Recently, one of our students asked us this question:
“Chinese grammar is proving to be a challenge! The difference between the subject of the verb and the object is often not clear to me. For example, I have seen both the following as greetings when you first meet someone…
Jian dao wo hen gaoxing.
Jian dao ni hen gaoxing.
Which is correct?”
And here is our answer:
Chinese grammar is a bit special, indeed. They say it’s easy, but the lack of rules does complicate matters, sometimes.
You’ve touched upon an important aspect in Chinese language and that is: omission.
In the example sentences that you’ve provided the meaning is the same, but in both cases, a pronoun was omitted (the object of the action in the first example and the doer of the action – the subject – in the second case). And to answer your question: both versions are correct.
The original sentence, without any omissions would be like this:
Jiàn Dào Nǐ Wǒ Hěn GāoXìng.
To meet you (object), I (subject) am very happy.
It’s basically a shuffled English sentence: I (subject) am very happy to meet you (object).
Putting the object first in the Chinese sentence is in order to emphasise the object (it’s more polite like that).
Typically, Chinese sentences follow the same rule of Subject + Verb + Object
As in the example:
Wǒ Kàn Dào Nǐ.
I (subject) see (verb) you (object).
Same with inanimate objects:
Tā De LǎoShī Zài Chī PíngGuǒ.
His teacher (subject) is eating (verb) an apple (object).