Career Magazine

126: How to Say What You Can and Cannot Do in Mandarin Chinese

By Learnmandarinnow

You may often get asked about things you like or can or cannot do; they may be sports or social activities or relate to other things such as learning languages. Can you understand what you are being asked or reply correctly?

In this Podcast, you will learn:

(i) How to inform someone what you can or cannot do

(ii) To tell others about your ability level regarding a certain topic or subject



Wǒ huì yóu yǒng, ér qǐe yóu de hěn hǎo.

I can swim and I am very good at it


Wǒ bù huì yóu yǒng.

I cannot swim


Wǒ huì shuō yī diǎn er zhōng wén.

I can speak a little Chinese


Wǒ bù huì shuō zhōng wén.

I can’t speak Chinese


Wǒ huì xià xiàng qí, dàn shì xià dé bù hǎo.

I can play Chinese chess, but I’m not good at it


Wǒ bù huì xià xiàng qí.

I can’t play Chinese chess


Wǒ huì xiě wǒ de zhōng wén míng zì.

I can write my Chinese name


Wǒ bù huì xiě zhōng wén míng zì, wǒ yě méi yǒu zhōng wén míng zì.

I can’t write Chinese, and I don’t have a Chinese name either

Chinese words and phrases mentioned in this Podcast:




骑车:ride a bicycle

能:can (under some circumstances)



……做得很好:be good at

说中文:speak Chinese


一点儿:a little

下象棋:play Chinese chess



中文名字:Chinese name

没有:don’t have

也:either/ too

Cultural/Grammar note:

We generally use ‘Chinese’ to refer to the language Chinese people speak, although we can also use ‘Mandarin’ (普通话,国语). In daily conversation in China, as this means standard Chinese, such as Beijing Mandarin. In America and many other countries, people usually say ‘国语’, which includes Mainland Mandarin and Taiwanese Mandarin.

Mandarin Chinese learning resources we recommend:


Keats Chinese School
Keats Chinese School, which was founded in 2004, is one of the top Mandarin Chinese language schools in China, offering both one-on-one immersion Mandarin course and small group Chinese classes. Located in Kunming, Keats develops personalised exercises and materials for students to meet their learning goals and requirements and can arrange a student visa for its 16 week course.

Using Italki, a unique system of learning Mandarin Chinese where you interact with real teachers, is widely recognised as an effective way to learn a new language! You’ll make more progress and learn how native Chinese speakers really speak. Plus, Italki is more affordable than offline tutors, offline schools and software, and is convenient to use at your own pace and place!

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