Chinese Subordinate Clauses: A Comprehensive Guide to Complex Sentence Structures

Learning a new language is an unpredictable journey. But you’ll be one step closer to fluency if you understand the subtleties of sentence patterns. Today, we’ll look at Chinese subordinate clauses, which form the basis of the language’s intricate sentence patterns.

Introduction to Chinese Subordinate Clauses

A dependent clause, sometimes referred to as a subordinate clause in language studies, is a clause that adds details to the main clause. Examples in English include “The cat scratched at the door while I was eating.” The subordinate phrase is “While I was eating,” the main clause is “The cat clawed at the door.”

Subordinate clauses perform a similar function in Mandarin. These include details like the date, location, motive, circumstance, mode, and concession. They frequently start with a relative pronoun or a subordinating conjunction, and they cannot function as entire sentences independently.

Time Subordinate Clauses

Time subordinate clauses indicate when the action in the main clause took place. Commonly used conjunctions for time clauses are 当 (dāng, when), 在…的时候 (zài…de shíhòu, while/during), 以后 (yǐhòu, after), and 之前 (zhīqián, before).

For example:

当我在吃饭的时候,猫在门上抓。(Dāng wǒ zài chīfàn de shíhòu, māo zài mén shàng zhuā.) – “While I was eating, the cat scratched at the door.”

在我来之前,他就做完功课了。(Zài wǒ lái zhīqián, tā jiù zuò wán gōngkèle.) – “He had done his homework before I came.”

Place Subordinate Clauses

Place subordinate clauses describe the location where the action in the main clause happens. They usually start with 在 (zài, at) or 到…的地方 (dào…de dìfang, to…place).

For example:

在我家里,你可以看到一幅美丽的画。(Zài wǒ jiā lǐ, nǐ kěyǐ kàn dào yī fú měilì de huà.) – “In my house, you can see a beautiful painting.”

在商店里。你可以借到雨伞。(Zài shāngdiàn lǐ. Nǐ kěyǐ jiè dào yǔsǎn.) – “In the store. You can borrow umbrellas.’

Reason Subordinate Clauses

Reason subordinate clauses are used to explain the cause or reason behind the main clause. They often start with 因为 (yīnwèi, because) or 由于 (yóuyú, due to).

For example:

因为他迟到了,所以我们错过了电影。(Yīnwèi tā chídào le, suǒyǐ wǒmen cuòguò le diànyǐng.) – “Because he was late, we missed the movie.”

由于他生病了,所以没来上课。(Yóuyú tā shēngbìngle, suǒyǐ méi lái shàngkè.) – “Because he was sick, he didn’t come to class.”

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Condition Subordinate Clauses

Condition subordinate clauses set a condition that must be met for the main clause to happen. These often begin with 如果 (rúguǒ, if) or 只要 (zhǐyào, as long as).

For example:

如果你帮我,我会很感激。(Rúguǒ nǐ bāng wǒ, wǒ huì hěn gǎnjī.) “If you help me, I will be very grateful.”

如果我能去中国学习中文,那我的中文一定进步很快。(Rúguǒ wǒ néng qù zhōngguó xuéxí zhōngwén, nà wǒ de zhōngwén yīdìng jìnbù hěn kuài.) – “If I can go to China to learn Chinese, then my Chinese must improve very quickly.”

Manner Subordinate Clauses

Manner subordinate clauses describe how the action in the main clause is performed. They usually start with 如何 (rúhé, how) or 通过…方式 (tōngguò…fāngshì, by…way).

For example:

通过学习,你可以理解复杂的句子。(Tōngguò xuéxí, nǐ kěyǐ lǐjiě fùzá de jùzi.) – “By studying, you can understand complex sentences.”

经过黎老师的悉心教导,我的中文进步很快。(Jīngguò lí lǎoshī de xīxīn jiàodǎo, wǒ de zhōngwén jìnbù hěn kuài.) – “After Mr. Li’s careful teaching, my Chinese has improved rapidly.”

Concession Subordinate Clauses

Concession subordinate clauses present information that contrasts with the main clause. These often begin with 虽然 (suīrán, although) or 尽管 (jǐnguǎn, despite).

For example:

虽然我累了,但我还是会完成我的工作。(Suīrán wǒ lèi le, dàn wǒ háishì huì wánchéng wǒ de gōngzuò.) – “Although I’m tired, I will still complete my work.”

虽然今天天气不好,但他还是去游泳。(Suīrán jīntiān tiānqì bù hǎo, dàn tā háishì qù yóuyǒng.) – “Although the weather is bad today, he still goes swimming.”


Chinese complicated sentences must have subordinate clauses. You can converse in Mandarin more effectively and efficiently if you can learn them. 


1. Can I use multiple subordinate clauses in one sentence in Chinese?

A sentence can contain several subordinate clauses, yes. To avoid writing unnecessarily convoluted phrases that could be challenging to understand, utilize them judiciously.

2. How can I practice using subordinate clauses in Chinese?

Including subordinate clauses in your regular language practice is the most excellent method to practice with them in Chinese. Write conversations or short stories with each type of clause, or translate subordinate clause-heavy lines from your original tongue into Chinese.

3. How important are subordinate clauses in Chinese language proficiency?

Higher levels of competency in Chinese need subordinate clauses because they enable more intricate sentence patterns and sophisticated thought and idea expression. They play a crucial role in both spoken and written Chinese.

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