Ni he shenme ?
Ni he shen me is the pinyin for 4 characters which together mean “what do you want to drink?”. Note that the pinyin used here does not have the diacritic marks that signal tones (1 to 4).
Indeed, “for the sake of convenience, tone selection is disabled by default in most modern pinyin systems on the computer.” (Wikipedia – Pinyin Input Methods).
At the beginning stages of learning Mandarin, it’s more effective to learn vocab and grammar while perfecting pronunciation and intonation through modelling of native speakers, such as one of our great teachers.
* ni 你
* he 喝
* shen 什
* me 么
and it means “What do you want to drink?”
ni = you
he = drink
shenme = what
Expanding The Pattern
By adding yao/要 (want; see Ni yao shenme?) before the verb he/喝 (drink), the meaning stays basically the same as “Ni he shenme?”:
Ni yao he shenme (what do you want to drink?)
Ni he shenme (what do you want to drink?)
So in a sense, yao can be left out or included in the pattern (yao typically appearing before a verb). Below is a good example of an expanding pattern in Mandarin Chinese.
Ni yao shenme = what do you want
ni yao he shenme = what do you want to drink
ni yao he shenme jiu = what alcohol do you want to drink
ni yao he shenme pijiu = what beer do you want to drink
Ta/他 is the personal pronoun for he, she, and it. Changing ni to ta in our pattern from above, we have:
Ta yao shenme = what does he want
Ta yao he shenme = what does he want to drink
Ta yao he shenme jiu = what alcohol does he want to drink
Ta yao he shenme pijiu = what beer does he want to drink