Making a Clean Sweep of all Basic Associated Constructions in Chinese

You may have hit a wall in the study of Function words in Chinese. Maybe you have mastered Function words like “”, “”, “”, but the next step is to deal with the myriad words of Associated Constructions, such as “虽然…但是…”, “不仅…而且…”, and so on. These Associated Constructions are important because they can make your Chinese more logical, have stronger meanings, and express emotion better and more appropriately. Though it is easier to be understood in the beginning, as one progresses it can get more difficult to choose the proper words after having learned so many of them. So here we made the effort to briefly summarize 37 associated words that are more common and to simply explain how they are used.

As you can see, there are so many Associated Constructions in Chinese. This chart may not be as exhaustive, but it is quite clear. We hope it can help you a lot in your daily study and in preparing for your Chinese tests.

  Associated Constructions Explaination Examples
1 (一) 边…(一)边…

((yì)biān…(yì)biān…)

To indicate an action that occurred at the same time. ()听歌()写作业。

(Tā (yī)biān tīnɡ ɡē (yī)biān xiě zuòyè.)

He did his homework, listening to music.

2 又…又…

(yòu…yòu…)

To indicate several actions or states that are accumulated together. 她的房间干净安静。

(Tā de fánɡjiān yòu ɡānjìnɡ yòu ānjìnɡ.)

Her room is clean and quiet.

3 既…又…

(Jì…yòu…)

To indicate qualities or situations that exist simultaneously. 这道中国菜好做好吃。

(Zhè dào zhōnɡɡuócài jì hǎo zuò yòu hǎo chī.)

This Chinese dish is delicious and easy to cook.

4 不是…而是…

(búshì…érshì…)

To negate the first part and confirm the second part, but to express the same meaning for more emphasis. 他学习汉语不是不努力,而是努力不够。

(Tā xuéxí hànyǔ búshì bù nǔlì, érshì nǔlì bùgòu.)

His studying Chinese should not be so hard, but his effort is not enough.

5 要么…要么…

(yàome…yàome…)

To indicate two different choices, often used in oral Chinese and used as a statement. A:我们晚上吃什么?

B:要么吃炒菜,要么喝粥吧。

(A: Wǒmen wǎnshàng chī shénme?

B: Yàome chī chǎocài, yàome hē zhōu ba.)

A: What do we have for dinner?

B: Either (we are) cooking, or (we) eat porridge.

6 是…还是…

(shì…háishì…)

To indicate two different choices, and often used as a question. 不来,还是不想来?

(Tā shì bù lái, háishì bù xiǎng lái?)

He is not coming, or doesn’t he want to come?

7 不是…就是…

(búshì…jiùshì…)

To indicate or make a choice between the two options, and the answer is unsure. 答案不是A就是B。

(Dá’àn búshì A jiùshì B.)

The answer is B if not A.

8 与其…不如…

(yǔqí…bùrú…)

To indicate between the two choices the second one is much better than the first. 我们与其去北京,不如去上海。

(Wǒmen yǔqí qù Běijīng, bùrú qù Shànghǎi.)

Compared to Beijing, we’d better go to Shanghai.

9 宁可…也不…

(nìngkě…yěbù…)

Similar with “prefer to … rather than …”. To indicate two different choices. 宁可被骂,也不愿意撒谎。

(Tā nìngkě bèi mà, yěbú yuànyì sāhuǎng.)

He prefers to be scolded rather than to tell a lie.

10 一会儿…一会儿(又)…

(yíhuìr…yíhuìr(yòu)…)

To indicate the continuous changes of actions of conditions. 小宝宝一会儿一会儿笑。

(Xiǎo bǎobɑo yíhuìr kū yíhuìr xiào.)

The baby cries for a while, then smiles for a wihle.

11 有时…有时…

(yǒushí…yǒushí…)

Similar with “sometimes…sometimes…”. To introduce two situations but under a same period of time. 周末的时候,他有时喜欢看电视,有时喜欢看书。

(Zhōumò de shíhou,  tā yǒushí xǐhuɑn kàn diànshì, yǒushí xǐhuɑn kàn shū.)

During the weekend, he sometimes likes to watch TV-series, sometimes likes to read a book.

12 不但/不仅/不光
/不只…而且…(búdàn/bùjǐn/bùɡuānɡ/
bùzhǐ…érqiě…)
Similar with “not only…but also…”. To indicate both conditions exist at the same time, and stress the second one. 不但会说英语而且会说汉语。

(Tā búdàn huì shuō yīnɡyǔ érqiě huì shuō hànyǔ.)

He not only can speak English, but (he) also can speak Chinese.

13 不但不/没…反而…

(búdànbù/méi…fǎn

ér…)

To indicate two unexpected results and the second one is stronger. 减肥一段时间后,他不但没瘦,反而胖了。

(Jiǎnféi yíduàn shíjiān hòu,  tā búdàn méi shòu,  fǎn ér pànɡ le.)

