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I want to be able to say to my son that an insect is beneficial.

I know I can use 害虫 for an insect that is harmful, but is there something I can use to say beneficial other than 好虫 which I assume is incorrect.

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2 Answers 2

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I would say 益虫. This is related to the compound 益害 (literally - beneficial and harmful), which means effect (positive or negative). For example, you can say 喝咖啡的益害 (the effects of drinking coffee).

Chinese has many similar antonymic compounds like this. Some examples include 高矮 (height of a person, or literally - tall and short), 长短 (length, or literally - long and short), 大小 (size, or literally - large and small), or 深浅 (depth, or literally - deep and shallow).

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Simply the antonym of 害虫 hàichóng is 益虫 yìchóng, also literally 'beneficial insect'.

FYI, one way to retrieve these kinds information is to check out for example the Chinese Wikipedia page 害虫, and in the 另见 (See Also) section you can find the term 益虫. I'll confess under most circumstances this way only helps to find related terms, not necessarily antonyms, but there's another route you can take on Wikipedia -- just go for pest(organism) (since you've already know the antonym of 害虫 in English) on the English Wikipedia and then look for a Chinese version in the 'Languages' toolbox on the left (luckily there is one), click it and voila is the result.

As mentioned by @JamesJiao, many antonymic pairs exist in Chinese, such as 好 good<>坏 bad, 益 benefit<>害 harm, 善 virtuous<>恶 evil, and the both of a pair are usually compounded with the same element to further form an antonymic pair of compound words, for example 好人<>坏人, 益虫<>害虫, 善意<>恶意. Generally this rule proves, but the antonymic pair may not only belong to a one-to-one mapping, e.g. 有益<>有害 and 有利<>有害, and also too many exceptions violate it, e.g. *利虫<>害虫 is wrong. So take it as a hint for where to start searching for antonyms, but do check whether the rule-generated words actually exist and have the meaning desired.

I don't know whether you have access to a 同义词词典 Synonym Dictionary or a 反义词词典 Antonym Dictionary or something combining these two. If convenient, get one, for they'll be useful when you are looking for words with similar or opposite meaning to one you already know. (After random search I've found no free ones on the Internet, though)

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But 有益 is not equ to 有利... 利 here means 利益 actually. –  Mike Manilone Oct 4 '12 at 4:35
    
@MikeManilone How are those substantially different? –  Stumpy Joe Pete Oct 4 '12 at 4:47
    
@StumpyJoePete 利 means benefit, interest, advantage; 益 means do good, healthy, helpful. Eating low cal food is 有益; Knowing how to play aces is 有利. –  NS.X. Oct 4 '12 at 18:11
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Ok, got it. Advantageous vs beneficial. Close but distinct. Anyhow, I think the original point that they're both opposite of 有害 still stands. –  Stumpy Joe Pete Oct 4 '12 at 18:26

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