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虽然 and 尽管 can both be translated as "despite" and "although". I've been familiar with 虽然 for a longer time already but I recently came across 尽管 for the first time. Is 尽管 a more formal or poetic term? In what contexts would you use 尽管 rather than 虽然?

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+1 for remembering to include Pinyin. :) But also, the question is interesting too eheh. :D –  Alenanno Jan 9 '12 at 16:24
    
I usually leave out pinyin since it's such a pain to switch between the different input methods. Do you know of a way to type pinyin (with tones) using Google Pinyin (谷歌拼音输入法 - gǔgē pīnyīn shūrù fǎ)? –  Bjorn Jan 9 '12 at 16:30
    
A user, @Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, wrote this program, Pinyin Fixer. Basically, if you write "wo3" and then hit space, you see what happens. :) –  Alenanno Jan 9 '12 at 16:34
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On a Mac, tones can be input using U.S. Extended keyboard (which should be made default English input method). Before typing the vowel over which the tone mark appears, type alt a for 1st tone (¯), alt e for second tone (´), alt v for third tone (ˇ), alt ` for fourth tone (`). It's not too cumbersome when you get used to it. Even works for ǚ (type alt v + v). –  Bathrobe Jan 12 '12 at 12:50
    
Thanks for the suggestions above. I'm afraid they're not of any help to me (as my English keyboard layout is not a US one and external programs add a step which is rather cumbersome) but they may well be of use to others! –  Bjorn Jan 13 '12 at 19:00
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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Let me translate an answer I saw on a Chinese website.

这两个关联词语的使用是有差别的.词典中的注释很明了,"尽管"表达的是让步转折,即说话者已经认识到一种客观存在,这种客观存在应导致某一种结果;但他依然坚持自己认为正确的另一种结果。可谓坚持己见,态度坚定,大有死了的鸭子嘴硬不肯悔改之意。“虽然”是客观陈述,“尽管”是主观表达。 如:虽然天冷路滑,学员们还是按时到达了;尽管天冷路滑,你们也要按时到达。

尽管 and 虽然 are somewhat different. "尽管" implies personal opinion (similar to "although"?), indicating that the speaker understands that the situation usually leads to result A, but insists on result B nevertheless. "虽然", however, does not carry this connotation because it goes with 但是 and can be treated as "but". "虽然" merely states a fact.

For example,

虽然天冷路滑,学员们还是按时到达了。
It was cold outside, but the students arrived on time.

尽管天冷路滑,你们也要按时到达。
Although it is cold outside, you should arrive on time.

  1. As a native speaker, I think 虽然 and 尽管 are interchangeable in the first example, while 尽管 is the best way to put it in the second sentence. Thus, when you are expressing strong personal opinion, 尽管 is a better choice.
  2. 尽管 is also more formal. People hardly use 尽管 in colloquial language. (Probably we omit 虽然 as well, as 但是 will do in most situations.)
  3. 尽管 has an additional meaning, which Terry explained quite clearly in his post.
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Agree with the most. However, 尽管 is quite common in spoken language across people I know. –  NS.X. Dec 8 '12 at 15:29
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When used as conjunctions, 尽管 and 虽然 are synonyms.

However, 尽管 can be used as an adverb to mean feel free (to do). 虽然 does not share this meaning. For example,

你尽管喝吧,晚上回家我开车。

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尽管 Can be used as adv. and conjunction in Chinese.

When it is an adv..it's different from 虽然. It means without constrains, can do something freely.

Eg. 你有什么困难尽管对我说。(just tell me, if you have any problem.) 你尽管来吧。(just come)

When it is an conjunction, it functions like 虽然。and most time it is ok to substitute one with the other.But,in my opinion they have little different in pragmatic.

虽然 leads a turning clause.

他虽然身体不好,可是仍然坚持工作。in this sentence, "身体不好"should be the old information,and "坚持工作"should be the new information. ----he got sick these day,right? So pity.. ----yes, 他虽然身体不好,可是仍然坚持工作。

尽管 leads a concessive clause.

他尽管身体不好,可是仍然坚持工作 in this sentence, "坚持工作" should be the old information,and "身体不好 "should be the new information. ----I heard that he is workaholic. ----yes, 他尽管身体不好,可是仍然坚持工作。 Coz here we may say 他还是会坚持工作的,尽管他身体不好。

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I'm going to keep it simple...

IMO, it's extremely helpful to understand the meaning of each character in a phrase, rather than just the phrase itself. This will help you break down the meanings of characters, and will help your understanding of subtle differences, as you're asking here.

So... Taking an excerpt from gonnastop's post:

"Thus, when you are expressing strong personal opinion, 尽管 is a better choice."

If you look at what 尽 means... it means "strong, utmost, to the end, exhaust". And, 管 means to "take care of, to care about"

So you can conclude that a phrase with the word 尽 would most likely be a stronger version of that phrase. This can help you think about the individual meanings of characters, and explain these nuances.

I give another similar example in my post here: Difference between 最高领导人 and 主要领导人之一?

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Concessive clauses belong to a category of contrast clauses. They usually denote some obstacle which does not prevent the fulfilment of an action expressed in the main clause. The first word that introduces the contrast clause is called a subordinator.

Both 尽管 and 虽然 (in the context of the question asked) are concessive subordinators or subordinating conjunctions possessing the English meaning of "even though" and "although" respectively. To answer the question, 尽管 (or even though) is emphatic while 虽然 (although) is not.

The following examples show clearly the distinction between the two words:

尽管世贸中心大楼即将倒塌,消防员继续搜寻受困火海的灾民。
Even though the WTC tower is about to collapse, the firemen continue to search for trapped victims in the inferno.

(Here, 尽管 is used to highlight to readers the extraordinary risk that the firemen faced.)

虽然下起毛毛细雨,但他还是出去跑步。
Although it is drizzling, he still went out for a jog.

(Here, 虽然 is used because the obstacle is certainly not something out of the ordinary and does not need emphasizing.)

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