Trying to lose weight for some time, he hasn’t become thinner but fatter.

14 虽然/尽管…但是

/可是…

(suīrán/jǐnɡuǎn… dànshì/kěshì…)

Similar with “though… but…”. To indicate there is a turning in the meaning. “但是” is stronger in emphasis than “可是”. 虽然/尽管外面在下雨,但是/可是他还是去跑步了。

(Suīrán/Jǐnɡuǎn wàimian zài xiàyǔ,  dànshì/kěshì tā háishì qù pǎobù le.)

Though it is raining outside, he is still running.

15 因为…所以…

(yīnwèi…suǒyǐ…)

Similar with “because… so…”. “因为”indicates the reason and “所以” indicates the result. 因为天太冷,所以我们不想去逛街了。

(Yīnwèi tiān tài lěnɡ,  suǒyǐ wǒmen bù xiǎnɡ qù ɡuànɡjiē le.)

Because it is so cold, we don’t want to go shopping.

16 之所以…是因为…

(zhī suǒyǐ… shì yīn

wèi…)

Often used in written Chinese, to indicate the result first and then to tell the reason. 之所以不参加比赛,是因为他生病了。

(Tā zhī suǒyǐ bù cānjiā bǐsài,  shì yīnwèi tā shēnɡbìnɡ le.)

He didn’t take part in the match, because he is sick.

17 既然…就…

(jì rán…jiù …)

To indicate a result under a certain reason. 既然你累了,睡吧。

(Jìrán nǐ lèi le,  jiù shuì bɑ.)

Since you’re tired, just go to sleep.

18 如果/要是…就…

(rúɡuǒ/yàoshì…jiù…)

The first part indicates the condition, purpose and reason, and the second part indicates the result. 要是/如果你每天都锻炼身体,你会很健康。

(Yàoshì/Rúɡuǒ nǐ měitiān dōu duànliàn shēntǐ, nǐ jiù huì hěn jiànkānɡ.)

If you exercise every day, you will be healthy.

19 即使…也…

(jíshǐ…yě…)

Similar with “even if…”. The first part gives a concession, and the second part is the result under the concession. 即使下雨,我要去比赛。

(Jíshǐ xià yǔ, wǒ yě yào qù bǐsài.)

Even if it rains, I have to take part in the game.

20 只要…就…

(zhǐyào…jiù…)

Similar with “only if…”. To indicate that under a certain condition, a result can be reached. This condition is needed but not the only one. 只要你努力,你能成功。

(Zhǐyào nǐ nǔlì,  nǐ jiù nénɡ chénɡɡōnɡ.)

As long as you work hard, you can succeed.

21 只有…才…

(zhǐyǒu…cái…)

Similar with “only if…”. To indicate under the condition, a result can be reached. And the condition is fully necessary. 只有坚持不懈,能成功。

(Zhǐyǒu jiānchí búxiè, cái nénɡ chénɡɡōnɡ.)

Only perseverance can ensure success.

22 除非…才…

(chúfēi…cái…)

Similar with “unless…”. To indicate the result comes from the condition, and that the speaker stresses more on the condition. 除非你去请他,他会来参加晚会。

(Chúfēi nǐ qù qǐnɡ tā,  tā cái huì lái cānjiā wǎnhuì.)

Unless you ask him, he will come to the party.

23 除非…否则…

(chúfēi…fǒuzé…)

Similar with “unless…”. To indicate the result comes from the condition. And the speaker stresses more on the condition, but the second part is the negative result. 除非你去请他,否则他不会来参加晚会。

(Chúfēi nǐ qù qǐnɡ tā,  fǒuzé tā bú huì lái cānjiā wǎnhuì.)

Unless you ask him, he won’t come to the party otherwise.

24 无论/不管…也

/都…

(wúlùn/bùɡuǎn…yě

/dōu…)

To indicate the result won’t change under whatever condition. 无论你说什么,我不会同意。

(Wúlùn nǐ shuō shénme,  wǒ dōu bú huì tónɡyì.)

No matter what you say, I will not agree.

25 凡是…都…

(fánshì…dōu…)

To be used before the subject to indicate without any exception a certain scope. 凡是他说的,我相信。

(Fánshì tā shuō de,  wǒ dōu xiānɡxìn.)

I believe everything he said.

26 任何…也/都…

(rènhé…yě/dōu…)

To indicate “whatever”, functions as the attributive. 任何会犯错。

(Rènhé rén dū huì fàncuò.)

Anybody can make a mistake.

27 一…就…

(yī…jiù…)

(1) To indicate one thing is followed by another.

(2) The first part is the condition, and the second part is the result.

回家睡觉。

(Wǒ yì huíjiā jiù shuìjiào.)

