Prefixes and Suffixes – 前缀 后缀

Prefixes in Chinese – 前缀

老 (lǎo)

* Original meaning and use:

As an adjective, 老 means old or elder and can be used as a predicate in a sentence or to describe other elements.

e.g.

爸爸妈妈了。(Bàbɑ māmɑ lǎo le.)Parents are old.

人 (lǎo rén) old man

奶奶 (lǎo nǎinɑi) old woman

* As a prefix in Chinese:

老is a dummy prefix. In a word, it either has no meaning or indicates respect, an amiable feeling or seniority among a group of people.

Rule:

Goes before animal names, people, monosyllabic family names or numbers.

 

Structure:

老 + animal name/person/monosyllabic family name/number

 

1. no meaning

e.g.

虎 (lǎo hǔ)  tiger

鼠(lǎo shǔ)mouse

鹰(lǎo yīnɡ)eagle

2. respect

e.g.

师 (lǎoshī.)  teacher

板(lǎobǎn)boss; shopkeeper

3. amiable feeling

e.g.

张啊,好久不见!(Lǎo zhānɡ a, hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn!) Zhang, long time no see!

公(lǎoɡōnɡ)husband

婆(lǎopó)wife

4. seniority

e.g.

大(lǎo dà)big brother; big cheese

二(lǎo’èr)the second child; ranking second

三(lǎo sān)the third child; ranking third

小 (xiǎo)

* Original meaning and use:

As an adjective, 小 means young or small and can be used as a predicate in a sentence or to describe other elements.

e.g.

这件衣服太了。(Zhè jiàn yīfu tài xiǎo le.)This clothes is too small.

朋友 (xiǎo pénɡyou) little boy or girl

孩子 (xiǎo háizi) little child

* As a prefix in Chinese:

小 is also a dummy prefix. In a word, it either shows no meaning or affection. When indicating affection, it is usually used by a senior towards their subordinates or by an elder towards younger people.

Rule:

Goes before people, adjectives or monosyllabic family names.

 

Structure:

小 + person/monosyllabic family name/other elements

 

1. no meaning

e.g.

姐(xiǎo jiě)Miss

心(xiǎo xīn)to be careful

丑(xiǎo chǒu)Joker; clown

住(xiǎo zhù)to live for a while

气(xiǎo qi)to be mean

2. affection

e.g.

李,帮我打印一下。(Xiǎo Lǐ, bānɡ wǒ dǎyìn yí xià.)Lee, help me to print it.

贺啊,回来啦!(Xiǎo Hè ā, huí lái lā!) He, you’re back!

 

第 (dì)

* Original meaning and use:

第 is usually combined with other elements to form a word. By itself, 第  doesn’t mean anything.

 

* As a prefix in Chinese:

As a prefix, 第is usually used to indicate order.

 

Rule:

Goes before an integer.

 

Structure:

第 + integer

 

Ordinal number

e.g.

一(dì yī)first

二(dì èr)second

十(dì shí)tenth

Suffixes in Chinese – 后缀

儿 (ér)

* Original meaning and use:

儿 originally meant son in Chinese and can be used alone or combined with other words.

e.g.

啊,你终于回来了。(Ér a, nǐ zhōnɡyú huílái le.)Oh my son, you finally back.

孙自有儿孙福。(Ér sūn zì yǒu ér sūn fú.) The children can take care of themselves when they grow up.

女双全 (Ér nǚ shuānɡ quán) with son and daughter

* As a suffix in Chinese:

As a common suffix, 儿(written as ‘r’ in pinyin)is only a grammatical particle. It mainly functions as a nominal suffix added after other characters.

Rule:

goes after a partial noun or verb to form a noun.

 

Structure:

nominal morpheme/verbal morpheme + 儿

 

1. noun+儿

e.g.

(huā’r) flower

(pén’r) pot

(ɡùn’r) stick

(chē’r) car

(shì’r) thing

(nǚ’r) daughter

2. verb+儿

e.g.

(huà’r) painting

(juǎn’r) curve

(ɡài’r) lid

头 (tou)

* Original meaning and use:

As a noun, 头 (tóu) means head. It can be used alone or combined with other words.

e.g.

你的怎么了?(Nǐ de tóu zěnme le?) What’s wrong with your head?

