Have you ever marveled at the elegant flow of Mandarin speakers effortlessly weaving together words? Their sentences possess a unique charm, conveying not just the meaning but also the essence of their thoughts. Among the many special sentence structures in Mandarin, there is one that captures the attention of language enthusiasts and cultural explorers alike: 连动句 (lián dòng jù), commonly known as Serial Verb Phrases.
So, what exactly are Serial Verb Phrases? To put it simply, they express reasons, purposes, or ways of doing something. In this article, we’ll break down the various uses of these phrases and provide guidance to help you start employing them in your own daily conversations.
Sentences with Serial Verb Phrases include two or more verbs or verbal phrases that describe the same subject. The basic form is:
Subject + Verb 1 + (Object 1) + Verb 2 + (Object 2)
Each piece of the structure has a distinct purpose, which are as follows:
1. Means or Manner
In this form, Verb 1 describes how Verb 2 is done. For example:
我开车去超市。(Wǒ kāi chē qù chāoshì.)
I drive to go to the supermarket.
我们用筷子吃饭。(Wǒmen yònɡ kuàizi chīfàn.)
We use chopsticks to eat.
Verb 2 can be used to indicate the purpose of Verb 1.
他去公园玩。(Tā qù ɡōnɡyuán wán.)
He goes to the park to play.
奶奶上街买菜。(Nǎinɑi shànɡjiē mǎi cài.)
Grandma went to the market to buy food.
Sometimes, Verb 2 notes the result of Verb 1.
我听了很高兴。(Wǒ tīnɡ le hěn ɡāo xìnɡ.)
I’m so happy after hearing it.
弟弟生病住院了。(Dìdi shēnɡbìnɡ zhùyuàn le.)
Younger brother has been sick in the hospital.
Serial Verb Phrases can also be used to describe the chronological order of events.
大家排队上车！(Dàjiā páiduì shànɡchē.)
Please line up for boarding!
我起床穿衣服。(Wǒ qǐchuánɡ chuān yīfu.)
I get up and put on clothes.
5. Using 有 or 没有
You may also come across Serial Verb Phrases containing 有(yǒu) or ‘没有’(méi yǒu). These usually indicate that you either have or don’t have the object of Verb 2.
他有事找你。(Tā yǒu shì zhǎo nǐ.)
He’s looking for you for something.
我没有话说。(Wǒ méiyǒu huà shuō.)
I have nothing to say.
Finally, there are some cases where Verb 1 and Verb 2 indicate the same thing, but the first is affirmative while the second is negative.
他坐着不动。(Tā zuòzhe bú dònɡ.)
He sat still.
弟弟闭口不说话。(Dìdi bìkǒu bù shuōhuà.)
Younger brother closes his mouth and doesn’t talk.
1) The order of elements in sentences with Serial Verb Phrases cannot be changed.
2) There is no conjunction or comma between Verb 1 and Verb 2.
3) In this structure, the verb (specifically Verb 2) can be duplicated.
我去公园逛逛。(Wǒ qù ɡōnɡyuán ɡuànɡɡuanɡ.)
I will go to the park for fun.
我去超市买买东西。(Wǒ qù chāoshì mǎimai dōnɡxi.)
I will go to the supermarket to buy something.
4) For added meaning, we can sometimes add 可 (kě) before Verb 2, using the idiomatic phrase ‘无…可…'(wú… kě)
(Shānɡchǎnɡ lǐ yǒu hěn duō dǎzhé shānɡpǐn kě mǎi，kéyǐ qù kànkɑn.)
There are so many goods on sale to buy, you can go and have a look.
现在我无事可干。(Xiànzài wǒ wú shì kě ɡàn.)
Now I have nothing to do.
We have uncovered six different uses of Serial Verb Phrases. They are summarized in the chart below:
If you want more , you can also watch a video summary of this sentence structure and explore additional HSK-related grammar tutorial videos here.
When you grasp the essence of Serial Verb Phrases, you gain more than just language proficiency—you gain insight into the Chinese way of thinking. As you incorporate these sentences into your own conversations, you’ll soon find yourself weaving words together with newfound elegance. While this is just one of many different sentence structures, it’s a key piece of the language that will help you as you aim to untangle the web of Chinese syntax. For now, keep studying and applying what you’ve learned here today. You’ll be amazed where it can take you.