I sleep as soon as I got home.

他一急,就写错了。

(Tā yì jí,  jiù xiě cuò le.)

He is anxious, so he writes incorrectly.

28 连…带…

(lián…dài…)

(1)     To indicate two actions that happen at the same time, and usually use the monosyllabic verbs.

(2)     To indicate both of the items are included.

他们笑地走进教室。

(Tāmen lián shuō dài xiào de zǒu jìn jiàoshì.)

They enter the classroom, talking and laughing.

昨晚我连做作业带预习一共花了两个小时。

(Zuówǎn wǒ lián zuò zuòyè dài yùxí yíɡònɡ huā le liǎnɡ ɡè xiǎoshí.)

Last night, I took two hours to do my homework and review.

29 非(得/要)…不

(行/成/可)…

(fēi (děi/yào)…bù( xínɡ/chénɡ/kě)…)

To indicate something won’t be done without a certain condition. 这件事他办可。

(Zhè jiàn shì fēi tā bàn bù kě.)

This is something he can do.

30 非(得/要)…

才(行/成)…

(fēi(děi/yào)…

cái(xínɡ/chénɡ)…)

To indicate it can be done if there is a certain condition. 非要亲自去一趟行。

(Wǒ fēiyào qīnzì qù yítànɡ cái xínɡ.)

I have to go by myself.

31 连…也/都…

(lián…yě/dōu…)

(1) To stress the part between “连” and “也/都”.

(2) To conclude some comparison.

/没看。

(Tā lián shū dōu/yě méi kàn.)

He didn’t even read the book.

这个问题连小孩儿都知道,他却不知道。

(Zhèɡe wèntí lián xiǎohái’r dōu zhīdào, tā què bù zhīdào.)

Even the children know this problem that he doesn’t know.

32 别看…(可是/

但是…)

(biékàn…(kěshì/

dànshì… ))

“别看” introduces a situation and another situation follows. “别看” is usually put before the subject. 别看他汉字写得不好,可是他的发音很准。

(Biékàn tā hànzì xiě de bù hǎo, kěshì tā de fāyīn hěn zhǔn.)

Don’t focus on that he writes Chinese characters badly, but actually his pronunciation is accurate.

33 尚且…,

(更)何况…

(shànɡqiě…,

(ɡènɡ)hé kuànɡ…)

To indicate a progression. The first part introduces a situation, while the second part has a progression with a rhetorical question. “何况” is used before the second clause. 一家人尚且会产生矛盾,何况是刚认识不久的朋友。

(Yìjiārén shànɡqiě huì chǎnshēnɡ máodùn,  hékuànɡ shì ɡānɡ rènshí bù jiǔ de pénɡyou.)

Even a family will have disagreements, moreso with a friend.

34 别说…,就是…也…

(biéshuō…, jiùshì…yě…)

To be used to connected a concessive complex sentence in oral Chinese. First to depreciate one person or one thing in order to give prominence to another. 别说这道题,就是再难的题我会做。

(Biéshuō zhè dào tí, jiùshì zài nán de tí wǒ yě huì zuò.)

Not to belittle this question, but I can also figure out one that is more difficult.

35 不单/不但/不只

/不仅…,也/都/还…

(bùdān/búdàn/bùzhǐ

/bùjǐn…, yě/dōu/hái…)

To indicate a progressive relationship. There is a progression in the second part. And if the subject is the same, “不单” is placed after the subject. Otherwise, “不单” is placed before the subject. 不单自己注重环保,劝说身边的朋友也来关注环保。

(Tā bùdān zìjǐ zhùzhònɡ huánbǎo, hái quànshuō shēnbiān de pénɡyou yě lái ɡuānzhù huánbǎo.)

He not only pays attention to environmental protection, but also to persuading his friends to pay attention to environmental protection.

36 一来…,二来…

(yīlái…, èrlái…)

To enumerate two reasons or purposes. 我不想去旅游,一来没时间,二来没钱。

(Wǒ bù xiǎnɡ qù lǚyóu, yìlái méi shíjiān, èrlái méi qián.)

I don’t want to travel, because I don’t have time and money.

37 一者/一则…,二者 /二则…

(yīzhě/yīzé…, èrzhě/èr zé…)

To enumerate two reasons. Usually used in the written form. 他最近很忙,一者要准备考试,二者要努力工作。

(Tā zuìjìn hěn mánɡ, yīzhě yào zhǔnbèi kǎoshì, èrzhě yào nǔlì ɡōnɡzuò.)

He has been busy recently, because he needs to prepare for the test and work hard at the same time.

Main References:

  1. 黄渤荣,廖东旭,《现代汉语》,高等教育出版社,2011年。
  2. 邓小宁,《汉语精读教程》,北京大学出版社,2006年。
  3. 邱军,《成功之路进步篇》(第一册),2008年。

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.