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I'm translating an English song in an exercise to learn Chinese

One of the lyrics is

You can tell he means it by the look on his face

This is English expression. A less expressive lyricist might say:

You know he means it because (of) the look on his face

So I tried these translations:

  • 你能确定。。。 因为。。。
    • You can determine... because...
  • 。。。 就你能确定。。。
    • ... so you know that...

For "can tell" I tried 你能确定 。。。 or 你确定

For "by" I tried either 就。。。 or 因为。But 因为 seems like it's causal. Like "the look on his face is why he is serious". It's the opposite. The look on his face is effect, not cause of his seriousness. The look on his face may be the cause of your knowing he is serious.

For the full sentence I tried:

你看他脸色, 就确定 他是认真的

How would you translate that line? Emphasis on the Chinese translation for "You can tell ... by ... "

Other English ways it's used :

  • "You can tell the spaghetti is cooked when it sticks to a wall."
  • "You can tell he's rich by the clothes he's wearing"
  • "How do you know?" "I can just tell!"
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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The corresponding Chinese expression for

You can tell ...by ...

is

一看...就知道...

so

You can tell he means it by the look on his face

一看他的脸色就知道他是认真的

Although for a lyric you probably want something like

他的神情告诉我他是认真的

"You can tell the spaghetti is cooked when it sticks to a wall."

能粘在墙上的spaghetti才是煮过的spaghetti

where "You can tell" or "you know" is basically ignored because it won't add anything to the sentence.

"You can tell he's rich by the clothes he's wearing"

"一看他穿的衣服就知道他很富"

"How do you know? (How can you tell)" "I can just tell!"

"你怎么知道的?" "我就是知道"

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Thank you! My summary: 知道 instead of 确定。 就 is correct here. 一看 implies "in a look, you'll know..." The expression and use of does imply visual observation, not process. So you don't use "一看" with my Spaghetti example. And if you "just know!" then, the Chinese is what I expect, don't use "一看", only use "就是我知道" ! Notice "是" in there. It adds emphasis, as described here. Thanks, @night! –  The Red Pea Aug 7 at 20:16
    
Also, thank you for your lyric suggestion: "他的神情告诉我他是认真的" . I notice it uses "告诉". It means "His face tells me he was serious", to use another word "His face suggests he was serious". I avoided "告诉" in the overly-literal translation of "you can tell", because I (subject) am not 告诉 his face (object) anything. But you show me indeed his face (subject) 告诉 me (object)! –  The Red Pea Aug 7 at 20:20

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