Complex Structure in Chinese: Pivotal Sentence

This time, we are going to talk about ‘兼语句’ (Jiānyǔjù), Pivotal sentence, which is a special structure that plays an important role in Chinese. I believe many learners willhave or have had trouble while working with it. So, here I’ll give it a brief introduction.

Well, WHY we should know what a Pivotal sentence is? Because that’s something we meet when studying Chinese, even in the primary stage. It has both an Information Function and Aesthetic Function. Actually, if talking with native speakers, you’ll find out Chinese people use it more often in oral communication.

Now that ‘What is a Pivotal sentence?’ To start, let’s look at following sentence

(Wǒ jiào mèimei chī wǔfàn.)

我叫妹妹吃午饭。

 I ask my younger sister to have lunch.

According to the sentence above, we can find out a structure which is:

妹妹 午饭
Noun1 Verb1 Noun2 Verb2 Other elements

So simply to say, Pivotal sentence has the form of

(Noun1+Verb1+[Noun2)+Verb2+Other elements]’ ,

and Noun2(more precisely, Nominal element2) is the Object of the Verb1, and the logical subject of the Verb2. Among Pivotal sentences, there still exist different types according to what Verb1 and Verb2 are, so here, with limited time and space, two basic structures will be introduced.

Structure1:  Noun1+让/叫/派/请…+Noun2+Verb2+(other elements)

E.g.1)让我看看。(Rànɡ wǒ kànkɑn.)

        Let me have a look.

  2)老师叫/让你交作业。(Lǎoshī jiào/ rànɡ nǐ jiāo zuòyè.

       The teacher asked you to hand in homework.

  3)公司派我出国。(Gōnɡsī pài wǒ chūɡuó.

       The firm assigned me to go abroad.

  4)我的好朋友请我去北京。(Wǒde hǎopénɡyou qǐnɡ wǒ qù Běijīnɡ.

       My best friend invited me to Beijing.

Meanings:

1. To express ‘Noun1 asks or requests Noun2’ to do something. In this case, Verb1 should be

‘请’、‘派’、‘要求’etc.

E.g. 我要求他去睡觉。(Wǒ yāoqiú tā qù shuìjiào.

    I asked him to go to sleep.

2. To express ‘Noun1 allows Noun2’ to do something. In this case, Verb1 should be ‘同意’etc.

E.g. 学校同意我们去公园。(Xuéxiào tónɡyì wǒmen qù ɡōnɡyuán.

    The school allowed us to go to park.

The negative form:

Noun1+/没(没有)+///…+Noun2+Verb2+(other elements)

E.g. 1)老师没叫/让我交作业。(Lǎoshī méi jiào/rànɡ wǒ jiāo zuòyè.

       The teacher didn’t ask me to hand in homework.

    2)妈妈不同意我去成都。(Māmɑ bù tónɡyì wǒ qù Chénɡdū.

       Mam don’t allow me to go to Chengdu.

    3)我没请他来办公室。(Wǒ méi qǐnɡ tā lái bànɡōnɡshì.

       I didn’t ask him to the office.

Structure2: Noun1+让/叫/使…+Noun2+Verb2/Adj.

E.g.1)这件事让//使我不高兴。(Zhèjiànshì rànɡ/jiào/shǐ wǒ bù ɡāoxìnɡ.

       This thing makes me unhappy.

   2)这篇文章让//使我伤心。(Zhèpiān wénzhānɡ rànɡ/jiào/shǐ wǒ shānɡxīn.

       This article makes me sad.

   3)他的话让/使妹妹决定去工作。(Tādehuà rànɡ/shǐ mèimei juédìnɡ qù ɡōnɡzuò.

       His words make his young sister decide to work.

Notice:

  1. It differs from Structure1 in that in this case, Noun1 is the reason for Noun2 to do something or change, not Noun1 asks or orders Noun2 to do something of Structure1.
  2. When the place of Verb2 is Adjective, there are usually no other elements following the Adjective; however, if it’s a Verb, there could be other elements that follow.
  3. The negative form of it is complex, and it depends on the meaning of the whole sentence. We will illustrate it in the future.

In summary, we’ve learned two basic structures of Pivotal sentences; a basic summary can be seen in the following chart.

stru12

Some other points we should focus on are:

  1. The Verb1 in the Pivotal sentence usually express ‘asking or ordering’ meaning.
  2. Structure2 is different from Structure1.
  3. “使”(shǐ)in the Structure2 can’t be used in Structure1.
  4. When it’s an Adjective in the place of Verb2, there are usually no other elements that follow the Adjective.

Those are two of the easiest pivotal sentence structures. They may seem hard at first, but they are essential. Try to practice with them, and then eventually start using them when you speak to Chinese people.

Cecilia He

Cecilia majored in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. She has vast experience in educating her students on how to listen to and speak Chinese, and is trained to teach HSK courses. She has mastered the method and practice of teaching the structure, historical development, and relationships of languages as an academic subject, and has also done extensive research on Intercultural Communication and Sinology.