一点儿 yī diǎnr and 有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr

In Chinese, both “一点儿 yī diǎnr” and “有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr” have the meaning of “small quantity” or “a little bit”, but their usages are quite different. 

A common mistake made by beginner students when they first start learning Chinese is to use “一点儿 yī diǎnr”, instead of “有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr”, in the following sentences:

我一点儿忙。wǒ yī diǎnr máng.

我一点儿饿。wǒ yī diǎnr è.

The correct way of saying is:

我有一点儿忙。wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr máng.

我有一点儿饿。wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr è.

Use “有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr” to quantify an adjective. It is on the same level with “不 bù”, “很 hěn” and “非常 fēi cháng”, and it is used before the adjective.

For example:

我有一点儿忙。wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr máng.
I am a little bit busy.

我有一点儿饿。wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr è.
I am a bit hungry. 

The structure of these sentences is “subject + quantifier (adverbial) + adjective”. In such sentences, “有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr” can be replaced by “不 bù”, “很 hěn” and “非常 fēi cháng” to express various degrees of the adjectives.

Use “一点儿 yī diǎnr” to quantify a noun. It is on the same level with “很多 hěn duō” and “很少 hěn shǎo”, and it is used before the noun.

For example:

我喝了一点儿啤酒。wǒ hē le yī diǎnr pí jiǔ.
I drank a little bit of beer.

我想吃一点儿米饭。wǒ xiǎng chī yī diǎnr mǐ fàn.
I would like to eat a bit of rice. 

The structure of these sentences is “subject + verb + object”. In such sentences, “一点儿 yī diǎnr” can be replaced by “很多 hěn duō” and “很少 hěn shǎo” to express different quantities of the nouns. 

However, the confusion usually comes in when the verb in the sentence is “有 yǒu”, which will give the same appearance as “有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr”. 

For example:

我有一点儿经验。wǒ yǒu yī diǎnr jīng yàn.
I have some experience.

这个工作有一点儿希望。zhè ge gōng zuò yǒu yī diǎnr xī wàng.
There is some hope in this job. 

Identify the structure of such sentences helps clear out the confusion.

Use “一点儿 yī diǎnr” to quantify an adjective, which gives more information to a verb. “一点儿 yī diǎnr” is placed after the adjective.

For example:

你说慢一点儿。nǐ shuō màn yī diǎnr.
You speak slower.

你来早一点儿。nǐ lái zǎo yī diǎnr.
You come earlier.

The “adjective + 一点儿 yī diǎnr” can be placed either after or before the verb without altering the meaning. In the previous two sentences, “adjective + 一点儿 yī diǎnr” is placed after the verb. And it is placed before the verb in the following two sentences. 

你慢一点儿说。nǐ màn yī diǎnr shuō.

你早一点儿来。nǐ zǎo yī diǎnr lái.

Regional differences and personal preference differ. Therefore, either “一 yī” or “儿 r”, sometimes both, can be omitted. 

For example:

你说慢点。nǐ shuō màn diǎn.

我有点儿忙。wǒ yǒu diǎnr máng.

你早一点来。nǐ zǎo yī diǎn lái.

Practice makes Perfect

Translate the following sentences into Chinese:

I have a bit of time.

Run faster.

I am a bit tired. 

Drink some water. 

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An additional note, besides the usages listed above, “一点儿 yī diǎnr” can also be part of fixed structures, such as “一点儿 yī diǎnr ... 都 dōu ...” “一点儿 yī diǎnr ... 也 yě ...”. the usage of “一点儿 yī diǎnr” and “有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr” first appears in Mandarin Express Intro Level A Student’s Book. 

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