sentence structure and discovered the four types of Chinese adverbs, let’s get into the fun stuff.
The best way to practice Chinese adverbs is to use them yourself and hear them be used by others.
To make the most out of this post, I suggest keeping a pen and notebook by your side. Copy down the example sentences and then try to make your own.
But before you truly master each of these words, you’ll need to hear them be used by native speakers.
You can always search for a Chinese tutor online and schedule a lesson. Or you could just take out your phone (or open a new tab) and find an entertaining video on FluentU.
FluentU has a video-based dictionary, so all you have to do is look up an adverb from this list to find real-world videos from the internet that use the word. Simply watch the video, learn new vocabulary with the interactive subtitles, see how Chinese adverbs are used in real life and take a self-quiz at the end.
Plus, you’ll never forget your adverbs (and other vocabulary words!) again with FluentU’s spaced repetition software (SRS) flashcards, that store vocabulary into your long-term memory.
If learning Chinese with viral videos sounds better than studying with a textbook to you, then go ahead and give FluentU a test drive by signing up for a free trial.
Adverbs of Frequency
First up, we have the adverbs of frequency. These Chinese adverbs are used to express how often or how little a certain event happens.
The usual formula for using Chinese adverbs of frequency is:
Subject + Adverb of Frequency + Verb + Object
Let’s take a look at some must-know adverbs of frequency and see how they’re used in real life with examples.
1. 很少 (hěn shǎo)
The adverb 很少 (hěn shǎo) translates to “rarely” and is similar in usage to its English counterpart.
我星期天很少工作。 (Wǒ xīng qī tiān hěn shǎo gōng zuò.) — I rarely work on Sundays.
他很少吃早饭。 (tā hěn shǎo chī zǎo fàn.) — he rarely eats breakfast.
2. 经常/常常 (jīng cháng/cháng cháng)
The word for “often” in Chinese is 经常 (jīng cháng), but is also commonly said as 常常 (cháng cháng).
我经常去中国。(Wǒ jīng cháng qù zhōng guó.) — I often go to China.
你常常来这里吗？(Nǐ cháng cháng lái zhè lǐ ma?) — Do you come here often?
3. 从不 (cóng bù)
他从不喝啤酒。(Tā cóng bù hē pí jiǔ.) — He never drinks beer.
我是素食者，所以从不吃肉。(Wǒ shì sù shí zhě, suǒ yǐ cóng bù chī ròu.) — I’m vegetarian, so I never eat meat.
4. 总是/动不动(就) (zǒng shì/dòng bù dòng (jiù))
There are two ways we can use the word “always” in Chinese—总是 (zǒng shì) or 动不动（就）(dòng bù dòng (jiù)).
总是 is more generic, and is a very common way to say “always.” On the other hand, 动不动（就）is used only to describe negative events, and literally means “at every turn.” It can be said as just 动不动 (dòng bù dòng) or you can add a 就 (jiù) at the end, to make it 动不动就 (dòng bù dòng jiù).
你星期三总是去你女朋友的家。(Nǐ xīng qī sān zǒng shì qù nǐ nǚ péng yǒu de jiā.) — On Wednesdays, you always go to your girlfriend’s house.
我不喜欢她，因为她总是斤斤计较。(Wǒ bù xǐ huān tā, yīnwèi tā zǒng shì jīn jīn jì jiào.) — I don’t like her, because she always haggles over every ounce (fusses about everything).
你动不动就骗我。 (Nǐ dòng bù dòng jiù piàn wǒ.) — You always lie to me.
5. 有（的）时候 (yǒu (de) shí hou)
我有的时候喝酒。 (Wǒ yǒu de shí hou hē jiǔ.) — I sometimes drink alcohol.
她有时候来我的家。 (Tā yǒu shí hou lái wǒ de jiā.) — She sometimes comes to my house.
6. 通常/平时/一般 (tōng cháng/píng shí/yī bān)
Sometimes you can even use 通常 (tōng cháng), 平时 (píng shí) and 一般 (yī bān) interchangably.
我通常吃午饭。(Wǒ tōng cháng chī wǔ fàn.) — I usually eat lunch.
你平时和他一起去。(Nǐ píng shí hé tā yì qǐ qù.) — You usually go with him.
我一般早上去跑步。(Wǒ yī bān zǎo shang qù pǎo bù.) — He’s usually in a bad mood on Monday.
7. 偶尔 (ǒu ěr)
我偶尔旅游。 (Wǒ ǒu ěr lǚ yóu.) — I occasionally travel.
她偶尔去美国。(Tā ǒu ěr qù měi guó.) — She occasionally goes to the United States.
