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6 MOST Common Chinese Grammar Mistakes Made by English Learners

In my years of teaching Chinese,

I have noticed that my students

(no matter what language proficiency level they are at)

tend to make the same Chinese grammatical mistakes over and over again.

And the reason why they've been making the same mistakes is because

they can't stop translating sentences from English to Chinese.
They cannot jump out of the English language box.

I know you do the same.

And I know you have noticed this tendency.

I also know it could be very frustrating because you are trying very hard not to do it.

Today my goal is to point out the common mistakes English speakers make,

and hopefully you can jump out of your English language box

through A TON of input (listening and reading).

The solution, again,


that's really the only way to shift your brain into Chinese mode.

Mistake NO.1

可以kě yǐ vs 可能 kě néng

If you tend to mix 可以kě yǐ and 可能 kě néng , it is because English speakers use both “can be" and "could be” to express possibility.

However, 可以kě yǐ only means can, be able to, or have the permission to do something while 可能 kě néng only means maybe, may, could be.

Watch how Chinese celebrities use 可以kě yǐ vs 可能 kě néng in the correct ways

(They speak in a standard Chinese speed,

so be ready to pause and repeat

The earlier you expose yourself in authentic materials,

the faster you will understand native speakers.

So don't give up,

keep listening.)

Sample sentences:



mā ma, wǒ kě yǐ chī bīng qī lín ma?

bù kě yǐ! rú guǒ nǐ jīn tiān qù yùn dòng, míng tiān wǒ kě néng ràng nǐ chī bīng qī lín.

Mom, can I eat ice cream?

No! If you work out today, maybe I will let you eat ice cream tomorrow.

Oops. Typical asian tiger mom.

Mistake NO.2

一点yì diǎn vs 有一点 yǒu yì diǎn

一点yì diǎn,aka 一点儿,一点点。These are the same, except that northerners like to use 儿.

有一点 yǒu yì diǎn, aka有点,有点儿。Same here.

Although 一点yì diǎn and 有一点 yǒu yì diǎn both mean a little bit, Chinese speakers usually use 一点yì diǎn in front of a noun, and use 有一点 yǒu yì diǎn in front of an adj.

For example,




wǒ jīn tiān hē le yì diǎn jiǔ,

zhè gè jiǔ kě néng yǒu yì diǎn nóng,

wǒ jué dé hěn yūn.

I drank a little liquor today,

the liquor might be a little bit strong,

I felt very dizzy.

Another tiger mom example:



mā ma, wǒ kě yǐ chī yì diǎn dàn gāo ma?

nǐ yǒu yì diǎn pàng, bié chī le.

Mom, can I eat some cake?

You are a little bit fat, don't eat it.

Watch how Chinese celebrities use 一点yì diǎn vs 有一点 yǒu yì diǎn in the correct ways

Mistake NO.3

还是hái shì vs 或者huò zhě

When Chinese people use 还是hái shì individually in a sentence, it is a question particle "or", it‘s usually used in a “a or b” question.

However, if 还是hái shì is used with other connection words together, the meanings are different. For example "不论a还是b" (bú lùn a hái shì b): no matter a or b, "虽然。。。还是。。。" (suī rán...hái shì...): although…still….

或者huò zhě is usually used in a statement, expressing "or".

Watch how Chinese celebrities use 还是hái shì vs 或者huò zhě in the correct ways

Example from a good husband:





jīn tiān nǐ zuò fàn hái shì wǒ zuò fàn?

wǒ huò zhě nǐ, dōu xíng!

shì ma...

duì bù qǐ, duì bù qǐ, wǒ zuò fàn.

Who's gonna cook today, you or me?

Me or you, either way is OK!

Is that right...

Sorry, sorry, I will cook.

Mistake NO.4

和hé vs 而且ér qiě

Chinese people never, ever, use 和héto connect different sentences.


We only use 和hé to connect a list of items,

like this:


zhuō zi shàng yǒu shǒu jī, diàn nǎo, hé qián bāo.

There is a cellphone, a computer and a wallet on the table.


If you want to use “and” as a filler, use 然后rán hòu

If you want to connect two sentences with “and also”, use 而且ér qiě or 还有hái yǒu

Watch how Chinese celebrities use 和hé vs 而且ér qiě in the correct ways

Mistake NO.5

是shì vs 很hěn

To connect a noun to its adjective, use 很hěn, not 是shì .


Stop saying sentences like 我是高兴(wǒ shì gāo xìng)!!!

We just don't say "I am happy",

we would say "I very happy"

Let me brainwash you with heaps of example sentences.






jīn tiān tiān qì hěn hǎo.

wǒ hěn kāi xīn.

suǒ yǐ wǒ qù yí gè hěn bàng de fàn diàn chī fàn.

wǒ chī le yí gè hěn dà de jī tuǐ.

xiàn zài wǒ hěn bǎo.

Today's weather is very good.

I'm very happy.

So I went to this awesome restaurant to eat.

I ate a gigantic chicken leg.

Now I'm very full.

Mistake NO.6

如果rú guǒ vs 是否shì fǒu

I know in English, if can be used in both "if...then..." and "if...or not",

and that's why you use 如果rú guǒ all the time in different scenarios.


In Chinese, we have 2 if's.

如果rú guǒ: "if...(then...)"

是否shì fǒu: "whether...or not"

Hate gold diggers?

Here's an example you've probably heard from them before:



wǒ xiáng zhī dào nǐ shì fǒu ài wǒ.

rú guǒ nǐ gěi wǒ mǎi chē, wǒ jiù ài nǐ.

I want to know if you love me.

If you buy a car for me, then I will love you.

More examples with Chinese celebrities using 如果rú guǒ vs 是否shì fǒu

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Tien Suwandy
Tien Suwandy

very helpful!!


Marco Roman
Marco Roman

Hello. I saw your videos on YouTube and im very interested in learning chinese with tprs. I would want yo know if you do online class of chinese. Or can you tell me if there's is Someone who do ir?

Thanks you very much. Your clases are awesome!

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