3.3 Shopping

This lesson is set in the PRC. In this lesson, you’ll learn to understand questions and answers expressing comparisons used in shopping. Mr. Bower is at the friendship department store in Beijing. Listen as he asks the clerk for help.

Qǐng ni gěi wo kànkan nèige huāpíng.请你给我看看那个花瓶 Please give me that vase to look at.
Něige? Zhèige lánde, háishi zhèige hóngde?哪个?这格兰德,还是这个红的 Which one? This blue one or this red one?

Here’s the word for to look at.

kàn to look at

And here’s the word for a vase.

huāpíng花瓶 vase/flower jar

Chinese verbs are often doubled with a loss of tone on the second repetition. This doubling is called reduplication. Reduplication has the effect of suggesting that the action will be tried out several times. We might to capture this by translating kànkan as to look over or to take a look at.

You’ll recognize the element píng from the phrase a bottle of soda.

Listen and review.

The verb kàn can also mean to read in the sense of read to yourself. In contrast to the verb niàn, which means to read aloud or to study.

Let’s shift the scene for a moment. Listen for the verb kàn in this live exchange and review.

Mr. Bower had asked for a vase. Listen as the clerk replies to his request.

Here is the word for blue.

Lán to be blue

And here is the word for red.

Hóng to be red

Finally, here is the word for or.

háishi还是 or

The word háishi is used to offer a choice. You’ve had one way to make a choice question already simply listing the two possibilities.

Listen to this live example.

When you’re just listing two possibilities to choose from, each possibility must contain a verb. You make an oral question with the word háishi on the other hand, you don’t need a verb.

Listen to the clerk’s reply.

The conversation continues.

Nèi liǎngge dōu gěi wo kànkan, hǎo ma?那两个都给我看看 Give me both of them to look at. All right?
Hǎo. Certainly.

The question hǎo ma? is that alright? is tacked on to the end of an inherited to turn it into a suggestion.

As you listen to the exchange, notice that the object of the verb in the suggestion Nèi liǎngge those two doesn’t follow the verb as you would expect but has been moved to the front of the sentence.

It’s quite common in Chinese for the object of the verb to be moved to the front of the sentence of the topic. We sometimes do this in English e.g. Fish I don’t like. You’ve already had one example of this in the sentence American books we don’t sell. This movement of the object to the topic position is required when the adverb dōu applies to the object since the adverb dōu must come before the verb.

Listen again and review.

Listen as Mr. Bower finds out how much the vases cost.

Notice that in giving a price per unit, the number of plus counter combination yí gè is stressed, so that is pronounced with its full tone.

Listen and review.

Listen as Mr. Bower responds to these prices.

Lánde tài guì le.蓝的太贵了 The blue one is too expensive.

Here’s how you say to expensive.

tài guì le太贵了 too/excessive

And here’s how you say just the word expensive by itself.

guì expensive

Notice that the exclamation tài guì le that’s too expensive uses the ‘new situation’ marker le. This le is often used to reinforce the message that something is excessive. We might translate this sentence as that’s getting to be too expensive.

Listen and review.

Mr. Bower continues talking to himself about the prices.

Wǒ mǎi hóngde ba. Hóngde piányi.我买红的吧。红的便宜 I’ll buy the red one, I guess. The red one is cheaper.
En, hóngde piányi.嗯,红的便宜 Mm, the red one is cheaper.

Here’s the English for cheap.

piányi便宜 cheap

Notice that use of the marker ba to soften the statement I’ll buy the red one to I’ll buy the red one I guess.

Also notice that in English we say the red one is cheaper with the ending -er added to indicate comparison. In Chinese, you say simply hóngde piányi with nothing added to the basic form piányi cheap.

Listen and review.

When an adverb is added to a title verb, the title verb losses its comparative meaning and is interpreted as a straight description. The negative adverb works the same way. When no other adverb is appropriate, a statement with a title verb might be made non comparative by the addition of an unstressed hěn very.

In the following exchange, Mr. Bower is admiring a friend’s vases and the friend is replying modestly.

Since unstressed hěn is used simply to make the title verb non-comparative, it doesn’t have the emphatic sense of the English word very.

Listen and review.

Let’s change the scene for a moment. Here’s another example of basic comparative meaning of title verbs.

Zhèi liǎngge xuésheng, něige hǎo?这两个学生,哪个好 Which of these two students is better?
Sìmǎ Xīn hǎo.司马心好 Sima Xin Is better.

Notice that in the first sentence, the things being compared are put upfront in topic position.

Listen and review.

Let’s go back to Mr. Bower. You’ll remember that he decided on a red vase. Listen to Mr. Bower continues the conversation.

Nǐ yǒu dà yìdiǎnr de ma?你有大一点儿的吗 Do you have one a little larger?
Shì. Nín kàn zhèige zěnme yàng?是。您看这歌怎么样 Yes We do. What do you think of this one?

Here’s how you say the word how in Chinese.

zěnme yang怎么样 how

Since the verb kàn means to look at, we could translate the phrase nǐ kàn as in your view. Usually however, a translation with the word hinkt is more idiomatic. The interrogative for title verbs is zěnme yàng? which we may translate to be how? It is used like the English word how plus the verb to be in the sentence How would such and such be.

Listen and review.

The conversation continues.

Zhèige dàde zhèn hǎokàn.这个大的真好看 This large one is really nice looking.

Here’s how you say really.

zhēn really

And here the word for attractice/nice looking.

hǎokan好看 nice looking

The word hǎokàn is made up of the word hǎo good and kàn to look at. Logically enough, they add up to to be good to look at.

Listen and review.

Listen as Mr. Bower completes his purchase.

Hǎo, wǒ mǎi dàde ba.好,我买大的吧 Okay, I’ll buy the large one, I guess.
Nín yào jǐge?您要几个 How many do you want?
Qǐng gěi wo liǎngge ba.请给我两个吧 How about giving me two, please.

Here’s the word for to want.

yào to want

In the first sentence of this exchange, the marker ba softens the statement making it less certain. In the last sentence, it softens a direct request turning it into a polite suggestion. We have tried to reflect this softening in the English by translating it as a polite question Would you give me two please?

Listen and review.

Pronunciation Practice