37 Chinese Adverbs You Need to Create Native-sounding Chinese Sentences
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 words to add more detail.
These words are adverbs—or 副词 (fù cí) in Chinese.
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.
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 37 adverbs you absolutely must know.
- How Chinese Adverbs Work
- Adverbs of Frequency
- Adverbs of Time
- Adverbs of Place
- Adverbs of Manner
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How Chinese Adverbs Work
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 is to 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:
(wǒ chī zǎo fàn)
I eat breakfast.
(wǒ xǐ huān nǐ)
I like you.
(wǒ kàn diàn yǐng)
I watch movies.
While you can certainly communicate a number of ideas by using simple sentences like these, adding adverbs makes your sentences clearer, more detailed and more native-sounding.
There are four main types of Chinese adverbs: adverbs of frequency, time, place and manner.
Now, let’s get into the fun stuff.
I suggest keeping a pen and notebook by your side to make the most out of this post. Copy down the example sentences and then try to make your own.
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 translates to “rarely” and is similar in usage to its English counterpart.
(wǒ xīng qī tiān hěn shǎo gōng zuò.)
I rarely work on Sundays.
(tā hěn shǎo chī zǎo fàn.)
he rarely eats breakfast.
2. 经常 (jīng cháng)
(wǒ jīng cháng qù zhōng guó.)
I often go to China.
3. 常常 (cháng cháng)
经常 is commonly said as 常常 (cháng cháng).
(nǐ cháng cháng lái zhè lǐ ma?)
Do you come here often?
4. 从不 (cóng bù)
(tā cóng bù hē pí jiǔ.)
He never drinks beer.
(wǒ shì sù shí zhě, suǒ yǐ cóng bù chī ròu.)
I’m vegetarian, so I never eat meat.
5. 总是 (zǒng shì)
(nǐ xīng qī sān zǒng shì qù nǐ nǚ péng yǒu de jiā.)
On Wednesdays, you always go to your girlfriend’s house.
(wǒ bù xǐ huān tā, yīn wèi tā zǒng shì jīn jīn jì jiào.)
I don’t like her, because she always haggles over every ounce (fusses about everything).
6. 动不动（就） (dòng bú dòng [jiù])
There are two ways we can use the word “always” in Chinese—总是 or 动不动（就）.
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 or you can add a 就 at the end, to make it 动不动就.
(nǐ dòng bú dòng jiù piàn wǒ.)
You always lie to me.
7. 有（的）时候 (yǒu [de] shí hou)
(wǒ yǒu de shí hou huì hē jiǔ.)
I sometimes drink alcohol.
(tā yǒu shí hou huì lái wǒ jiā.)
She sometimes comes to my house.
8. 通常 (tōng cháng)
(wǒ tōng cháng zǒu lù shàng xià bān.)
I usually walk to and from work.
9. 平时 (píng shí)
(wǒ píng shí huì zài zǎo shàng hē kā fēi.)
I usually have coffee in the morning.
10. 一般 (yì bān)
(wǒ yì bān zǎo shang qù pǎo bù.)
I usually go running in the morning.
11. 偶尔 (ǒu ěr)
(wǒ ǒu ěr lǚ yóu.)
I occasionally travel.
(tā ǒu ěr qù měi guó.)
She occasionally goes to the United States.
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.
12. 昨天 (zuó tiān)
(wǒ zuó tiān kàn le nà bù diàn yǐng.)
I watched that movie yesterday.
13. 今天 (jīn tiān)
(nǐ jīn tiān gōng zuò ma?)
Do you work today?
14. 明天 (míng tiān)
(míng tiān wǒ qù shàng hǎi.)
Tomorrow I’m going to Shanghai.
15. 后天 (hòu tiān)
Meaning: the day after tomorrow
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!
(hòu tiān wǒ yào huí jiā.)
I will come back home the day after tomorrow.
16. 前天 (qián tiān)
Meaning: the day before yesterday
(nǐ qián tiān kàn nǐ fù mǔ le ma?)
