Saturday, June 11, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 15 Dialogue

This lesson expands on the last lesson’s discussion of location. You can find the vocabulary list for this dialogue here.

1 A: 請問陳小姐到該嗎? Tīng mùn Chïn Lhīau-Dē o kwọi ma?
  B: 對唔住,佢唔到該。有乜事呢? Ui-m̈-jì, kui m̈-o kwọi*. Yiu mōt lhù nē?
  A: 冇乜。我來坐吓喲。 Mo mōt. Ngoi löi tu hạ yìak.
2 A: 正話你坐喺乃呀? Jing-wà ni tu hāi nại* a?
  B: 正話我坐喺該張梳化。 Jing-wà ngoi tu hāi kwọi jiang sō-fạ*.
3 A: 佢該時企到乃呢? Kui kwọi-sị* ki o nại* nē?
  B: 佢該時企到地。 Kui kwọi-sị* ki o ì*.
4 A: 昨晚逽瞓到乃呀? Dòk-mạn* nìak fun o nại* a?
  B: 昨晚哦瞓到嚀屐屋企。 Dòk-mạn ngọi fun o nịng bùng ūk-kī.
5 A: 乃個該時凭到嚀塳牆。 Nại* gwoi kwọi-sị* bàng o nịng bùng tïang* nē?
  B: 黄先生該時凭到嚀塳牆。 Wöng Lhing-Sang kwọi-sị* bàng o nịng bùng tïang*.
6 A: 正話該本簿放到乃呀? Jing-wà kwọi bōn bù* fong o nại* a?
  B: 正話該本簿放到嚀張枱。 Jing-wà kwọi bōn bù* fong o nịng jiang họi*.
7 A: 嚀張枱該時跌到乃呢? Nịng jiang họi* kwọi-sị* ik o nại* nē?
  B: 嚀張枱該時跌到嚀間班房。 Nịng jiang họi* kwọi-sị* ik o nịng gan ban-fọng*.
8 A: 該張床放到乃呀? Kwọi jiang chöng fong o nại* a?
  B: 該張床放到嚀間房。 Kwọi jiang chöng fong o nịng gan fọng*.
9 A: 你個褸漏到乃呢? Ni gwoi lau* làu o nại* nē?
  B: 我個褸漏到嚀間樓。 Ngoi gwoi lau* làu o nịng gan läu*.
10 A: 請問黄先生到該住嗎? Tīng mùn Wöng Lhing-Sang o kwọi* ji ma?
  B: 啊!佢唔到該住。 Ò! Kui m̈-o kwọi* ji.
  A: 佢到乃住呀? Kui o nại* ji a?
  B: 佢到佢個朋友嚀住。 Kui o kui gwoi päng-yịu nịng ji.

There are several grammar points, and I’ll try to cover them all.

V + 到

The last lesson introduced the words 到 o and 喺 hāi, which mean “at” or “to be at.” These words have a similar structure to the word 俾 ī “to” or “to give” such that in the absence of another verb, these words take on the work of both the verb and preposition (see lesson nine). For example:

佢到乃呀? Kui o nại* a? “Where is he?”
佢企到乃呢? Kui ki o nại* nē? “Where is he standing?”

In both expressions, 到乃 o nại refers to the English “where.” The word 到 o is necessary because you are talking about the location of where something is (at).

Object to Subject Order

There is a special structure for certain verbs of movement. When the main verb is transitive—such as 放 fong “to put,” 跌/的 ik “to put,” or 漏 làu “to lose”—then the verb’s subject can be dropped and replaced by the object. Pay attention to the structure of the following sentences.

Kwọi bōn bù* fong o nịng jiang họi*.
“This notebook is placed on that table.”

Nịng jiang họi* ik o nịng gan ban-fọng*.
“That table is placed in that classroom.”

Ngoi gwoi lau* làu o nịng gan läu*.
“My coat is left in that building.”

These sentences with the object-as-subject all also include a phrase about location.

His Place

Note the last line in the dialogue, specifically the phrase 到佢個朋友嚀 o kui gwoi päng-yịu nịng “at his friend’s place.” This is the same structure used in the last lesson (到我該 o ngoi kwọi “at my place”). It’s a very useful and simple phrase.

Ask Politely

If you have something to ask, you can begin your question with 請問 tīng mùn to be polite.

It’s Nothing

The way to say “nothing” is with a structure similar to “not … what.” In example 1, the term used is 冇乜 mo mōt “there’s nothing”—literally, “not have what.”


There are a couple grammar points that I feel unsure about. First, What is the correct meaning of this object-to-subject structure? Tough I use this structure often, I neither give it much thought nor speak well enough to have any strong judgments on what’s acceptable.

My second question has to do with the last sentences, where the prepositional phrases are all placed before 住 ji “to live” (i.e. 到該住 o kwọi* ji, 到乃住 o nại* ji and 到佢個朋友嚀住 o kui gwoi päng-yịu nịng ji). Must the prepositional phrase always precede 住 ji? Are there other verbs like this? (I have many questions on this subject.)

Questions? Suggestions? Corrections? Let me know in the comments—especially if you notice a typo, or if I simply wrote something wrong.


  1. I'm wondering if we can look at the 'object-to-subject structure' as the equivalent of the English sentence type with BE as the main verb linking a subject with some noun, adj or adv phrases, i.e. 'the book IS there.' In this view, the subject is not dropped and replaced with the object, but that the 'object' is actually the subject. For example:
    In stead of saying that the subject is dropped and replaced by the object 簿, we just say 簿 is the subject. So the form is Subject+Be+adv phrases with the (unnecessary) BE implied (or removed).
    Another possible way is to view it as a form of passive voice.
    Am I getting anywhere? I've never been very good at grammar :)
    By the way, for sentences of this type sometimes the verb, i.e. 放, is pronounced with a rising change tone. Without the rising change tone the sentence can be interpreted as a command or request (conversationally) as the equivalent of 放該本簿到嚀長枱。

  2. Don't know if you still have these questions 4 years later, but I think I may have your solution.

    As for your first question, I think Stephen was right on with his first assertion, that these "object to subject" sentences are just the equivalent of English sentences of location, with or without the verb "to be".

    Your second question is a bit trickier.
    I was taught in Mandarin class that the ordering of components in a simple sentence is Subject+Time+Place+Manner+Verb+Object. Not to make overgeneralizations, but I have a feeling it is the same in our dialect, so that we would get the sentence
    佢(subject) 到佢朋友嚀(place) 住(verb).
    However in Mandarin you can also say
    他(subject) 住在(verb) 他朋友的房子(object?),
    which sounds a bit awkward in 台山話 to me at the moment (佢住到佢朋友嚀)。
    Personally, I would stick to the way the book has it, with 到佢朋友嚀住, making "his friend's place" a location component instead of an (awkward) object component.

    Hope I could help somewhat!