Grammar Lesson 14:

Particle words 嗎/吗 vs 呢

The particles 嗎/吗 (ma5) and 呢 (ne5) are both used to form questions. They both are pronounced in the fifth tone (neutral tone) and are put at the end of the sentence. Note that both characters contain 口 (kǒu) (meaning mouth) at the left.

嗎/吗 (ma) is used when a Yes or No is expected as an answer:

我們去吃飯好嗎? (Traditional Chinese)
我们去吃饭好吗? (Simplified Chinese)
wǒmen qù chīfàn hǎo ma?
Should we go and eat?
Answer: 好 (hǎo) or 不好 (bùhǎo)

你是中國人嗎? (Traditional Chinese)
你是中国人吗? (Simplified Chinese)
nǐ shì zhōnggúorén ma?
Are you Chinese?
Answer: 是 (shì) or 不是 (bú shì)

呢 ne is used to interrogate "where is" or "what about":

我一會兒去圖書館, 你呢? (Traditional Chinese)
我一会儿去图书馆, 你呢?(Simplified Chinese)
wǒ yìhuǐr qù túshūguǎn, nǐ ne?
I am going to the library later, how about you?

To emphasize:

tiān huíméi hēi ne! nǐmen yào qù nǎr?
It is not dark yet! Where are you going?

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