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Lesson 22 How to express “why on earth did this happen? ” kind of questions in Chinese

Posted by Grace Feng on June 11, 2012

Lesson 22 How to express "why on earth did this happen? " kind of questions in Chinese?I don’t know whether it just happens in English or any other languages, the sentence pattern that I gonna talk about today seems very very important due to the high demands of its usage:

“Why on earth did this happen?”

Even a toddler that survives a full day daycare program in Canada would always pop out the follow phrase :-) :

“What the … ?!”

So I figure for my Learn Mandarin online friends, we can’t miss out on this importance pattern. No matter you come from English background, or any other language background, this Chinese sentence pattern will come handy for you in your Chinese conversation for sure.

The new words we gonna learn in this lesson are only two of them:

jiū jìng dào dǐ 
[hanzi]究竟[/hanzi]   [hanzi]到底 [/hanzi]
What on earth … What on earth …

You can also use the estroke tool to practice the writing of them. When you’re done, move on …

  • You can copy and paste a few characters together into the box. They’ll show in the animation window one by one.
  • Once the stroke animation stops, click in the animation window and hit ENTER to replay it.
  • You can use the sliding bar to control writing speed of the animation.

 

Let’s get started by translating the title sentence pattern into Chinese:

“Why on earth did this happen?”

jiūjìng wèishénme huì fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì?

究竟为什么会发生这种事?

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究竟 jiū jìng is one main keyword that you can use for this purpose. You can also reorder the sentence by placing 究竟 jiū jìng in a difference position too. Let’s reorder it like this :

fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì jiūjìng shì wèishénme?

发生这种事究竟是为什么?

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究竟 jiū jìng can be replaced by 到底 dào dǐ as well. So the above two sentences can be reworded like this :

dàodǐ wèishénme huì fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì? 

到底为什么会发生这种事?

 

fāshēng zhèzhǒng shì dàodǐ shì wèishénme?

发生这种事到底是为什么?

Now let’s do a little practice using these two keywords:

 

[ Practice 1:  What on earth is this? ]

First, let’s get rid of the “on earth” and turn the question into a simple W question:

What is this?

In Chinese, we say:

zhè shì shénme?

这是什么?

Then we place 究竟 jiū jìng or 到底 dào dǐ in the proper position of the sentence to turn it into the sentence pattern we learned today:

zhè jiūjìng shì shénme?

究竟是什么?

or

zhè dàodǐ shì shénme?

到底是什么?

Do you get a feel of it now? Let’s look at another question :

 

[ Practice 2:  What exactly did you do yesterday? ]

The Chinese translation of this type of question is same as the previous example, you can say:

nǐ zuótiān dàodǐ zuò le shénme?

你昨天到底做了什么?

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nǐ zuótiān jiūjìng zuò le shénme?

你昨天究竟做了什么?

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As for the toddler’s phrase:”What the … ?!”, usually it can be directly translated into “怎么回事 zěn me huí shì?!” in Chinese. The complete sentence could be “到底怎么回事 dào dǐ zěn me huí shì?!

Do you get it now? Feel free to share any other ways you know to express “What on earth …”, “What exactly …” kind of sentence patterns in Chinese.

Hope you have a sunshine summer week, my dear friends!

 

Related posts:

Lesson 18 How to structure “however” and “but” sentence in Chinese
Reading, Listening and Speaking practice 5
Reading, Listening and Speaking practice 8

 

Category: JLC Chinese grammar lessons

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3 Responses to “Lesson 22 How to express “why on earth did this happen? ” kind of questions in Chinese”

  1. nothing

    Beatrice:

    10-30-2013 12:17 pm

    到底为什么你买了这些东西? why on earth did you buy these things?
    在商场你到底买了什么?what did you buy exactly at the shopping mall?
    Do my sentences have sense?Are they grammaticaly correct?
    Thanks!!!

    Reply

    • nothing

      Grace Feng:

      10-30-2013 1:24 pm

      到底为什么你买了这些东西? why on earth did you buy these things? – this sentence is better to be changed into either one of the following:

      到底为什么 你要买 这些东西? – to emphasize on “你要买” – your motive is what you’re questioning about
      你到底为什么 买了这些东西? – move “你” to the beginning, then “买了这些东西” become the focus of your question – why on earth you let “买了这些东西” to happen.

      The problem of your sentence is that it’s not a sharp expression that people would clearly understand what exactly you’re questioning about.

      在商场你到底买了什么?what did you buy exactly at the shopping mall? – perfectly correct, good job!!

      Reply

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