Questions that concern the use of expressions, parts of speech, words, verbs, etc.

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3
votes
5answers
840 views

你是我的小呀小苹果儿 What is the purpose of the second 小?

So I'm listening to this catchy song and the chorus goes 你是我的小呀小苹果儿. I'm wondering why the 小 is being said twice. Is that just something the artist is doing to play with the language in the song or ...
3
votes
2answers
107 views

Usage of 去 and 來 : is “context switching” allowed?

I am often confused with the use of 來 and 去. I made a picture synthesizing my current understanding of 來 and 去: 去 is used in the context when someone is going far away from A. 來 is used in the ...
4
votes
3answers
407 views

What is the meaning and proper usage of 凭什么?

I was watching a TV show and heard them using the expression 凭什么 to say 'why' - I hadn't heard this with this exact meaning before, so I'm wondering what the proper meaning is in English, and what the ...
5
votes
2answers
144 views

Is the difference between and saying 有时 and 会偶尔 very big?

Does one imply a much greater frequency? What about register? Is the difference between and saying 有时 and 会偶尔 very big, or is it in all cases quite close?
6
votes
1answer
180 views

How euphemistic is 傢伙?

傢伙 (an example of a Chinese lexeme that does not map bijectively between simplified and traditional characters, the simplified word being 家伙) is translated, in the only translation Wang Xiaobo's work ...
4
votes
1answer
178 views

What does 些 mean when it's combined with 什麼?

I found this sentence on tatoeba.org: 我就是不知道說些什麼。 I just don't know what to say. I understand most of the sentence, but what is "些" doing there? I've always seen it used to mean "a few".
13
votes
1answer
641 views

When to use 了 and when to use 过 to express past actions or events

I kind of have an idea when 了 and 过 should be used but it's mostly on a case by case basis, and I don't know the exact rules. So if I want to express something that happened in the past, when should ...
6
votes
3answers
577 views

Difference between 曾经 and 已经

In this question I was asking about 曾经 and one answer says it means 'already'. What's the difference between 曾经 and 已经? Do the two sentences below have the same meaning? 他曾经在北京学过两年汉语。 ...
4
votes
3answers
113 views

Is 在瞬间 something like 'at some point'?

The phrase 在瞬间 zài shùnjiān seems literally to mean 'in an instant'. But usage-wise, is it more like 'at some point'? Or am I off the mark?
4
votes
3answers
102 views

When would 产生了 be used?

I don't really understand the meaning or usage of 产生了. Google translate gives 'had'. But it doesn't really seem to be widely-used. When would it be used, and why?
2
votes
1answer
100 views

What are the uses of 什会 and from which area?

In restaurants in Australia we quite often have Chinese dishes which are combination for example Combination Satay or Combination Fried Rice. These contain several types of meat as opposed to ...
3
votes
2answers
173 views

Why can't 了 be used to complement 到?

I have been taught that the sentence 我刚到了 (wǒ gāng dào le) is not correct because 了 cannot be used as a complement of 到. Is this right? If so, why?
2
votes
1answer
85 views

Is 搏杀 used in jest in this sentence?

In December, I read this in a social network post: 今年剩下一个星期了,继续努力搏杀! In English slang, one might say "killing it" to mean performing well. Is this use of 搏杀 figurative, literal, or humorous?
17
votes
2answers
967 views

How do I decide whether to use 還是/还是 or 或者

還是/还是 (háishì) and 或者 (huòzhě) seem to have very similar meanings: 還是/还是: or; still; nevertheless 或者: or; possibly; maybe When I want to say 'or', how to I choose which to use, and are ...
5
votes
3answers
601 views

Sentence structure “I'm [doing something] because [reason]”?

I am familiar with the sentence structure "因为。。。所以。。。," but what is the correct way to say "I am [doing something] because [reason]"? For example, "I am asking this question because I am clueless." ...
7
votes
2answers
502 views

What is the proper usage of 而已 in Chinese?

I always hear Chinese people making sentences using 而已 - but I've never quite, 100%, understood how to use this in sentences myself. What is the correct way to apply it, and what is the English ...
19
votes
3answers
1k views

但是, 可是 and 不过 - how to know which one to use?

