What Are the Primary Distinctions Between English and Chinese?

There are significant differences between Chinese and English. You must first understand the key differences between English and Chinese to improve your Chinese and make fewer mistakes.

Chinese Written Words in Their Outward Form

Words in English are written with the alphabet because the language is phonetic, allowing the speaker to sound out the word. On the other hand, the Chinese use characters that cannot be heard. Pinyin, fortunately, provides a phonetic representation of Chinese characters, which is helpful.

Pinyin employs romanized letters, but the pronunciation of each letter is unique to Pinyin. While this is a significant disadvantage, there is another factor to consider. In some ways, Chinese characters are similar to pictures. Radicals are substantial constituents. You can figure out what they’re saying even if you don’t understand the character.

Knowing that 木 mù signifies wood makes understanding that 森 sēn denotes a large number of trees or woodlands simple.

Tone Distinction

You’ve probably noticed that some letters have lines above them when you’ve seen Pinyin. The tones are exactly as stated. There are four basic tones in Chinese.

Tones are a concept that most English speakers are unfamiliar with. We must pay attention to them when speaking and listening!

The meanings that correspond to various ways of pronouncing the exact syllable change dramatically. The tones in Chinese denote meaning rather than emotion, as it does in English. Here are some examples of tone and definition.

cup杯子 bēizi

quilt被子 bèizi

Do you have the time? 你有时间吗?Nǐ yǒu shíjiān ma?

Do you have practice? 你有实践吗?Nǐ yǒu shíjiàn ma?

The Difference Between Passive and Active Voice

The passive voice is an everyday speech style in English. Unlike English, Chinese frequently uses an active voice.

There are more precise ways and words to talk about the passive tense in Chinese. 

不可否认我的中文不够好。Bùkě fǒurèn wǒ de zhōngwén búgòu hǎo.

It is undeniable that my Chinese is not good enough.

中国菜受到了世界各地人们的喜爱。Zhōngguó cài shòudàole shìjiè gèdì rénmen de xǐ’ài.

Chinese food is loved by people all over the world.

Difference Between Idioms

Chinese people frequently use idioms and four-character phrases to make their language more colorful, lively, and straightforward.

对答如流 duìdárúliú

be able to answer the questions fluently without hesitation

了如指掌 liǎorúzhǐzhǎng

know like the back of one’s hand

流连忘返 liúliánwàngfǎn

enjoy oneself so much that one forgets to go home

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Difference Between Abstract and Concrete

Concrete nouns are commonly used in Chinese, whereas abstract words are frequently used in English.

Many abstract words in Chinese are illustrated with concrete examples from nature.

preach to deaf ears 对牛弹琴 duìniútánqín

literal translation: play the piano to the cow

change rapidly and continuously 日新月异 rìxīnyuèyì

literal translation: updated daily with monthly changes

add the crowning touch 画龙点睛 huàlóngdiǎnjīng

literal translation: drawing a dragon ends up scratching the eye

Differentiation in Emphasis

In Chinese, the last element of the sentence is more important than in English.

Sentences that use logic to reach conclusions or describe findings are more likely to exhibit this characteristic. In English, the facts are provided at the end of the sentence, and the conclusion is described first. In Chinese, the opposite is true. As an example:

Tā měinián dōu jìdé wǒ de shēngrì, zhè ràng wǒ fēicháng gǎndòng.


He remembers my birthday every year, which touches me.

Hái zǐ jiànkāng kuàilè chéngzhǎng, jiùshì fùmǔ zuìdà de xìngfú.


The healthy and happy growth of children is the greatest happiness for parents.


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