Lesson Three: What Country Are You From?

The topic of lesson three is nationalities and countries. The dialogue introduces some new pronouns and lists the names of various countries. There are three new grammar points in this lesson including the introduction of plurals.

Conversation: 你是哪国人?

你是哪国人?

nǐ shì nǎ guó rén?

What country are you from?

我是新西兰人。

wǒ shì xīn xī lán rén.

I am from New Zealand.

他们也是新西兰人吗?

tāmen yě shì xīn xī lán rén ma?

Are they also from New Zealand?

不,他是澳大利亚人,她是德国人。

bú, tā shì ào dà lì yà rén, tā shì dé guó rén.

No, he is Australian, she is German.

New Words
 
 
pt. which; what (when expressing appreciation for confirmation, or when giving advice or encouragement)
guón. country, nation, state
rén
n. person, people, humanity; others, other people
menpt. use to make plural forms of personal pronouns or nouns referring to animate entities

adv. also, too; (indicating concession) still
pron. she, her
新西兰xīn xī lánn. New Zealand; 新西兰 人 (xīn xī lánrén) = New Zealander
澳大利亚ào dà lì yàn. Australia; 澳大利亚 人 (ào dà lì yàrén) = Australian
德国dé guón. Germany; 德国 人 (dé guórén) = German

Correct Usage

As a general rule there are two ways of forming the name of foreign countries in Chinese.

1. The word “country” ( guó) is added to a character whose pronunciation is similar to the name of the country concerned.

  • 美国 měiguó: America
  • 英国 yīng guó: England
  • 法国 fǎ guó: France
  • 德国 dé guó: Germany

2. A purely phonetic translation is used. Chinese characters are used to replace the sound of the country’s name.

  • 爱尔兰 ài ěr lán: Ireland
  • 意大利 yì dà lì: Italy
A few examples of country names
 
 
美 国měiguóAmerica
澳大利亚ào dà lì yàAustralia
加拿大jiā ná dàCanada
中国zhōng guó­China
英国yīng guóEngland
法国fǎ guóFrance
德国dé guóGermany
印度yìn dùIndia
爱尔兰ài ěr lánIreland
意大利yì dà lìItaly
日本rì běnJapan
韩国hán guóKorea
新西兰xīn xī lánNew Zealand
巴基斯坦bā jī sī tǎnPakistan
土耳其tǔ ěr qíTurkey
越南yuè nánViet Nam

For even more countries, see Free Chinese Lessons list of countries.

Grammar Points

The Adverb

The adverb must be placed before the verb that it modifies. It cannot be used without the word on which it depends. For example, 他也是新西兰人。 He is also from New Zealand.

Asking questions with

Like other adjectives or interrogative pronouns, is
used where the question’s answer should be. For example:

  • Q: 你是哪国人?
  • A: 我是美国 人。

Using the plural suffix

is a suffix mainly used to form plural personal pronouns. For
example, 我们, 你们, 他们.

Exercises

Complete the following conversations by filling in the blanks.

  • 你是哪国人?
  • 我是 _________ 人。
  • 你是韩国人吗?
  • 我不是 _____________。
  • 他是哪国人?
  • ______国人。

Writing Exercises

Let’s first review two characters you already know. Putting together and and you have the word China.

Chinese Character Zhong

Chinese Character Guo

Here is the first character for England. You already know the second.

Chinese Character Ying

This concludes our third lesson. If things are progressing too quickly for you take the time to go over the previous lessons again. When you’re ready, move onto the next lesson.