According to my dictionary, 但是, 可是 and 不过 all mean "but/however"? However are there any differences between them? Are there some cases, where one can be used but not another?
6
votes
6answers
845 views

Can 知道 be used in the sense of “to know someone”?

While watching a video with Chinese subtitles on a Chinese website, I came across this dialogue: Approximate English gloss (leaving out unnecessary details): A: You're XXX, right? B: So you ...
3
votes
7answers
682 views

What does 起来 mean in this phrase?

把被子收起来吧. Translation: Let's put the quilt away. In other circumstances, 起来 means to get up but here there is a different meaning, and from the definitions I can't decide which definition is ...
1
vote
1answer
80 views

Comparing “as A” and “as B”

While poking around the internet, I came across this sentence from a non-native speaker, which sounded off: 她是朋友比爱人更好。 Intended meaning: She is better as a friend than as a lover [for the ...
2
votes
2answers
323 views

When to use ’啦‘ and "嘛‘?

I've learned two question ending: 吗 in 你好吗? and 呢 in 你呢? But my question is When to use ’啦" and "嘛"?They seem to be question ending also, are they common in Chinese?
2
votes
2answers
103 views

How to use 读作 in the sentence “67.5读作六十七点五”?

In the textbook, I read this: 67.5读作六十七点五. Question: What's the role of 读作? Why 读作 is there? 谢谢您!
2
votes
5answers
161 views

Which sentence is correct?

Wondering where to put a time frequency word in a Chinese sentence? Which one of the following sentences is correct? 我每个星期去四次大学 or 我每个星期去大学四次? Thanks!
1
vote
1answer
181 views

Using variants of 那

When to use variations of 那? 那 (nà,nǎ, nèi, núo) has multiple pronunciations. Can someone explain when to use the different sounds? (images courtesy of www.zhongwen.com)
7
votes
2answers
376 views

What is the difference between these two words 叫做 and 叫作?

What is the difference between these two words 叫做 and 叫作? The dictionary definition is quite similar and when I use this term in conversation I am unaware of which character combination I am using.
4
votes
4answers
354 views

How strict is pronoun gender applied in writing

I noticed that my sougou pinyin program doesn't even have 她们的 in the choices, how strict is this gender difference applied in writing, Maybe some specific questions. If I refer to a group of people ...
18
votes
4answers
914 views

How do I decide whether to use 可以, 会 or 能?

According to every dictionary I've seen so far, there is a big overlap in these: 可以 = can, may, be able to 会  = can, be able to, able 能  = can, may, able, capable How do I properly choose which ...
2
votes
3answers
1k views

How to use 一点儿 and 一下儿?

They both mean "a little bit" according to the dictionary. However, does the meaning both apply in V and Adjective? i.e. V + 一点儿/一下儿 (吃一点儿/吃一下儿,快一点儿/快一下儿) and Adj + 一点儿/一下儿 (美一点儿/美一下儿, 好一点儿,好一下儿) ...
1
vote
2answers
142 views

What does the measure word 一片 mean? and how to use it?

In the textbook, we learned that 一片 is the measure word for thin, flat objects such as leaves. But it seems to mean differently in 一片草地. What does the measure word 一片 mean? and how to use it? 
3
votes
7answers
1k views

Can we call someone X太太 or not?

Can we call someone X太太 ? or is it the calling of husband to his wife? In my textbook everybody calls one women 錢太太. But my teacher said it is unsuitable. Which one is correct?
7
votes
6answers
663 views

Usage of 无 compared with 没有

I just stumbled across a new phrase 无消息。 This is the first time I've encountered 无. How it is used, and how it is different from 没有,as in 没有消息?
8
votes
6answers
434 views

“小王” 和 “老王” how to determine which to use?

