This article is for intermediate Chinese learners, and will teach them how to make long and logical sentences by organizing clauses into eight kinds of relationships.

Through my experience on learning six different languages, I believe that sentence-making is a wonderful way to further gain progress in your language learning after mastering the language’s phonetic system and having accrued a solid foundation of vocabulary.



How wonderful is sentence-making?


The practice of writing sentences is a creative way to apply words that you have learned -- and you should be doing this as many times as possible. While repetition helps with building up vocabulary and improving your memory, writing sentences is a unique experience with vastly differing examples from each individual. Since everyone of us has different life experiences, so in turn, we will naturally practice writing sentences on different topic matters and such. Therefore, after you have mastered these words in your sentence-making, you have a greater chance of using the sentences you have created in your daily life.


Sentence-making is an effective way to get familiar with the different structures of sentence. It is more recommended to practice writing a variety of sentences rather than piling the same simple sentences together. Your words will begin to sound nicer on account of how you express them. Remember! We are not robots, we are language musician.

For sentence-making in Chinese, we write strokes together to make words and put words together to form sentences. Since I assume you already know this, now we are going to make longer and more complicated sentences to better express our thoughts and feelings.





I will briefly introduce some basic knowledge before tackle the “8 strategies” for compound sentences.


Like English, the order of writing Chinese sentences is also composed of:


Subject + Verb + Object” (The Basic model: SVO)


But easier compared to English, Chinese won’t place question words in front when asking a question. For example:


  • 你在哪里?(Literal translation: “You are where?”)
  • Where are you?


  • 你喜欢我吗?(Literal translation: “You like me?”)
    Do you like me?


* is a particle with no meaning only used in question mood.

It is crucial to understand and learn to break down long (seemingly complicated) sentences and recognize the basic model in sentences.


(Attribute) Subject + (Adverbial) Verb/Adjective (Complement) + (Attribute) Object” (The Complex Model)


Depending on the two models above, you can try to find the SVO (basic model) by yourself and I believe this can enhance your comprehension of the language.



8 clause relationships for compound Chinese sentences


When speaking Chinese, we don’t really say long or simple sentences which may obscure meaning, and because people cannot clearly catch SVO in conversation. So how do we make a longer sentence understandable? Today I will introduce conjunctive words that connect clauses to make logical sentences.



Coordinate relationship


Clauses lie parallel to each other. There is no emphasis or collision on any clause. Some conjunctive words that you can use:




For example:

  • 这个女孩既漂亮又聪明。
  • The girl is both beautiful and smart.



  • Subject is always written before “”.
  • You can use “既…又…” to connect adjectives in one clause. Or you can also use “既…又…” to connect two clauses.





For example:

  • 朱小姐喜欢一边看电视,一边吃零食。
  • Miss Zhu likes watching TV while eating snacks.





For example:

  • 我不是害怕面对,而是害怕失去。
  • I am not afraid of confrontation, I’m more afraid of loss.




  • This principle applies to most compound sentences with conjunctive word.
  • If the subject of two clauses is the same, omit the subject of the second clause. Put the subject before the first conjunctive word “不是”.
  • If the subjects of two clauses are different, write the subjects separately before “不是” and “而是”.



Successive relationship


This type of sentence describes an action or fact happened in sequential order. This emphasises on a logical sequence between clauses.




  • 如何把大象放进冰箱?首先要打开冰箱门,其次把大象塞进去,最后关上冰箱门。
  • How to put an elephant into a fridge? First, open the door. Next, place the elephant inside. Last, close the door.






  • 我一回到家就打开了电脑。
  • I open the computer as soon as I arrive home.


These words are also used frequently below:

  • (first)
  • (again)
  • (as well as)
  • 便(then)
  • 于是(whereupon)
  • 接着(then)
  • 然后(afterwards)



Progressive relationship


In this sentence, the second clause is emphasized more than the first clause. When you find that conjunctive words show a progressive relationship between clauses, pay closer attention to the second clause. It always contains the answer.




For example:


  • 舞台上的演员们不但会唱歌,而且会跳舞。
  • Those actors on stage not only can sing, but also can dance.
  • 这次比赛不但专业运动员可以参加,而且业余运动员也可以参加。
  • For this competition, not can only professional athletes join, but also amateur players as well.



