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Which one of these expressions is the best one? Or are they both good, but for different situations?

For example:

  • 你住在哪里? VS 你住在哪儿? = Where do you live?
    Nĭ zhù zài nă lĭ? ——— Nĭ zhù zài năr?
  • 你在哪里工作? VS 你在哪儿工作? = Where do you work?
    Nĭ zài nă lĭ gōng zuò? Nĭ zài năr gōng zuò ?

Considering that when writing, the second version was actually suggested as a whole (for the second example only), while the first wasn't, maybe the second one is the more correct, but I'd like some more elaboration by a native speaker.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

When expressing locations, I don't think there is a difference between 哪儿 and 哪里. Both of them mean(to express locations),

  1. where, (in, at)what place
  2. (in, at)every place, everywhere

Your examples show the first meaning. I would like to write a sentence to show the second meaning.

  • 他在哪儿都很出色。
  • 他在哪里都很出色。

He is outstanding everywhere.

However, 哪里 can mean something else.

  1. Used in a sentence pattern called “反义疑问句"(sorry, I don't know the grammar jargon in English, but I could show you an example about it. Can someone tell me this jargon?) to emphasize your mood of doubt, that you don't believe it. Here, you could also use "哪". Example:

    • 他已经睡着了,哪里会知道我们说了什么?
    • 他已经睡着了,会知道我们说了什么?

    Meaning: He has been in sleep already. How could he know what we said. (I don't think he would know)

  2. As an answer to the praises from others, to show your humbleness. For example, I find that you speak Chinese well, so I say:

    Alenanno, 你中文说得挺好的。

    and you answer

    哪里,哪里。

Literally it means "where, where", actually means "No, I am not so good as you say. I still need improvements". We Chinese usually would answer in this way to show the humbleness.

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I see, fairly clear, thanks... Two thing: (1) in my question you corrected "nă li" to "nă lĭ": doesn't the second character lose its tone in this case? (2) here "哪里 can mean something els;perhaps you know", you are saying that 哪里 means "perhaps you know"? –  Alenanno Dec 31 '11 at 15:08
    
I thought 哪儿 was just how people from Beijing said 哪里 (erhua or 儿化) - have I got that wrong? –  Cocowalla Dec 31 '11 at 15:21
1  
@Cocowalla Really, 儿化韵 is very popular in the areas within and surrounding Beijing, however, 哪儿 is actually a word in Mandarin, not a word just in Beijing dialect.It seems right that you get 哪儿 from 哪里 by applying 儿化, but they are two words. As I said, 哪里 can mean something else. –  Huang Dec 31 '11 at 15:29
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@Huang You're welcome! What kind of tutorial? There's this: chinese.stackexchange.com/editing-help ... If you need further help, I'm in the chat. –  Alenanno Dec 31 '11 at 16:21
1  
@Cocowalla I am sorry. I think one of my viewpoints was wrong. erhua in 这儿, 哪儿 and 那儿 are based on 这,哪,and 那, not 这里,哪里,那里. Actually, erhua is a feature in mandarin indeed, and it also happens to some other dialects(like Wu).Remember, standard pronunciations of mandarin are based on the Beijing dialect, and in Beijing dialect, erhua is very popular, so some people would think that erhua is only in Beijing dialect. That's wrong. Here, in Chengdu, we also say 哪儿 with erhua in dialect, but different. It sounds like lur in lurk. –  Huang Jan 1 '12 at 11:07
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