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Stepping Stones Lesson Eight

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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 “Long ago, there was a man called Duke Ye…” 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, 龙 (person) could refer to a single dragon or multiple dragons. Singularity and plurality are often denoted contextually. In our story, we know that Duke Ye likes dragons. Later in the story a dragon appears. Chinese lacks words such as “a” / “an” or even “the,” but it is still clear if we are talking about a dragon, the dragon, or dragons, based on context.

Conjunction Words

Although the previous chapter featured many conjunction words, this chapter contains almost none. This is because Chinese does not typically require conjunction words, and in casual or informal speech, conjunctions are often omitted entirely. Notice the first sentence:


When translating to English, we must add a conjunction, but there is no such requirement in Chinese.


In English, we have specific prepositions for locations such as on, beneath, over, under, beside, next to, and so on. In Chinese, however, a universal locative 在 is used. Read the phrases below:

大象 (elephant)
在 “at”

在大象上 = on the elephant
在大象下 = under the elephant
在大象旁边 = next to the elephant
在大象里 = inside of the elephant

在 is more universally applicable than “at” so sometimes the translation will vary. For example, 在中国 means “in China.”

in this chapter is used to denote present progressive tense, similar to English “is …+ing.” It might take a few weeks to acclimate to this word. Here are a few simple examples to get you started:

我看着 = I am watching (it).
你吃着 = You are eating (it).
她坐着 = She is sitting (on it).

一 has the standard pronunciation of yī, but it is also commonly pronounced yí or yì based on the tone of the proceeding word. Think of it this way: when you’re counting something, it is always pronounced yì unless the next word is 4th tone. Here are 4 examples below:

一棵树                              yì kē shù                       a tree
一条龙                              yì tiáo long                    a dragon
一秒种                              yì miǎo zhōng               a second (of time)
一个人                              yí gè rén                        a person

Again, please notice that they are all pronounced yì, except for the final case. It would not be incorrect to pronounce consistently as yī, but it sounds more fluent if you use the rules prescribed above. When counting simple numbers (e.g.: 1, 2, 3), the pronunciation yī must be used.


This is a common grammatical pattern which means “As soon as X, then Y (happened). For our lesson, we had:


Literal Translation:

The real dragon’s head, as soon as it appeared in the window, then Duke Ye right away was so scared that he turned pale and wouldn’t move.

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