15 Lesson 6 Dialogue 1: Leaving a message


张友生: 喂,请问高大中在吗?



Chinese Pinyin English
对不起 duì bù qǐ phrase, sorry
gěi prep., to/for
电话 diàn huà n., telephone
给…打电话 gěi … dǎ diàn huà verb phrase, give somebody a call
wéi greeting used to start a phone call
室友 shì yǒu n., roommate
wèi measure word for people
以后 yǐ hòu conj. or prep., after
考试 kǎo shì n./v., exam; to take an exam
jié measure word for classes
n., class, lesson
上课 shàng kè v., to have/teach classes
知道 zhī dào v., to know
时间 shí jiān n., time
问题 wèn tí n., problem
yào v., to want
dào v. to go to
留言 liú yán v., to leave a message
bié adv., don’t
下个 xià gè adj., next
děng v., to wait
数学 shù xué n., math
dǒng v., to understand
要是 yào shì conj., if
huí v., to return
告诉 gào sù v., to tell
客气 kè qì adj., polite

Grammar Notes:

  1. The preposition (gěi):
    As a preposition, helps show the target of a verb. There are two structures: (1) Subj. + + Target + Action; and (2) Subj. + Action + + Target. For example, “I called him yesterday” can be translated into either 我昨天给他打了电话 or 我昨天打了电话给他。However, the first structure is more often used than the second. Below are more examples:
  2. The modal verb (yào):
    has several meanings.
    (1) It can indicate a future action, particularly a scheduled event or an activity that one is committed to.  The negative form is expressed by adding and deleting . For example, 今天下午我要考试。In this sentence, 考试 is a scheduled event that is committed to. Its negative form is 今天下午我不考试。More examples:
    明天我要去中国。(Tomorrow I will go to China [as scheduled].)
    今天我们要上课。(Today we will have classes [as scheduled].)
    (2) It can mean “to want, to desire”. For example,
    我要吃饭。(I want to eat.)
    你要喝水吗?(Do you want to drink water?)
    我的儿子要睡觉。(My son wants to sleep.)
  3. Time expressions with 上/下:
    When talking about weeks and months, is used to describe past time and is used to describe future time. For example, 上个星期 means “last week” and 下个星期 means “next week”. As you may have guessed by now, 上个月 means “last month” and 下个月 means “next month”.
    Guess what the following expressions mean: 上上个星期、这个星期、下下个星期、上上个月,这个月,下下个月
  4. The conjunction 要是:
    “要是…,就…” is used to mean “if…, then…”. It is often used in colloquial Chinese. For example,
    要是你喜欢吃中国菜,我们就吃中国菜。(If you like to eat Chinese food, let’s do it.)
    。(If you are not available, do not come.)
    要是你没有女朋友,我可以给你介绍一个。(If you don’t have a girlfriend, I can introduce one to you.)
  5. The preposition 以后
    It is often used to describe the events after a specific time. The structure is “Time + 以后…”, indicating that “after Time, something happens”. The only difference is that in Chinese 以后 should be put after the specific time while in English “after” is put before the time. For example,
    下午三点以后他回家了。(After 3:00 PM, he went home.)
    一个月以后我要去北京。(In one month, I will go to Beijing.)
  6. The adverb (bié):
    It is used to advise somebody not to do something. It is used to deny a future action, similar to the English “don’t”. For example, “don’t give him a call” is translated into 别给他打电话。Note the adverb is always put before verbs or adjectives.

Culture Notes:

When answering a phone call, Chinese people would normally say (wéi) “hello/hey” or 喂, 你好 (wéi nǐ hǎo) for more formal phone calls.

Then they need to ask who is speaking: 请问是哪位? or 请问你是…? —Who is this? To answer the questions, simply say “我是… ”—“I am…” or 这是 + name of the company—“This is…” if you are talking on behalf of an organization.

If the person who picks up your phone call isn’t the person you want to speak to, you can ask “the name of the person + 在吗?” or “name of the person + 在不在?—”Is … there?”. If the person is present, they would say “请稍等一下 (qǐng shāo děng yīxià)”—Hold on a second, please. If not present, they would say “他/她不在” -He/she is not here. Then they would probably ask you to leave a message by saying “要留言吗—Can I take a message?

When ending the phone call, they normally say “我先挂了 (wǒ xiān guà le)”—I’ll hang up first.


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Elementary Chinese I Copyright © 2022 by Wenying Zhou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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