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As I am reading the New Practical Chinese Reader

From:

Resources for learning Mandarin Chinese

And I got to the translation of Tamen dou hen hao and I was wondering something.

The translation of "Tamen dou hen hao" is: "They are both fine"

Now I dont understand what they mean with "They are both fine" in this case since in english it can mean 2 things.

  1. They are both DOING fine, as a response to "How are they?"
  2. They are both fine, as in a choice between 2 things. Like would you have a coke or water?

I was wondering wether it means the 1st meaning or the 2nd or even both.

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2  
could you please comment why its a bad question? –  Loko Feb 15 at 16:41
2  
Yes, there's ambiguity as it is in English. But since there are 他们 I think it's most likely to be case (1) because 他们 is not generally used to refer to objects. If you are asked to compare two or more objects, the usual response is 都很好, 两个都很好, 这些都很好 or 全部都很好, but 他们都很好 is not common. –  user58955 Feb 15 at 18:57
    
The thing is, in most cases this would be resolved by context, but when you are on your first few lessons and the English is slightly ambiguous it is a reasonable question to ask what context the statement can be used. I assume the person who downvoted couldn't understand why you would ask an apparently simple question. –  xiaohouzi79 Feb 17 at 3:19
    
@xiaohouzi79 Aha okay thanks. This is my first attempt of learning chinese yes. –  Loko Feb 17 at 15:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Most likely it's the first meaning. I would give the second as 都可以 'dou1 ke3yi3' in the sense of 'both are possible'. Dou1 actually means 'all', but obviously it can refer to two items as well. Anyway isn't the sentence in context in the book?

It's nice to indicate the tones too when you write pinyin, it might help others identify the words.

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No idea how to exactly do the symbols to express the tones. –  Loko Feb 15 at 18:44
2  
At least you could write dou1 hen3 hao3 –  user58955 Feb 15 at 18:54
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@Loko: high ¯ = 1, rising ˊ = 2, rising+falling ˇ = 3, falling ˋ = 4. For no tone aka neutral tone you can use 0 or 5, or leave out the number if you have tone numbers on all the other syllables. –  hippietrail Feb 17 at 3:03

We need know the contents before and after when see this sentence. Normally, I don't think it relates or focus on DO something, it is daily greet.

how are you? I am fine (我很好)
how about your parents? They are fine. (tamen dou hen hao, 他们都很好)
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It is most likely to be the first answer. When one is indifferent over choices, one usually uses 都可以/都行/随便. 他们都很好 does not sound authentic.

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