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Mandarin adverbials TMP word order rule: time, manner, place

In Mandarin, extra information about time, manner and place is inserted in front of the verb. These are called adverbials, and always go before the verb. There’s a specific sequence for them in Mandarin word order.

If you’re not sure what order to put them in, just remember TMP (don’t remember it backwards). This is a general rule of thumb that works most of the time. Just remember that it’s not totally concrete.

Time

The time the action took place is usually first.

我*上个星期 看了四本书。 Wǒ *shàng ge xīngqī kànle sì běn shū. *Last week *I read four books.

Manner

The manner of the action comes after the time it took place:

上个星期 *匆匆地*看了四本书。 shàng ge xīngqī cōngcōngde kànle sì běn shū. Last week I quickly read four books.

Place

Finally, you can say where the action took place:

上个星期 匆匆地在我的房间里看了四本书。 shàng ge xīngqī cōngcōngde zài wǒde fángjiān lǐ kàn le sì běn shū. Last week I quickly read four books in my room.

Wrapping up

As you can see, the word order rules in English are much less clear. For Mandarin Chinese, however, just remember TMP. Most of the time this is a good rule for the word order of adverbials in Chinese.

Sometimes it may be better to put this information elsewhere in the sentence, such as at the beginning. There a lot of general rules that govern Mandarin sentence structure, but few of them are absolute.

The best way to study this is to do as much listening and reading as possible. The more input you get, the more you get a feel for how the language works.

Sources and further reading

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