Adverbs of Time
Next are the Chinese adverbs of time! These useful words tell us when an event takes place.
There are two positions adverbs of time can take when forming sentences—before the subject or after the subject, and both are very common, such as this:
Subject + Adverb of Time + Verb + Object
Adverb of Time + Subject + Verb + Object
These patterns are mostly interchangeable, with a few exceptions (which we’ll explore soon!).
Luckily, you probably already know many (if not all) of the adverbs of time.
Let’s check them out!
8. 昨天/今天/明天 (zuó tiān/jīn tiān/míng tiān)
Do these words look familiar? I bet so! If you don’t already know how to place time words like 昨天, 今天 and 明天 in a sentence, let’s find out now!
我昨天看了那部电影。 (Wǒ zuó tiān kàn le nà bù diàn yǐng.) — I watched that movie yesterday.
明天我去上海。 (Míng tiān wǒ qù shàng hǎi.) — Tomorrow I’m going to Shanghai.
你今天工作吗? (Nǐ jīn tiān gōng zuò ma?) — Do you work today?
Here’s some more good news: Other time words like days of the week and months of the year are also considered adverbs of time, and follow the same structure.
9. 后天/前天 (hòu tiān/qián tiān)
Meaning: the day after tomorrow/the day before yesterday
Wouldn’t it be nice to have just one word for these days in English? Surprisingly, we actually do have a word for “the day after tomorrow”—overmorrow—but who ever uses that?
Luckily, it’s much simpler in Chinese!
后天我要回家。 (Hòu tiān wǒ yào huí jiā.) — I will come back home the day after tomorrow.
你前天去看你父母了吗？(Nǐ qián tiān kàn nǐ fù mǔ le ma?) — Did you visit your parents the day before yesterday?
10. 现在 (xiàn zài)
你现在有空吗？(Nǐ xiàn zài yǒu kòng ma?) — Do you have time right now?
我现在睡觉呢。 (Wǒ xiàn zài shuì jiào ne.) — I’m sleeping right now.
11. 后来 (hòu lái)
后来我们出去吃饭了。 (Hòu lái wǒmen chū qù chī fàn le.) — Later on, we went out to eat.
她后来回家了。 (Tā hòu lái huí jiā le.) — She went home afterward.
12. 马上 (mǎ shàng)
Meaning: immediately/right now/at once
你马上走吗? (Nǐ mǎ shàng zǒu ma?) — Are you leaving immediately?
我马上就回来。 (Wǒ mǎ shàng jiù huí lái.) — I’ll be back in a minute/I’ll be right back.
13. 已经 (yǐ jīng)
Unlike the other adverbs of time, 已经 (yǐ jīng) can’t be placed before the subject. It can only come after.
你已经吃饭了吗？(Nǐ yǐ jīng chī fàn le ma?) — Have you already eaten?
我已经看过这部电影了。 (Wǒ yǐ jīng kàn guo zhè bù diàn yǐng le.) — I already saw this movie.
14. 最近 (zuì jìn)
你最近怎么样? (Nǐ zuì jìn zěnme yàng?) — How have you been recently?
最近我在学中文。(Zuì jìn wǒ zài xué zhōng wén.) — I’ve been studying Chinese recently.
15. 以前 (yǐ qián)
两年以前我开始学中文。(Liǎng nián yǐ qián wǒ kāi shǐ xué zhōng wén.) — Two years ago, I started studying Chinese.
以前我从不看电视。 (Yǐ qián, wǒ cóng bù kàn diàn shì.) — Before, I never watched TV./Previously, I never watched TV.
16. 还 (hái)
Similar to 已经, 还 (hái) can’t be placed before the subject. It only comes after.
我还没去过中国。 (Wǒ hái méi qù guò zhōng guó.) — I still haven’t gone to China yet.
你还没想好吗？(Nǐ hái méi xiǎng hǎo ma?) — You still haven’t decided yet?
Adverbs of Place
Third on the list are adverbs of place. These words you likely also already know, and they follow this simple formula:
Subject + Adverb of Place + Verb + Object
Or, adverbs of place can simply follow the verb 在 (zài) — to be located, to show location.
Other times, the adverb of place can become the subject, coming at the beginning of the sentence like this:
Adverb of Place + Verb + Object
17. 这里 (zhè lǐ)
我在这里上学。 (Wǒ zài zhè lǐ shàng xué.) — I go to school here.
你住在这里吧？(Nǐ zhù zài zhè lǐ ba?) — You live here, right?
