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Stepping Stones Lesson Seven

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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

Past Tense

In English, tense is always apparent due to the conjugation of verbs in a sentence. Chinese does not have conjugation of verbs (in the traditional sense), so tense is oftentimes implied in Chinese, meaning that there is not necessarily specific past tense markers in a given sentence. For example, in this chapter we have:


Which in English would be rendered as “In ancient times, there was a king…” This is an example of how past tense can be implied. In fact, since the story happened in ages past, the entire text is in past tense, even though there are not any past tense markers present.

Singular / Plural

There is typically no explicit distinction given to singular or plural nouns in Chinese. Therefore, 人 (person) could refer to a  single person or multiple people. Singularity and plurality are often denoted contextually. In our story, we have 六个 (six) people, so we know that 盲人 here is actually “blind men”; not “blind man.” Without context, very little is interpretable in Chinese.

Conjunction Words

In this chapter, we have a fair amount of conjunction words. 然后、由于、所以、and 并 can all serve as connectors in between clauses. It should be pointed out that Chinese does not typically require conjunction words, and in casual or informal speech, conjunctions are often omitted entirely. Re-read the Chapter Seven text and take note of the numerous clauses, only a few of which feature conjunctions.

Using Measure Words (Continued)

In this chapter, we see two measure words. We have 个, which is used for people or things (in this chapter used for 国王、盲人). 头 is a common measure word used for some animals, such as cows 牛 niú, (in this chapter used for 大象).

Verb + Complement

Modern Chinese uses a “verb + complement” grammatical system where the core verb is followed by a complement, or result. 起来 literally means “to start up.” Therefore, “started to argue” is 争论起来. It is also important to note that 起来 is separated when there is an object involved. For example, “dance” is 跳舞;“start to dance” is 跳起舞来。


Here 谁 is best understood as “nobody.” Literally it can be interpreted as, “whoever all couldn’t convince whoever.” This is another example of when 都 and 也 can be used interchangeably.

Using 不了

不了 (pronounced buliǎo) is a verbal complement meaning “can’t.” Unlike English, it is placed after the verb. In our text, we had 说服不了,meaning “can’t convince.” The positive form is 得了 (prounounced deliǎo). 了 can also be replaced by a different complement.

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