How to use “and” in Chinese

No matter which textbooks you use to learn Chinese, the word “and-和(hé)” is always one of the first few words that you learned. It’s not a difficult word, so even a beginner level learner can use “苹果和香蕉(píngguǒ hé xiāngjiāo)” – “apples and bananas”. But the interesting thing is even an intermediate above level learner will still make mistakes on “和”(hé). So, what makes this simple word tricky? Today, we will explore how it can trick you and how you can avoid it.

 

When a Chinese teacher teaches “和”(hé), he or she will always mention that “和(hé)” is used to connect two nouns not adjectives or sentences. For example:

Two nouns: 我有苹果和香蕉(wǒ yǒu píngguǒ hé xiāngjiāo)。= I have apples and bananas. √

Two adjectives: 她很高和很漂亮(tā hěn gāo hé hěn piàoliàng)。= She is tall and pretty. ×

Two sentences: 明天我去学校和我去超市。= I will go to school, and I will go to the supermarket tomorrow. ×

 

It looks simple but why do people keep on making mistakes on it? I think that’s because even if you know “和(hé)”, it can’t be used to connect two adjectives and sentences. Therefore, you still don’t know the correct way. To avoid the mistakes, you need to know how to use “and” to connect two adjectives and nouns.

 

For two adjectives:

  1. (yòu)……又(yòu) for adjectives. It is a common pattern to connect two adjectives. When use this pattern, you shouldn’t use “很”(hěn). For example,

她又高又漂亮(tā yòu gāo yòu piàoliàng)。= She is tall and pretty.

这件衣服又贵又难看(zhè jiàn yīfu yòu guì yòu nánkàn)。= This clothing is expensive and ugly.

Notice that the two adjectives you use in this pattern should be either positive or both negative. It doesn’t work if you use one positive adjective and one negative adjective.

这件衣服又贵又漂亮(zhè jiàn yīfu yòu guì yòu piàoliàng)。= This clothing is expensive and pretty. ×

  1. A comma is another options. A comma can be used to connect two adjectives too. Simply place it between the two adjective phrases. For example,

她很高,很漂亮(tā hěn gāo ,hěn piàoliàng)。= She is tall and pretty.

这件衣服很贵,很难看(zhè jiàn yīfu hěn guì, hěn nánkàn)。= This clothing is expensive and ugly.

我有一件很贵,很漂亮的衣服(wǒ yǒu yí jiàn hěn guì, hěn piàoliàng de yīfu)。= I have a piece of expensive and pretty clothing.

 

For two sentences:

  • A period is most commonly used. Compare to English, Chinese prefer a short sentence. That means Chinese would rather use two sentences than use “和”(hé) to connect them. For example,

他觉得不舒服(tā juéde bù shūfu)。他决定回家(tā juédìng huí jiā)。= He felt sick and decided to go back home. 

In many cases, if the subjects of these sentences are same, a comma also works.

他觉得不舒服,他决定回家(tā juéde bù shūfu, tā juédìng huí jiā)。

An English speaker might feel weird to use two consequent sentences without any conjunction. But that’s the most common way how Chinese say it.

  • Other conjunctions.

If you just feel too ackward to use two sentences with no conjunction, then try some other conjunctions. A good one for two consequent sentences is “然后(ránhóu)-then”.

他看了电影,然后睡觉了(tā kàn le diànyǐng, ránhòu shuìjiào le)。= He watched a movie and went to bed.

他吃了饭,然后回家了(tā chī le fàn, ránhòu huí jiā le)。= He had the meal and went back home.

Sometimes “and” could mean “but”, in that case “可是(kěshì)-but” is also a good choice.

他想去中国,可是他不能(tā xiǎng qù zhōng guò, kěshì tā bù néng)。= He wants to go to China and can’t do it.

 

So one simple tip is if you want to use “and” but it’s not to connect two nouns, the easiest way is just OMIT “and”. You don’t need anything here! Now you mastered the way to express “and” in different situations. Please don`t write a “她很高和很漂亮(tā hěn gāo hé hěn piàoliàng)” any more.

 

Leave me a comment if you have any question. See you next time!

Vera Zhang

After graduating from East China Normal University in 2005, Vera Zhang (张晓丽) started her career in teaching Chinese as a second language. Her first teaching job was teaching high school Chinese in Philippines and realized how much she loved this job. In 2007, she came back Shanghai and spent 7 years in ChinesePod. During that, she also went to America to learn language learning knowledge and curriculum editing by teaching in a high school. Now she works in a start-up company and has developed a new Chinese learning app-HelloChinese. She hopes she can share her knowledge in Chinese and make Chinese learning easy and fun.

  • Matias Barth

    Very useful article. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ellen Dowling

    If I want to say, “Lin and I went to see a movie,” would it be correct to use 和(he) between Lin and I? Or would 根 (gen) be more correct? Lin 和我看到了一部电影? Lin 根我看到了一部电影?