Chinese Grammar: Understanding 这 , 那, 哪 and their friends
Feeling a little lost on what each word means? All good, we got you.
It's actually very easy to get them straight! We'll start with the basics: 这, 那 and 哪. Then, we'll look at what happens to them when paired with 个 or 儿and 里. You'll see, they all relate to each other in a way that makes a lot of sense!
这 and 那 are both demonstrative pronouns. They form a pair like "this" and "that" do in English. Use 这 for objects or persons close to you, like you would use "this" in English and 那 for objects or persons further away. Exactly like you would use "that" in English. 哪 is a question word.
Do you think that 哪 looks a lot like 那?
Look at both characters carefully. See the presence of the mouth component 口 on the left of 哪 (i.e., the box shape)? That's the only visual difference between the two, and that's how you tell them apart! A question needs to be spoken out loud to be asked, wouldn't you say? So it's only natural that the mouth is involved in the question word "which"!
Interested in learning more about components? A whole world awaits: The Rad Way to learn Chinese characters!
Why do they exist? Because you need to be able to specify which "something" or "someone" you're talking about with 这 and the others. And well, you can't say straight up 这 + an object. Same with the others, you can't.
这, 那 and 哪 all need a measure word. This measure word can be 个, but it also can be a different measure word. This allows you to specify which object or person you're referring to. That's just a hard rule you need to keep in mind.
To learn more about measure words, head here
Why are there two options each time?
In the North of China, you'll hear 这儿 / 那儿 / 哪儿. That's the official way to say it. In the South of China, they prefer using 里 instead. Some say it sounds softer. So they say 这里 / 那里 / 哪里. The meaning stays the same. So pick your favorite between the sound 儿 and 里 and make sure to use it consistently!
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