This is something I still haven't mastered and still just go with the flow. If I wanted to call someone a nickname, say for Mr. Wang, which one should I choose? What defines whether I should call him ...
0
votes
1answer
236 views

How to use 的 in Chinese? [closed]

I'm recently studying the most frequently used Chinese characters list, and 的 is the #1 in the list, which means it is the MOST USED character in Chinese! So my question is how to use 的 in Chinese? ...
0
votes
1answer
128 views

What is the difference between 不 and 没? [duplicate]

I know 不 is the negative prefix for a verb, such as 不是. However 没 is also a negative prefix, such as 没有, so what is the difference between 不 and 没? Thanks!
0
votes
1answer
78 views

How to use 了 in Chinese? [duplicate]

I know 了 is a indicator for past tense in Chinese. But it seems there are more usages for this character, so how to use 了 in Chinese? Thanks!
3
votes
6answers
202 views

Meaning of 只 in 只把思念积压在我心头

Ok so firstly I take the sentence as a whole to mean. The missing is accumulating in my heart (i.e. I'm missing you more and more). Provided I've got that correct, what function does 只 perform here. ...
6
votes
4answers
757 views

Differences between 饭,菜, 食 and 餐

I was always wondering, what is the difference between 饭,菜, 食 and 餐 . Basically all mean food. But I know those are sometimes used in a diffetent curcimstances. What is then the most common word for ...
3
votes
3answers
283 views

How do I word a polite notice about toilets in Mandarin?

My friend has asked me how to translate a sign asking people using a bathroom (toilet) at the tourist attraction where she works. She wants to ask that they do not to throw toilet paper in the ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the difference between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前)?

I'd like to have some way to differentiate between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前), in order to help with memorising them both. Referring to Modern Mandarin Grammar (Claudia Ross, Routledge 2006), it ...
3
votes
7answers
585 views

Difference between 坏 and 破

Looking for some concrete answers on the difference between 坏 and 破 From what I have been able to understand: 坏 bad: as in 坏人 (bad person) or 鱼坏了 (rotten food) broken: as in 手机坏了 (broken mobile ...
6
votes
2answers
418 views

What is the difference between 工作上 and 工作

那个是我工作上的东西 Why is there a 上 in this sentence? How does it change the meaning? Ie, what's the difference between 工作的东西 and 工作上的东西? When should 工作上 be used as opposed to 工作?
3
votes
5answers
871 views

Why is 未有 used here?

While reading a news article from Hong Kong, I noticed the sentence: XXX 未有回覆传媒查询。 (I replaced specific details that aren't relevant to my question with "XXX".) This I take to mean that: XXX ...
1
vote
1answer
156 views

(Cantonese) What's the right context in which to say, “三九唔識七”?

What's the right context in which to say, "三九唔識七"? Would like to know how to properly use this phrase.
3
votes
2answers
170 views

When should 之 be used as a particle?

When should 之 be used as a particle? There doesn't seem to be a straightforward answer on Nciku. On Wiktionary, the entry states: Indicates that the previous word has possession of the next one. ...
8
votes
2answers
328 views

Where is the correct place to use 您 when addressing others?

Almost every foreign text book I've seen mentions 您 as a polite or formal address to others, however I rarely hear it said and rarely see it written except when addressing customers and occasionally ...
12
votes
6answers
628 views

When is it appropriate to address a lady as 先生?

Chairman Mao addressed Soong Ching-ling as 宋庆龄先生. Yang Jiang was also addressed as 杨绛先生 by the public. My dad used to tell me to address some of his female colleagues as 先生 too. I wonder why a lady ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

The meanings of 不好意思

In response to kindnesses I sometimes say "不好意思了" and I don't think there has ever been a misunderstanding. But as an English speaker I feel unsure how this is different from saying "不好意思" for a bad ...
10
votes
6answers
718 views

What is the difference in use between 完 and 了?

If I understood correctly, both 完 and 了 can be used to indicate a completed action, so what is the difference in use? How do we properly use 完 in a sentence? Which contexts would be valid?
7
votes
3answers
351 views

冰雪聪明… only for girls?

Is the expression 冰雪聪明 (bīng xuě cōng míng) really only used for girls? The literal translation is "snow smart" and I understand it means something along the lines of "extremely smart" but the times ...
1
vote
1answer
259 views

Chinese symbols on a Murakami painting? [closed]

Recently at an art gallery, I was introduced to some works of Takashi Murakami. On quite a few of his paintings were symbols which looked like Chinese, some sort of a seal perhaps. There was a ...