Did you visit your parents the day before yesterday?
17. 现在 (xiàn zài)
(nǐ xiàn zài yǒu kòng ma?)
Do you have time right now?
(tā xiàn zài zài shuì jiào ne.)
She’s sleeping right now.
18. 后来 (hòu lái)
(hòu lái wǒmen chū qù chī fàn le.)
Later on, we went out to eat.
(tā hòu lái huí jiā le.)
She went home afterward.
19. 马上 (mǎ shàng)
Meaning: immediately/right now/at once
(nǐ mǎ shàng zǒu ma?)
Are you leaving immediately?
(wǒ mǎ shàng jiù huí lái.)
I’ll be back in a minute/I’ll be right back.
20. 已经 (yǐ jīng)
Unlike the other adverbs of time, 已经 can’t be placed before the subject. It can only come after.
(nǐ yǐ jīng chī fàn le ma?)
Have you already eaten?
(wǒ yǐ jīng kàn guo zhè bù diàn yǐng le.)
I already saw this movie.
21. 最近 (zuì jìn)
(nǐ zuì jìn zěnme yàng?)
How have you been recently?
(zuì jìn wǒ zài xué zhōng wén.)
I’ve been studying Chinese recently.
22. 以前 (yǐ qián)
(liǎng nián yǐ qián wǒ kāi shǐ xué zhōng wén.)
Two years ago, I started studying Chinese.
(yǐ qián, wǒ cóng bú kàn diàn shì.)
Before, I never watched TV./Previously, I never watched TV.
23. 还 (hái)
Similar to 已经, 还 can’t be placed before the subject. It only comes after.
(wǒ hái méi qù guò zhōng guó.)
I still haven’t gone to China yet.
(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
24. 这里 (zhè lǐ)
(wǒ zài zhè lǐ shàng xué.)
I go to school here.
(nǐ zhù zài zhè lǐ ba?)
You live here, right?
25. 那里 (nà lǐ)
(wǒ zài nà lǐ gōng zuò .)
I work there.
(tā men shì zài nà lǐ rèn shi de.)
They met there.
26. 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 doesn’t add any other meaning to the word.
(dào chù dōu shì rén.)
There are people everywhere.
(nǐ dào chù néng shuì jiào.)
You can sleep everywhere.
27. 哪里都 (nǎ lǐ dōu)
(nǐ zài nǎ lǐ dōu kě yǐ shēng huó.)
You can live anywhere.
(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.
28. 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 and 的.
(nǐ zhōng wén shuō de tǐng hǎo de.)
You speak Chinese pretty well.
(tā xué de tǐng kuài de.)
She learns quite fast.
29. 很 (hěn)
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.”
(nǐ de yǎn jing hěn měi lì.)
Your eyes are (very) pretty.
30. 非常 (fēi cháng)
(tā chàng gē chàng de fēi cháng hǎo.)
She sings really/extremely well.
31. 真 (zhēn)
(zhè lǐ de huán jìng zhēn měi.)
The scenery here is really beautiful.
(nǐ shuō de zhēn hǎo.)
You speak really well.
32. 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”?
(wǒ hǎo lèi.)
I’m so tired.
(tā de yī fu hǎo piào liǎng.)
Her clothes are so pretty.
33. 慢慢地 (màn màn de)
(tài yáng màn màn de luò shān le.)
Please speak slowly.
(tā màn màn de zǒu .)
He walks slowly.
34. 几乎不 (jī hū bù)
(tā jī hū bù shuō yīng wén.)
He barely speaks English.
35. 几乎没 (jī hū méi)
(jīn tiān wǒ jī hū méi gōng zuò.)
I barely worked today.
36. 主要 (zhǔ yào)
(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.
(yóu lǎn lún dūn de zuì jiā shí jiān zhǔ yào shì xià jì.)
The best time to visit London is mainly in summer.
37. 几乎 (jī hū)
(wǒ jī hū yào gào sù tā le.)
I almost told her.
(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?