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Mastering Existential Sentences(存现句) in Mandarin

Have you ever wondered how the Chinese language captures the essence of existence, appearance, and disappearance with remarkable precision? Welcome to the world of Mandarin Existential Sentences, a unique structure that allows speakers to convey the presence or absence of someone or something. It is similar to the English “there is” construction but with its own distinct characteristics. Existential Sentences, also known as 存现句 (Cúnxiàn Jù), are an invaluable tool in Mandarin communication.

In this article, we will dissect the essential components of Existential Sentences in detail. Along the way, we’ll share practical examples and insights to improve your understanding of these structures. You’ll learn how to construct sentences that express existence, appearance, or disappearance with finesse, using descriptive and numerical phrases to add depth and context.

Existential Sentences have a systematic structure. They consist of three main parts: the Front Part indicates a place; the Middle Part uses verbs to express existence, appearance, or disappearance; and the Final Part indicates someone or something. To simplify, the syntax can be expressed as:

*(Verb: for existence, appearance, or disappearance)
**(Object: Something or Somebody)

Let’s look at some specific examples:

(1) 书包里有一本书。(Shūbāo lǐ yǒu yì běn shū.)
There is a book in the schoolbag.

(2) 墙上挂着一件衣服。(Qiánɡshànɡ ɡuàzhe yí jiàn yīfu.)
There is a piece of clothing hanging on the wall.

(3) 小河旁边是一条大马路。(Xiǎohé pánɡbiān shì yì tiáo dàmǎlù.
Beside the creek, there is a road.

(4) 家里来了几位客人。(Jiālǐ láile jǐ wèi kèrén.)
Several guests came to my house.

(5) 鱼缸里死了一条金鱼。(Yúɡānɡ lǐ sǐle yì tiáo jīnyú.)
A goldfish has died in the fish tank.

Examples 1, 2, and 3 all express existence, while example 4 shows appearance and example 5 indicates disappearance. Let’s break them down even further:


1. Location: The front part

The front part of this sentence structure indicates a place using nouns and prepositions.

For example:

  • 桌子上(zhuōzi shànɡ)on the table
  • 杯子左边(bēizi zuǒbiɑn)the left of the cup
  • 房间里(fánɡjiān lǐ)inside the room

2. Verb: The middle part

To indicate existence, state, or mode, we connect the Front Part and Final Part of the sentence using 有(yǒu), Verb+着(zhe), or 是(shì). On the other hand, the combination Verb+了(le) is typically used to express a dynamic meaning, indicating appearance or disappearance.

3. Object: The final part

The Object is essential for completing an Existential Sentence and is typically uncertain or impermanent (except in example 3 above). Objects are usually preceded by descriptive or numerical phrases but generally can’t be used with adjectives.


1). While prepositions are frequently used to indicate a location in the front part of this structure, the prepositions 在(zài) and 从(cóng) cannot be used in this context.

2). Time words may be included at the very beginning of Existential Sentences as adverbial modifiers, but they are not mandatory.

For example:

家里来几位客人。(Jiālǐ láile jǐ wèi kèrén.)
Several guests came to my house.

刚刚家里来几位客人。(Gānɡɡānɡ jiālǐ láile jǐ wèi kèrén.)
Just now, several guests came to my house.

3). Objects in Existential Sentences are often uncertain, except with the verb  是(shì), which indicates a specific singular thing or person.

For example:

小河旁边是一条大马路。(Xiǎohé pánɡbiān shì yì tiáo dàmǎlù.)
Beside the creek, there is a road.

商店后面是超市。(Shānɡdiàn hòumiɑn shì chāoshì.)
There is a supermarket behind the shop.

That’s everything you need to know about Existential Sentences in Mandarin. We have unraveled their structure, explored their components, and shed light on their diverse applications. Whether you’re engaging in everyday conversations, expressing observations, or describing the world around you, this fundamental grammatical structure will enable you to speak accurately and convey nuances. So, go forth with confidence, using Existential Sentences to bring your Mandarin conversations to life. Let each sentence you construct be a testament to your command of this unique grammatical structure.

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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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