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20 Common Mistakes You’re Making While Learning Chinese – 02


Learning a new language is an exhilarating yet challenging journey, and mastering Chinese is no different. Whether you're a beginner or an intermediate learner, you've likely encountered some common Chinese mistakes along your way. But don't worry; that's how we learn! This post aims to shed light on 20 Chinese language errors often seen made by Chinese learners. These aren't just any mistakes; they are common pitfalls based on real-life examples observed in the Lesson Practice Tasks on our website. By recognizing these Chinese learning pitfalls, you're already taking the first step towards avoiding mistakes in Chinese and avoiding Chinese language errors.

The Importance of Learning From Mistakes

Before we dive into our list of common Chinese mistakes, it's crucial to understand that these errors are an integral part of the learning process. They serve as a roadmap, highlighting your weak points and offering you the chance for improvement. As our teacher Lili often says, "It's natural for students to make Chinese language errors! Don't worry too much about it; with consistent practice, you'll find yourself avoiding mistakes in Chinese more effectively."

And that's exactly what we aim to help you with! Our in-depth exploration of these Chinese learning pitfalls will arm you with the knowledge you need to steer clear of these common traps making avoiding mistakes in Chinese much easier! So without further ado, let's dive in and start fixing these mistakes.

For each mistake, we'll follow this format:

  1. Context: A brief explanation of the context in which the mistake is made.
  2. Common Mistake: The incorrect expression or sentence.
  3. Correct Way: The correct expression or sentence.
  4. Why It's Wrong: A short explanation of why the mistake occurs and how to avoid it.

List of Common Mistakes

1. To ask someone's name in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Nǐ xìng shénme?
你 姓 什 么?
What is your last name?

Nǐ jiào shénme?
你 叫 什 么?
What are you called?

Correct Way:

Nǐ xìng shénme?
What is your last name?

Nǐ jiào shénme?
What are you called?

Why It's Wrong: Extra spaces between characters disrupt the flow and can be confusing. In Chinese, characters in a sentence are generally not separated by spaces.

2. To say "I am 20 years old." in Chinese

Common Mistake:

Wǒ shì ’èr shí suì.
*I am 20 years old.

Correct Way:

Wǒ ’èr shí suì.
I (am) 20 years old.

Why It's Wrong: The character '是' is not necessary when stating your age. Simply saying '我二十岁' is sufficient and grammatically correct.

3. The word "些" is used inappropriately in this sentence.

Common Mistake:

Wǒ méi yǒu xiē kāfēi.
*I (do) not have some coffee.

Correct Way:

Wǒ méi yǒu kāfēi.
I (do) not have coffee.

Why It's Wrong: The word '些' is often used incorrectly. It is generally used to indicate a small quantity of something, and should not be used when the amount is zero.

4. To say "I like cats more." in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Māo hé gǒu, wǒ zuì xǐhuan māo.
Cat(s) and dog(s), I like cat(s) the most.

Correct Way:

Māo hé gǒu, wǒ gèng xǐhuan māo.
Cat(s) and dog(s), I like cat(s) more.

Why It's Wrong: The word '最' indicates the 'most' or 'the highest degree,' which may not be appropriate in all comparative sentences. Use '更' to say "more(than)".

5. To say "I wear eye glasses every day." in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Wǒ měi tiān dài yǎnjing.
I wear *eyes every day.

Correct Way:

Wǒ měi tiān dài yǎnjìng.
I wear eye glasses every day.

Why It's Wrong: The term '眼睛' refers to 'eyes,' while '眼镜' refers to 'eyeglasses.' Be careful when typing to avoid confusion.

6. To say "They're my friends" in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Tāmen shì wǒ de péngyou men.
*They are my friends.

Correct Way:

Tāmen shì wǒ de péngyou.
They are my friends.

Why It's Wrong: the extra "们" at the end is unnecessary. In Chinese, the plural form is usually implied through context and doesn't require an extra plural suffix when it's already clear.

7. To say "She is my mom's friend." in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Tā shì wǒ de māma péngyou.
She is my mom friend.

Correct Way:

Tā shì wǒ māma de péngyou.
She is my mom’s friend.

Why It's Wrong: The word "的" is missing between "妈妈" and "朋友." In Chinese, "的" is often used to indicate possession or relation.

8. To say "He is not my teacher." in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Tā shì bù wǒ de lǎoshī.
*He is not my teacher.

Correct Way:

Tā bú shì wǒ de lǎoshī.
He is not my teacher.

Why It's Wrong: The word "不" should directly precede the verb "是" to make it negative.

9. To say "Their house is too expensive!"

Common Mistake:

Tāmen de jiā tài guì le!
Their home (is) too expensive!

Correct Way:

Tāmen de fángzi tài guì le!
Their house (is) too expensive!

Why It's Wrong: "家" generally means "home" or "family," while "房子" specifically refers to a house. The term "房子" is more accurate in this context.

