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Getting started with Chinese 2
Getting started with Chinese 2

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9 Word formation

Words in Chinese are formed by one or more characters. In this section you will look at combining characters to form new words.

Box 1 Word formation

shàng (to go to) + wǎng (net) = shàngwǎng 上 网 (surf the internet)

xué (to learn, school) + shēng (new) = xuéshēng 学生 (pupil, student)

wăn (late) + shang (up, above) = wănshang 晚上 (evening)

zhuān (specialised) + (course, industry) = zhuānyè 专业 (subject, major, special field)

yīng (hero, Britain) + wén (language, culture) = yīngwén 英文 (English language)

hàn (Han Chinese) + (character) = hànzì 汉字 (Chinese character)

diàn (electricity, electric) + shì (viewing, vision, sight) = 电视 diànshì (television).

Note that it literally means ‘electric viewing’!


in 名字 míngzi (name) is the same as in 汉字 hànzì (Chinese character) except that here it is pronounced with the 4th tone.

Activity 10

Match up the Chinese words with their English equivalents. All the characters have been introduced, but they are in combination with different characters to form new meanings.

Drag each answer (above) into the correct slot (below)

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. hànzì 汉字

  2. zhōngwén míngzì 中文名字

  3. kàn diànshì 看电视

  4. wănshang jiàn 晚上见

  5. dà xuéshēng 大学生

  6. shī shēng 师生

  7. hǎokàn 好看

  • TV

  • b.Chinese character

  • c.teacher(s) and student(s)

  • d.Chinese name

  • student

  • f.see you in the evening

  • g.good-looking

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = b
  • 2 = d
  • 3 = a
  • 4 = f
  • 5 = e
  • 6 = c
  • 7 = g