疼。(Wǒ tóu ténɡ.) I have a headache.

发 (tóufɑ) hair

* As a suffix in Chinese:

As a suffix, 头(tou) is pronounced with a neutral tone. The ancient meaning of head has been obscured. It mainly functions as a nominal suffix, added after another character.

Rule:

Goes after a partial noun, verb, or adjective to make it into a noun.

 

Structure:

Partial noun/verb/adjective + 头

 

1. noun+头

e.g.

(mù tou) wood

(shí tou) stone

(ɡǔ tou) bone

2. verb+头

e.g.

(kàn tou) be worthy of watching

(tīnɡ tou) be worthy of listening

(niàn tou) idea; thought

3. adjective+头

e.g.

(zhǔn tou) accuracy

(tián tou) sweet taste; benefit

子 (zi)

* Original meaning and use:

In ancient Chinese, 子(zǐ) with a third tone is an expression showing respect to honourable people.

e.g.

(Kǒnɡ zǐ)Confucius, a Chinese philosopher

(Xún zǐ)Xunzi, a Chinese philosopher

(Lǎo zǐ)Laozi, a Chinese philosopher

(Mènɡ zǐ)Mengzi, a Chinese philosopher

* As a suffix in Chinese:

A very common suffix, 子(zi)pronounced with neutral tone is only a grammatical particle in modern Chinese. It is always used as a nominal suffix, added after another character.

Rule:

Goes after a partial noun, verb, or adjective to make it into a noun

 

Structure:

Partial noun/verb/adjective + 子

 

1. noun +子

e.g.

(zhuō zi) desk; table

(yǐ zi) chair

(dènɡ zi) stool

(bēi zi) cup

(kuài zi) chopsticks

(běn zi) notebook

(xiānɡ zi) box

(hé zi) case; box

(chénɡ zi) orange

(jú zi) tangerine

(táo zi) peach

(ér zi) sun

(shā zi) sand

2. verb+子

e.g.

(gài zi) lid

3. adjective+子

e.g.

(shǎ zi) the fool

(fēnɡ zi) madman

家 (jiā)

* Original meaning and use:

In modern Chinese, 家 means family or home. It can be used alone or combined with other words.

e.g.

这是我。(Zhè shì wǒ jiā.) This is home.

人 (jiā rén) family

庭 (jiā tínɡ) household

* As a suffix in Chinese:

As a nominal suffix, 家 can be put after activities to indicate people engaged in that activity.

Rule:

Goes after an activity.

 

Structure:

activity + 家

 

People engaged in some field of activity

e.g.

(huàjiā) painter

科学 (kēxuéjiā) scientist

天文学 (tiānwénxuéjiā) astronomer

(zuòjiā) writer

小说 (xiǎoshuōjiā) fictionist

数学 (shùxuéjiā) mathematian

们 (men)

* Original meaning and use:

们 usually needs to be combined with other elements to form a word. By itself, 们 doesn’t mean anything.

 

* As a suffix in Chinese:

As a suffix, 们 is mainly put after nouns or pronouns to indicate pluralization.

 

Rule:

Goes after a noun or pronoun to make it plural.

 

Structure:

noun/pronoun + 们

 

To indicate plural

e.g.

(wǒmen) we; us

(nǐmen) you

(tāmen) they; them

(tāmen) they; them

(tāmen) they; them

(rénmen) people

歌手 (ɡēshǒumen) singers

志愿者 (zhìyuànzhěmen) volunteers

1. 他长大后想当数学 ___ 。(Tā zhǎngdà hòu xiǎng dāng shùxué ___ .)
A.
B.
C.
2. 这首歌有听 ___ 。(Zhè shǒu gē yǒu tīng ___ .)
A.
B.
C.
3. 你听说了吗? ___ 张生病了。(Nǐ tīngshuō le ma? ___ zhāng shēngbìng le.)
A.
B.
C.
4. 王丽是 ___ 二,她有一个姐姐。(Wáng Lì shì ___ èr, tā yǒu yī gè jiějie.)
A.
B.
C.
5. 哥哥参加了唱歌比赛,他得了 ___ 一。(Gēge cānjiā le chànggē bǐsài, tā dé le ___ yī.)
A.
B.
C.

 

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