Basic Explanation of Chinese Mandarin Pronouns & Comparison to English Equivalents

Pronouns in Mandarin Chinese:

Pronouns in modern Mandarin Chinese are known as “dàicí”. There are fewer pronouns in Chinese compared to English. Chinese pronouns are grouped in three basic sets – “I and Me”; “You”;and "He, She, Him, Her, It".

A subject-verb requirement is not necessary in Chinese. Mandarin pronouns remain the same whether they are the subject or the object. This is different from the English language, where pronouns do change. For example, "I" changes to "me", "he" changes to "him" and "she" changes to "her".

In Mandarin Chinese, "Wo" represents the first person pronoun and it remains "Wo" for both "I" and "Me".

"Ni" is used for the informal "You" and "Nin" is used for the formal "You". "Ni" is used to address a contemporary, equal or someone younger. "Nin" is used to address someone older or an authority figure. "Ni" and "Nin" remain the same whether "You" is singular, plural, masculine or feminine.

The pronouns "He", She", "Him", "Her", and "It" are represented by the word "Ta". For all these, "Ta" is pronounced in exactly the same way. The difference was formerly discerned only by the context of the sentence. Now, since the influence of Western grammar, particularly the Western gender separated pronouns, seeped into Chinese, the different forms of "Ta" are represented by different written characters.

Chinese Mandarin Plural Pronouns:

Chinese plural pronouns are simpler than the English ones too. To signify a plural pronoun, "Men" is added after the pronoun and that’s it.

So if you want to write or say "Us" and "We", you write or say "Wo men".

For "You and I", you write or say "Za men".

To indicate the plural of "You", you write or say "Ni men" or "Nin men".

"They and "Them" are written as "ta men"

Possessive Pronouns:

In Chinese Mandarin, possessive pronouns are indicated by adding "de" to the end of the pronoun.

So "My or "Mine" would be written and spoken as "Wo de". For example, "My younger sister" is written and spoken as "Wo de mei mei". However, in daily, colloquial speech, the "de" is often dropped. "So "My mother" may often become "Wo Ma" and my grandmother "Wo Nai Nai" instead of the more correct "Wo de Ma" and "Wo de Nai Nai". The term "Ben ren" is used to say "one self".

"Your" is written and spoken as "Ni de" or "Nin de". The term "Ling" may be used instead of "Nin de". "Gui" is also used for"You" and "Your", but usually in the formal, written language.

"His" and "Her" may be indicated by "Qi". This is used more in the written Chinese language than in the spoken one.