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An Introduction to the Pivotal Sentence in Chinese Grammar

Are you struggling with understanding the Pivotal Sentence structure in Chinese? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This unique structure can be tricky to master, but once you do, it can greatly improve your Chinese language skills.

The Pivotal sentence comes up even at the beginner level of learning Chinese. Native speakers use it frequently in spoken communication, so it’s essential to learn.  

The Pivotal sentence, also known as ‘兼语句’ (Jiānyǔjù), is a crucial sentence structure that has both informational and aesthetic functions. To understand this sentence structure, let’s take a look at an example.

(Wǒ jiào mèimei chī wǔfàn.)
I ask my younger sister to have lunch.

Based on this example, we can see the structure:

Noun 1Verb 1Noun 2Verb 2Other elements

In simple terms, the Pivotal sentence follows this structure:

Noun 1 performs Verb 1. Then Noun 2 becomes the Object of Verb 1 and the logical subject of Verb 2, which is followed by other elements. There are various types of Pivotal sentences based on the verbs used, but to keep things simple and straightforward we will focus on two basic structures.


让我看看。(Rànɡ wǒ kànkɑn.)
Let me have a look.

老师叫/让你交作业。(Lǎoshī jiào/ rànɡ nǐ jiāo zuòyè.)
The teacher asked you to hand in homework.

公司派我出国。(Gōnɡsī pài wǒ chūɡuó.)
The firm assigned me to go abroad.

我的好朋友请我去北京。(Wǒde hǎopénɡyou qǐnɡ wǒ qù Běijīnɡ.)
My best friend invited me to Beijing.


1. To say “Noun 1 asks or requests Noun 2 to do something,” use “请” (qǐng), “派” (pài), “要求” (yāoqiú), etc., as the Verb 1 in the Pivotal sentence structure.


我要求他去睡觉。(Wǒ yāoqiú tā qù shuìjiào.)
I asked him to go to sleep.

2. To say that “Noun 1 permits Noun 2 to do something,” the appropriate Verb 1 would be “同意,” (tóngyì) meaning “to agree.”


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:


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.

妈妈不同意我去成都。(Māmɑ bù tónɡyì wǒ qù Chénɡdū.)
Mom didn’t allow me to go to Chengdu.

我没请他来办公室。(Wǒ méi qǐnɡ tā lái bànɡōnɡshì.)
I didn’t invite him to the office.


这件事让/叫/使我不高兴。(Zhèjiànshì rànɡ/jiào/shǐ wǒ bù ɡāoxìnɡ.)
This thing makes me unhappy.

这篇文章让/叫/使我伤心。(Zhèpiān wénzhānɡ rànɡ/jiào/shǐ wǒ shānɡxīn.)
This article makes me sad.

他的话让/使妹妹决定去工作。(Tādehuà rànɡ/shǐ mèimei juédìnɡ qù ɡōnɡzuò.)
His words made his young sister decide to work.


  1. Structure 2 differs from Structure 1 because Noun 1 is the reason for Noun 2 doing something or changing, not asking or ordering Noun 2 to do something.
  2. When Action 2 is an Adjective, there are usually no other elements following it, but if it’s a Verb, there could be other elements.
  3. The negative form of this Pivotal sentence structure is complex and depends on the sentence’s meaning.

Some other points to keep in mind are:

  1. The Pivotal sentence usually uses a verb that expresses asking or ordering in the first verb position.
  2. Structure 2 differs from Structure 1, as Noun 1 in Structure 2 is the cause of Noun 2’s action or change.
  3. “使” (shǐ) can be used in Structure 2 but not in Structure 1.
  4. When an adjective is used as Action 2, there are usually no other elements following it.

It may seem difficult to grasp these structures at first, but they are crucial for speaking Chinese. With practice, you can start using them confidently in conversations with Chinese speakers. Best of luck in your practice with these foundational sentence structures!

(For a more detailed explanation, check out our grammar tutorial course’s video on “the Pivotal Sentence of 使”.)

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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.

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