Where to place 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) in a sentence

The word 一点儿 (yī diǎnr) is extremely common in spoken Chinese, and it’s a great piece of vocabulary to know and use. It means “some”, “a little” or “a bit” and is used in much the same way as these words in English.

一点儿 can also be a generic way to soften the tone of a sentence or lessen it’s impact. This can often make things sound more polite or modest.

But where should you place 一点儿 in a sentence? It goes immediately after the verb, as in this structure:

[subject] [verb] 一点儿 [object]

So 一点儿 is placed after the verb and before the object. Let’s have a look at some example sentences:

我想喝点儿东西。

Wǒ xiǎng hē diǎnr dōngxi.

I’d like to have a drink of something.

咱们吃点儿饭吧。

Zánmen chī diǎn er fàn ba.

Let’s have a bite to eat.

我会打一点儿鼓。

Wǒ huì dǎ yīdiǎnr gǔ.

I can play a bit of the drums.

他会弹一点儿古筝。

Tā huì tán yì diǎnr gǔzhēng.

He can play a bit of zither.

Notice how 一点儿 doesn’t literally mean “a little bit” in many cases. Instead, it’s just there to make the sentence less direct or forward. This is quite similar to using 一下 with verbs.

When there are two objects (ditransitive verb)

When the verb is ditransitive, the structure is slightly different. A ditransitive verb is one that takes two objects rather than just one (or none). Common ditransitive verbs in English include “give” and “make”, e.g. in “give me a book” and “make him a gift”. There are two objects in each of those.

One structure for such verbs with 一点儿 is:

[subject] [verb] [object 1] 点儿 [object 2]

Here are some example sentences for this structure:

你可以给我点儿纸吗?

Nǐ kěyǐ gěi wǒ diǎnr zhǐ ma?

Can you give me some paper?

我送他点儿吃的东西。

Wǒ sòng tā diǎnr chī de dōngxi.

I'll give him some food as a gift.

我告诉你点儿秘密吧!

Wǒ gàosu nǐ diǎnr mìmì ba!

Let me tell you some secrets!

Another, more general structure is:

[subject] [verb] 点儿 [object 2] 给 [object 1]

This structure tends to be a bit more versatile. Here are some example sentences for it:

你准备点儿饭给她吃吧!

Nǐ zhǔnbèi diǎnr fàn gěi tā chī ba!

Why don't you prepare some food for her?

咱们喂点儿鱼给猫吧。

Zánmen wèi diǎnr yú gěi māo ba.

Let's feed a bit of fish to the cat.

他寄了点儿钱给我。

Tā jìle diǎnr qián gěi wǒ.

He posted a bit of money to me.

As mentioned above, 点儿 can literally mean “some” or “a little”, or it is used to soften the tone of the sentence. This is particularly common in commands or instructions, which might seem a little rude or direct otherwise.

一点儿 or just 点儿?

You might have noticed that people use both 一点儿 and 点儿 in spoken Chinese, and both of these were shown in the examples above. As far as we know, there isn’t any particular difference between these two. It’s just a question of style and rhythm in the sentence.

If you know differently, please share your insight in the comments below. Is there any real difference between 一点儿 and 点儿?

Remember that 一点儿 is for ‘spoken’ Chinese only!

Another thing to note about 一点儿 and 点儿 is that they are very much spoken words for use in oral Chinese only. You don’t tend to see these words used in formal written Chinese unless someone’s speech is being quoted. You might find them in written pieces with an informal tone, though, such as novels and other fiction.

点儿 is mainly used in the north of China

One final point is that 一点儿 and 点儿 tend to be used more in the north of China because of the 儿化 (érhuà - the r sound added to the end of words). In general, southerners don’t use much 儿化at all, so in this case they would usually just say 一点.

This article was inspired by this post at Chinese Forums.

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