  • As previously mentioned, if the subject is the same, write the subject in front of the sentence.
  • If there are two different subjects, write the subjects behind each conjunctive words.






  • 他能读出这篇文章,并且能全部理解。
  • He can not only read out the entire passage, but also can understand it all.





For example:

  • 前进不仅在于速度,还在于保持正确的方向。
  • Going forward not only requires speed, but also require accurate direction.





For example:


  • 她说她买了一套别墅,不光我不信,同事们也不信。
  • She said she bought a villa. Not only do I not believe her, her colleagues don’t believe her as well.



Selective relationship


These clauses show different conditions or choices that require the listener to choose.




For example:

  • 明天是周末了,我或者在家看书,或者和朋友出去逛街。
  • Tomorrow is the weekend. I will stay at home to read or go shopping with friends.





For example:

  • 在困难面前,你是选择坚持,还是放弃。
  • When facing difficulty, do you choose to persistence or surrender.





For example:

  • 与其选择浪费时间,不如做些有意义的事情。
  • Do something meaningful rather than choosing to waste time.





For example:

  • 她宁饿着,也不想吃她最不爱吃的菜。
  • She would rather remain hungry then eat her most hated dish.



  • In Chinese culture, we prefer to put the emphasis later (in the second or last part of the sentence).



Cause-and-effect relationship


One clause is “cause” and the other clause is the "effect" that resulted from the cause.





  • 小明因为没有认真学习,所以没有考上大学。
  • Because Xiaoming didn’t study hard, he cannot pass the university entrance exam.



“之所以......,是因为……。” (Reverse version of “因为…所以…”)



  • 小红之所以有今天的成就,是因为她曾经很努力。
  • The reason why Xiao Hong garnered great achievement today, is because she worked hard in the past.






  • 既然你决定这么做,就要对自己充满信心。
  • Since you decided to do this, you should be confident in yourself.



Conditional relationship


The first clause offers “condition”, while the second clause assumes the possible result.



For instance:

  • 只要明天不下雨,我们就可以去远足了。
  • As long as it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we can go hiking.





For instance:

  • 只有你知道这门语言的重要性,你才会全身心地投入学习中。
  • Only when you know how important this language is, will you devote yourself into studying it.





For instance:

  • 无论我的生活多么艰难,我都不会放弃。
  • No matter how hard my life gets, I will never give up.



Hypothetical relationship


The first clause offers “hypothesis” and the second clause assumes the possible result.




For example:

  • 如果没有你的帮助,我就不能完成这项任务。
  • Without your help, I could not have accomplished this task.




For example:

  • 即使你成功了,也不能骄傲。
  • Even if you succeed, you should not gloat.





For example:

  • 你要是做作业有困难,你就要告诉老师。
  • If you have difficulties in doing your homework, you should tell your teacher.



Transitional relationship


The meaning of the second clause “conflicts” the meaning of the first clause.




  • 虽然今天雨很大,但是全班没有人上学迟到。
  • Although it is raining heavily today, no one in this class was late for school.






  • 夏天的时候,路上的行人尽管拿着扇子,还是不停地流着汗。
  • During summer, although pedestrians carry fans with them, they are still sweating a lot.



Conclusion (Learning Tips)


The best way to mastering the above relationships is using only one conjunctive word and practice making lots of sentences until you are comfortable with that word, then move onto the next.


You can also ask Chinese native speakers to help you check the accuracy of your practiced sentences. After you are familiar with more and more conjunctive words, you can compare them between sentences. Once you feel more comfortable with your conjunctive word proficiency...


You can write two or more kinds of relationships together to make the sentence more complicated.


For example:


  • 尽管任务艰难,只要我们有毅力和勇气,我们就能战胜困难。
  • Although the task is very tough, as long as we have persistence and courage, we can conquer this difficulty.


The sentence above combines “尽管…….还…….” (from transitional relationship) with “只要……就……” (from conditional relationship).


I know I have given you plenty of examples to absorb. Let me know which examples were the best takeaways for you! Looking forward to hearing your comments below! Until next time, happy learning!


Hero image by Poodar Chu (CC0 1.0