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Stepping Stones Lesson Two

Audio Immersion  |  Audio Practice  |  Vocabulary Study  |  Vocabulary Review
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Reading Practice

Practice reading the entire story aloud, with comprehension, using only the unannotated Chinese text.

If you get stuck, you can click on any character to display the pinyin and meaning of the character. Use the audio player to review the pronunciation of the text.

Grammar Notes

Verb Tenses and the Character

While English uses verb inflections to indicate tense, Chinese has no system of inflections.  Therefore, tense, in Chinese, is indicated using additional characters such as了.  The character 了 by itself does not have any meaning. It is placed after a verb (or in some cases at the end of a phrase) to indicate a completed action.  For example, in the passage above, the phrase “到山门口” means “arrived at the entrance to the mountain.”  [Additional Reading]


In Chinese there is actually no way of indicating a plural form for most nouns and the context must therefore be used to determine whether something is singular or plural.  However, there is a way of indicating plurality for descriptions of people—the character 们, which is placed directly after the noun or pronoun.  Though usage of 们 is usually optional when referring to people as ordinary nouns, it is mandatory when using pronouns.  Therefore, in the passage above, “我们” must be used so we know the narrator is talking about “we,” not “I.” [Additional Reading]

Using the Character

The character 就 has many different uses, one of which is exemplified twice in the passage above.  In both cases here, 就 is placed after the description of an action and before the description of the action’s result to indicate that the result occurred more quickly than one might have expected.  For example, in the phrase “我们向东走了二、三百米, 就到了山门口”, “我们向东走了二、三百米” (“we faced east and walked two or three hundred meters”) is the description of an action and “到了山门口” (“we had arrived at the entrance to the mountain”) is the description of the result.  The character 就 comes between the two to indicate that the result of arriving at the entrance to the mountain occurred more quickly than expected.  Therefore, the phrase may be translated: “we faced east, walked two or three hundred meters, and already we had arrived at the entrance to the mountain.”

Indicating Possession

In Chinese, possession is indicated using the character 的.  的 is placed directly in between the possessing noun and the object being possessed.  In the phrase “东山的最高点” from the passage above, “东山” is the possessing noun, “最高点” is the object being possessed, and 的 is placed in between.  Therefore, the entire phrase is translated: “the eastern mountain’s highest point.”        [Additional Reading]


Compound Words

In Chinese, only the simplest words can be described using a single character.  More complex vocabulary words are described using a combination of characters (usually two or three).  For example, in the passage above, the combination of the characters 门 and 口 form the compound “门口” meaning “doorway” or “entrance way.”  As the texts become more sophisticated, more of the vocabulary will be of this compound nature.

and with Vehicles

While in English we use terms such as “get in” when entering a vehicle and “get out” when exiting a vehicle, Chinese does not use 进 or 出 in this context.  Instead the verbs 上 and 下 are used.  So “上车” means “get in the car” and “下车” means “get out of the car.”

Once you can read the poem through (congratulations!), you're ready to go on to the next step.