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I often hear both used to describe a person or a person's action. The direct translations aren't the same, but from my experience, when used in context, I can't tell when to use one over the other. What are the differences?

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Briefly speaking, 夸张 is neutral, but 过分 is derogatory. –  Stan Jul 8 '13 at 15:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

夸张 (kuāzhāng) simply means Hyperbole, Exaggeration.

As in, your friend told a story that was too 夸张...

你朋友的故事太夸张了 - your friend's story is a bit exaggerated...

Or if someone is acting ridiculous, crazy, or flamboyant (in a funny way, not in a mean way), you could say they're acting 夸张.


过分 (guòfèn), as you can tell from the two characters 过 (overstep), 分 (portion, point)... that they've overstepped their points/ or overstepped their boundaries.

你朋友干吗打我? 他太过分了。。。 - Why did your friend hit me? He went a bit overboard...


Something helpful for me...

When the translations of words are similar (in the case of 夸张 and 过分), it always helps to break the word into parts as I described above. That helps for two reasons:

  • It gets you familiar with the individual meanings of characters
  • Makes you more self-sufficient with learning the language as you can dissect each meaning when given ambiguous translations
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过分 can describe a story too, as you have well explained, 过+分 = overstep a proper boundary. So, there's nothing special for "a story". For example, 这个故事真是太过分了,竟然赞颂纳粹主义。 –  Stan Jul 8 '13 at 16:17
    
And +1 for useful tips for language study :) –  Stan Jul 8 '13 at 16:21
    
@Stan I guess you're right. I'll edit –  Growler Jul 8 '13 at 16:21
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+1 for the excellent answer! –  NS.X. Jul 8 '13 at 18:40

They both mean "excessive" but 夸张 is less pejorative.

夸张 literally means "long in praise," and has the connotations of "a little too much." Think of a glass of water that is filled to "overflowing," so a little bit spills onto the table.

过分 has the connotations of "over the top," "crossed the lines," etc.

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And in best case scenario, you could be exaggerate too much and make people feeling annoying, then you would be "过分夸张" ;-)

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