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If I'm trying to say someone is a good example I often hear 例子, however, I have also heard 榜样, which seems to make more sense to me based on the meaning of the characters. What is the difference between these two?

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Well, 例子 can be either a good or a bad example (depends on the context), while 榜样 is usually used to describe a good model for others to learn from. –  coolcfan Mar 19 '12 at 4:25

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

榜样 is a model, specifically a person regarded as an excellent example of a certain quality.

Every year, the government announces

全国劳动模范 or 劳模 in short (people who excel in work) and 全国道德模范 (people who possess good moral values)

In a lot of companies, they have an honor called

模范带头人 (employees that come first in sales numbers, etc.)

Teachers use the word fairly often:

小明是我们(学习)的榜样。Xiao Ming set a good example for us.

An idiom:

榜样的力量是无穷的。If one sheep leaps over the ditch, all the rest will follow. (official translation)


例子 is a typical thing that can represent the whole kind.

举个例子 give an example


It's actually very easy to distinguish between the two words.

Definition of "example" (from the Dashboard widget on my Mac):

example |igˈzampəl| noun

  1. a thing characteristic of its kind or illustrating a general rule --> 例子 (neutral)

  2. a person regarded in terms of their fitness to be imitated or the likelihood of their being imitated --> 榜样 (positive, and used to describe people only)


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Nice answer! +1 Can you please link or write (if the link is not available) for the dictionary entry? I'm not sure we can fully copy it, so be sure about that and link the entry. :) –  Alenanno Mar 19 '12 at 10:51

一个例子 means a example.

and 榜样 means a PERSON who made good examples.

or 榜样 describe a excellent person

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