呢 (ne) is one of the most common particles in Chinese and has a wide rage of uses. It is often used as an interrogative particle at the end of interrogative sentences which include alternative questions, affirmative-negative questions, rhetorical questions and questions with interrogative pronouns. 呢 (ne) can also be used at the end or middle of a statement as a modal particle. This article will give you a detailed explanation of the different uses of 呢 (ne).
Using 呢(ne) at the end of interrogative sentences
1. Using 呢 (ne) at the end of questions with interrogative pronouns
Interrogative pronouns included in such questions are 哪儿(nǎr), 什么(shénme), 怎么(zěnme), 谁(shéi), etc. 呢 is used to ask questions about content expressed by these interrogative pronouns.
Hello, I’m here. Where are you?
I haven’t arrived yet. I’m stuck in traffic.
Xiaoli, you didn’t talk along the way. What were you thinking about?
I was thinking about tomorrow’s exam.
Note: Pronoun / noun (phrase) + 呢(ne) to express "what about…"
In a certain context, 呢 can be put after a pronoun or noun (phrase) to form a simple interrogative sentence in which the interrogative pronoun is omitted. Generally speaking, the structure can be used in two ways.
- Asking a question about the situation mentioned previously. The sentence pattern is “A…… , B呢? ” The part “B呢” can be translated as “What about B? ”.
I have a sister. What about you?
I have no sister, only one brother.
I’ m Chinese and you’re American. What about him?
He is Canadian.
- Use the pattern "Noun (phrase) + 呢(ne)" to ask where something or someone is.
Where is my pen? Have you seen my pen?
It’s over there on the table.
Dad, where is mom?
She is cooking in the kitchen.
2. Using 呢 (ne) in alternative questions with 还是(háishi)
When 呢 is used in an alternative question, it will be placed after the two options provided, which are commonly connected by a “还是(háishi)”. The structure is as below. Sometimes the 呢 after the latter option can be omitted.
Option 1 + 呢，还是 + Option 2 (+ 呢)
Xiaohong, shall we watch a movie at home or go shopping tonight?
I’m OK with either.
When are you leaving for Beijing? Is it tomorrow or the day after tomorrow?
I have no idea yet.
3. Using 呢 (ne) in an affirmative-negative question
The structure of an affirmative-negative question is "Verb/Adjective + 不(bù) + Verb/Adjective". The affirmative-negative question is usually used to seek confirmation or acceptance of what has been said. It is easy to make the listener feel that the questioner is impatient or giving orders. If you want to make it easier for the hearer to accept your question, you can attach 呢 to the end of the question to soften your tone.
Try to compare the following example sentences:
Do you still drink this milk?
Are you going to the cinema tomorrow?
Should I do it like this or not?
4. Used at the end of a rhetorical question
As in the affirmative-negative question, 呢 can also be used in a rhetorical question to soften the tone. You can remove 呢 at the end of the question, which will not change the meaning of the whole sentence, but it will make the tone of the question tougher.
How could you fail such an easy test?
How can I have savings on such a low salary?
What’s the use of being sad when it has already happened?
Using 呢 (ne) at the end of a statement
1. To state a fact in an exaggerated and indisputable mood
If you want to convince someone of something, you can add a 呢 to the end of the statement, which conveys a tone of affirmation and slight exaggeration. Here 呢 is used as a modal particle.
I gotta get back.
It’s still early. You can stay longer.
The cookie you made tastes so good!
Have some more. There’s plenty left.
2. To indicate an action in progress
Putting 呢 at the end of a statement can also indicate a continuous state, suggesting to pay attention. The common sentence patterns are “正(zhèng)/在(zài)......呢”, “V着(zhe)......呢”, or “......着(zhe)呢”.
What’s wrong with dad?
He is seething over his work. Don’t bother him.
Mom, I want to go out with Xiaoli.
It’s raining outside. Why not wait until it clears up?
Xiaoming, let’s play soccer together.
No. I’m busy.
When 呢(ne) is used in the middle of a statement
When 呢 is used in the middle of a sentence, it usually denotes a pause and draws the listener’s attention to what is said after the pause. Sometimes it comes with a comparative meaning.
He likes to be lively, while I like to be quiet.
The twins have different jobs. The elder sister works as a teacher in a school, while the younger sister works as an accountant in a company.
The little girl is pretty, but she has no perfect manners.