"Big thanks for the software! I just started learning Chinese here at the UN, and your program is just what I need. It lets me follow up what I learn in the classroom and then explore further."
—Nikolai Galkin, United Nations

More User Comments


Stepping Stones Lesson Nine

Audio Immersion  |  Audio Practice  |  Vocabulary Study  |  Vocabulary Review
Reading Practice  |  Exercises  |  Stepping Stones Home

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

便 indicates that something has arrived sooner than expected, or something went quicker than anticipated. It therefore represents a close correlation in time between one event and another. This word is somewhat formal. The colloquial word for this is 就 (jiù). This word also has an opposite, which indicates that something arrived later, or went slower than expected, representing a more distant relationship between things and/or events. This opposite is 才, although it is not used with this meaning in this chapter. Remember that 就(便) and 才 must be placed immediately before the verb in a sentence. Please also note that, in Chinese, adjectives are considered “stative verbs,” which is why the sentence 孔融小时候便聪明过人 still fits this pattern.

难不到 is an example of the verb complement grammar pattern. In Chinese, it sometimes helps to imagine the beginning of the sentence as the past, and that as the sentence progresses, so too does time progress. First the officials make it 难 “tough” for 孔融,but in the end he 不倒 “doesn’t fall down.” Or, again rephrased literally, they “make it tough (but) can’t knock (him down). 难不到 can still nevertheless be translated as “stump” (as in, crafting a question that one cannot answer), but it is very important to understand this pattern. Here is the basic grammatical pattern:

            难得倒              nándedǎo            can stump               literally: hard can topple
            难不到              nánbudǎo            can’t stump             literally: hard can’t topple

Another example:

            说得定              shuōdedìng      can say for sure             literally: say can be sure
            说不定              shuōbudìng      can’t say for sure            literally: say can’t be sure

If there is no specific complement, then 了 (here read “liǎo”), meaning “to finish,” is used:

            吃得了              chīdeliǎo          can eat                         literally: eat can finish
            吃不了              chībuliǎo          can’t eat                       literally: eat can’t finish

This pattern is only possible because Chinese verbs are technically aconjugal. This means that any verb could theoretically be in any tense. Even something as simple as 吃 (eat) could be, for example: eat, ate, have eaten, had eaten, will eat, will be eating, eating, is eating, etc. Verbs are grammatically separated from tense, so any interpretation is possible, which is related to the development of this progressive verb-complement system.

You will receive additional exposure to this pattern in future lessons.

但 and 却

Although both 但 and 却 carry the same meaning of “but” or “however,” they are utilized in grammatically dissimilar ways. 但 is always present at the beginning of a phrase, but 却 can only be inserted after the subject. Here are two (rather silly) examples:

狗 gǒu = dog
猫 māo = cat

                        狗很好,但猫也好                   Dogs are good, but cats are also good
                        狗很好,猫却也好                   Dogs are good, cats, however, are also good
                        狗很好,但猫却也好               Dogs are good, but cats, however, are also good

Notice that 但 and 却 can be used separately or simultaneously. Chinese often drops the subject entirely, so if that were the case, 但 and 却 would appear beside one another:

                        狗很好,猫呢?但却也好。  Dogs are good, and cats? They are also good.

Remember Chinese never translates one-to-one into English, so feel free to play around with your translations.




Chinese has three separate grammar particles that are all pronounced de (neutral tone). The rules are quite simple, as follows:

的         -            used after an adjective and before a noun (the noun can be dropped)
得         -            used after a verb, what follows can be a complement, phrase, even an entire
地         -            used after an adverb and before a verb. The adverb that procedes this partical is
oftentimes doubled.

Also notice that all three of these characters are 多音字。

Here are three brief examples of the three de’s in action:

红的衣服            hóng de yīfu                   red clothes
说得很好            shuō de hěn hǎo            well-said (literally: said very well)
快快地跑            kuài kuài de pǎo            running very quickly (literally: quickly
quickly running)

Even Chinese people misuse these three de’s (the Chinese equivalent of there/their/they’re or to\two\too) so please pay attention to these particles, as they represent different grammatical concepts. 地 is sometimes ignored in Taiwan (with 的 incorrectly substituting), so be careful.

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