18. 那里 (nà lǐ)
我在那里工作。(wǒ zài nà lǐ gōng zuò .) — I work there.
他们在那里认识的。(Tāmen zài nà lǐ rèn shi de.) — They met there.
19. 到处（都）(dào chù (dōu))
This adverb can be used either as 到处 (dào chù) by itself or with 都 (dōu) added to it. However, the extra 都 (dōu) doesn’t add any other meaning to the word.
到处都是人。 (dào chù dōu shì rén.) — There are people everywhere.
你到处都能睡觉。 (Nǐ dào chù néng shuì jiào.) — You can sleep everywhere.
20. 哪里都 (nǎ lǐ dōu)
你在哪里都可以生活。 (Nǐ zài nǎ lǐ dōu kě yǐ shēng huó.) — You can live anywhere.
我爸爸在哪里都能睡着。 (Wǒ bà ba zài nǎ lǐ dōu néng shuì zháo.) — My dad can fall asleep anywhere.
Adverbs of Manner
Last but not least, we have the Chinese adverbs of manner. These are the words that describe how an action was done.
Mastering these will definitely help you express what you want to say better, with more detail and more precisely.
21. 挺。。。的 (tǐng…de)
Meaning: pretty/quite + adjective
This adverb is also a useful sentence pattern! Simply insert the adjective you want to use in between 挺 (tǐng) and 的 (de).
你中文说得挺好的。 (Nǐ zhōng wén shuō de tǐng hǎo de.) — You speak Chinese pretty well.
她学得挺快的。(Tā xué de tǐng kuài de.) — She learns quite fast.
22. 很/非常 (hěn/fēi cháng)
As a beginner in Chinese, you likely learned that every adjective must come before the adverb 很 (hěn), which means “very.” But when it comes before adjectives, it means something more like “to be.”
So when you want to use the word “very” or “really,” a better option would be 非常 (fēi cháng).
你的眼睛很美丽。 (nǐ de yǎn jing hěn měi lì.) — Your eyes are (very) pretty.
她唱歌唱得非常好。(Tā chàng gē chàng de fēi cháng hǎo.) — She sings really/extremely well.
23. 真 (zhēn)
这里的环境真美。 (zhè lǐ de huán jìng zhēn mèi.) — The scenery here is really beautiful.
你说得真好。 (Nǐ shuō de zhēn hǎo.) — You speak really well.
24. 好 (hǎo)
You probably already know that 好 means “well” or “good.” But did you also know it can be used as an adverb to mean “so” or “very”?
我好累。 (Wǒ hǎo lèi.) — I’m so tired.
她的衣服好漂亮。 (Tā de yī fu hǎo piào liǎng.) — Her clothes are so pretty.
25. 慢慢地 (màn màn de)
太阳慢慢地落山了。(Tài yángde màn màn de luò shān le.) — Please speak slowly.
他慢慢地走。(Tā màn màn de zǒu .) — He walks slowly.
26. 几乎不/几乎没 (jī hū bù/méi)
他几乎不说英文。(Tā jī hū bù shuō yīng wén.) — He barely speaks English.
今天我几乎没工作。(Jīn tiān wǒ jī hū méi gōng zuò.) — I barely worked today.
27. 主要 (zhǔ yào)
中文和日文我都学，但是主要学中文。(Zhōng wén hé rì wén wǒ dōu xué, dàn shì zhǔ yào xué zhōng wén.) — I study both Chinese and Japanese, but I mainly learn Chinese.
以前游览伦敦的最佳时间主要是夏季。(Yǐ qián yóu lǎn lún dūn de zuì jiā shí jiān zhǔ yào shì xià jì.) — The best time to visit London used to be mainly in summer.
28. 几乎/ (jī hū)
我几乎要告诉她了。(Wǒ jī hū yào gào sù tā le.) — I almost told her.
他几乎拿走了所有东西。(Tā jī hū ná zǒu le suǒ yǒu dōng xi.) — He almost took away everything.
Whew, that was a lot of Chinese adverbs! But it probably didn’t feel like it, because you likely already knew many of them.
By now, you should feel confident in your ability to maneuver Chinese adverbs as you wish. This also means that stronger, clearer, more descriptive sentences are in your near future!
Who knew these tiny words could be so mighty?
Brooke Bagley is a Venezuelan-American freelance writer, passionate language learner and entrepreneur. She’s learned Mandarin Chinese for seven years, Spanish for three and Indonesian for one. Not only are languages her hobby, but they’re also her portal to new worlds. When she’s not learning languages, she can be found running her freelance writing business and holistic health and wellness blog—Ayurveda Angel.
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