10. To say "Is that right?" in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Zhè shì nǐ de bàngōngshì, shì duì bu duì?
*This is your office, is (that) right (or) not right?

Correct Way:

Zhè shì nǐ de bàngōngshì, duì bu duì?
This is your office, is (that) right (or) not right?

Why It's Wrong: The extra "是" is incorrect, it should just be "对不对。

11. To ask time in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Xiànzài jǐ diǎn jīfēn?
What o’clock (and) *reward-points now?

Correct Way:

Xiànzài jǐ diǎn jǐ fēn?
What o’clock (and) what minute (is it) now?

Why It's Wrong: This is a common typo "积分" is incorrect; it should be typed as "几分" in this sentence.

12. To say "Today is Tuesday, not Wednesday." in Chinese

Common Mistake:

Jīntiān shixīngqī ’èr, bù xīngqī sān.
*Today (is) Tuesday, not Wednesday.

Correct Way:

Jīntiān xīngqī ’èr, bú shì xīngqī sān.
Today is Tuesday, not Wednesday.

Why It's Wrong: The word "是" is missing in "不星期三." To make a negative statement, you should say "不是."

13. To say "Do you know how to speak Spanish?" in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Nǐ huì shuō Xībānyá ma?
(Do) you know-how-to speak Spain?

Correct Way:

Nǐ huì shuō Xībānyáyǔ ma?
(Do) you know-how-to speak Spanish?

Why It's Wrong: 西班牙" means Spain, but when talking about the language, it should be "西班牙语."

14. To say "What do you think?" or "How do you think?" in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Nǐ juéde shénme?
*What (do) you think?

Correct Way:

Nǐ juéde zěnmeyàng?
What/How (do) you think?

Why It's Wrong: The phrase "你觉得什么" is not a phrase Chinese people say. In Chinese you would say "你觉得怎么样?"

15. To say "My house is not only big, but also pretty." in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Búdàn wǒ de fángzi hěn dà, érqiě hěn piàoliang.
Not only (is) my house very big, but also (it is) very pretty.

Correct Way:

Wǒ de fángzi búdàn hěn dà, érqiě hěn piàoliang.
My house (is) not only very big, but also (it is) very pretty.

Why It's Wrong: The placing of 不但……而且in this sentence is incorrect.

16. To say "He has two big sisters." in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Tā yǒu ’èr jiějie.
*He has two big-sisters.

Correct Way:

Tā yǒu liǎng ge jiějie.
He has two “ge” (of) big-sisters.

Why It's Wrong: The word "二" is used for numbers in a series or order but not for quantity. For quantities, "两" should be used.

17. To introduce someone in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Zhè wèi shì wǒ de Wáng Lǎoshī.
*This “wei” (of person) is my Teacher Wang.

Correct Way:

Zhè wèi shì wǒ de lǎoshī.
This “wei” (of person) is my teacher.

Zhè wèi shì Wáng Lǎoshī.
This “wei” (of person) is Teacher Wang.

Zhè wèi shì wǒ de lǎoshī, Wáng Lǎoshī
This “wei” (of person) is my Teacher, Teacher Wang.

Why It's Wrong: In Chinese you should not use "我的" before last name "王",only before "老师."

18. To say "I like eating Chinese food." in Chinese.

Common Mistake:

Wǒ xǐhuan chī Zhōngguó fàn.
*I like eating Chinese meal.

Correct Way:

Wǒ xǐhuan chī Zhōngcān.
I like eating Chinese food.

Wǒ xǐhuan chī Zhōngguó cài.
I like eating Chinese dishes.

Why It's Wrong: "中国饭" is not the correct term for Chinese food.

19. To say "I didn't speak English in Chinese class."

Common Mistake:

Wǒ méi shuō Yīngyǔ zài Hànyǔ kè.
*I (did) not speak English in Chinese class.

Correct Way:

Wǒ méi zài Hànyǔ kè shang shuō Yīngyǔ.
I (did) not speak English in Chinese class.

Why It's Wrong: The correct sentence structure is "我没在汉语课上说英语," where "在" and "上" properly set the context for where the action did not happen.

20. To say "Writing Chinese characters is 'uninteresting."

Common Mistake:

Xiě Hànzì bù yǒu yìsi.
*Writing Chinese (is) not interesting.

Correct Way:

Xiě Hànzì méi yǒu yìsi.
Writing Chinese (is) uninteresting.

Why It's Wrong: The phrase "不有意思" is grammatically incorrect. The correct phrase is "没有意思," which means "uninteresting" or "boring."


By knowing and understanding these common Chinese mistakes, you can get much better at speaking Chinese. Remember, the best way to be good at Chinese, or any language, is to practice a lot and learn from your mistakes. This is key to avoiding mistakes in Chinese.

Don't feel bad if you make Chinese language errors. These are normal when learning and can help you get better. We call these learning moments Chinese learning pitfalls. They are like small obstacles on your way to speaking good Chinese. So, keep practicing and learning from your errors. Soon, you will be much better at avoiding these common Chinese mistakes.

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