24
votes
11answers
76k views

How to describe differences between Cantonese and Mandarin?

When I tell people I speak Cantonese I'm often asked, "What's the difference between that and Mandarin?". This inevitably leads to a very poor explanation that includes references to the differences ...
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?
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do the names of some Chinese companies consist of “repeated” words?

I'm referring to the repetition of names such as "Dangdang" and "Renren." Why is this the case?
10
votes
3answers
539 views

Do 之 and 的 come from the same word?

In modern Chinese 之 is thought of as the literary genitive particle and 的 as the colloquial. In most reconstructions of Old Chinese 之 looks very similar to the way 的 is pronounced now. For example in ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Using 的 at the end of a sentence

I'm looking for confirmation of the way I'm parsing a sentence with 的 at the end, and I'd appreciate some background or other examples of this usage. I found this sentence on tatoeba.org: ...
7
votes
4answers
7k views

When are “《” and “ 》” and other brackets used?

In some texts, I have seen the following brackets: Carrot brackets: 《, 》,〈, and 〉. Square brackets: 【, 】,〖, and 〗. C-brackets: 〔 and 〕. L-brackets: 「, 」, 『, and 』. Some questions: What are the ...
14
votes
10answers
2k views

Are there word games in Chinese?

Do Chinese characters make it a lot harder to create or play word games in Chinese than it is in English? I have seen a few Chinese crosswords, but it seems like they aren't as densely cross-linked as ...
10
votes
3answers
3k views

Useful resources for learning Taiwanese?

My girlfriend is from Fujian and speaks 闽南语, so I am trying to learn so I can communicate with her family better. The struggle is finding any useful resources (even in Chinese), so I'm wondering if ...
9
votes
4answers
440 views

In pinyin, why is there an inconsistency between bo, po, suo, duo etc

We have: bo, po, mo, fo, wo But then: duo, suo, luo, zuo, ruo, cuo, guo, huo, nuo, tuo In each, the vowel is pronounced the same, but the creators of pinyin have chosen two different ...
9
votes
3answers
245 views

Asking “what's the pinyin/character for X?”

How do we ask someone to "translate" a character or some pinyin into the other one? The expressions I'm referring to are: What's the pinyin for this/that (character)/... ? What's the ...
8
votes
3answers
416 views

When do I use 着 to indicate action in progress?

It seems like for some verbs (正)在 is used to indicate action in progress, but I have also encountered 着 for some, like 穿着. When should it be used, is there a rule to follow?
5
votes
1answer
890 views

Are tones sometimes glossed over?

To elaborate, although ni3 hao3 has a double third tone, when I hear native speakers say it, it's said so quickly that they definitely are not using that tone, nor is there feasibly time to use the ...
25
votes
9answers
2k views

What is the difference between 狗 and 犬?

狗 (gǒu) and 犬 (quǎn) both mean "dog" and both seem relatively common, but is there any difference between them? When should I use one and when should I use the other?
14
votes
8answers
5k views

Why is stroke order important when writing Chinese characters?

I often see people having a big focus on correct stroke order for writing Chinese characters. My question is, for most learners, is it important to know the stroke order, and if so, why is it ...
13
votes
1answer
217 views

Is there a rule that tells what characters can be omitted?

I have a habit of using too many characters when I speak and write. For example: 我回我的家。 我的 is not needed, and we can simply say 我回家。 Is there a grammar rule for when to cut characters? A ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

List of hanzi and their components

I would like to be able to compute the distance between 2 hanzi according to their components. My idea is that a hanzi like 式 is made of 工 and 弋. 2 hanzi are close if they share common components. ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

How were Chinese characters taught to Chinese children before the introduction of pinyin?

Before schools started to use pinyin for teaching characters to Chinese children, how and/or what was used to teach it instead? And what about how dictionaries showed the pronunciation of characters?
8
votes
2answers
258 views

What's the difference between ,and 、

What's the difference between ,and 、 as they appear in some texts, like in this passage of the Zhuang Zi (end of the second part): 是萬物之化也,禹、舜之所紐也,伏戲、几蘧之所行終,而況散焉者乎! Is it like comma and semicolon? Or ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

What does 'duang' mean in 'online Chinese'?

I see this word popping up on Weibo and Taobao. It's not written with any character, but spelled out in Pinyin. What does it mean? EDIT: For the annals:
6
votes
6answers
1k views

Resources for learning Cantonese

I'd like to learn Cantonese, does anyone know some good resources (books, websites) that provide a thorough introduction into the language? I know that the pronunciation is a lot harder than in ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Pinyin tones pronunciation cheat sheet

I've just started taking Chinese lessons, and I've been trying to find a "cheat sheet" for pinyin pronunciation. All the sites I've found is either incomplete (only having some tones), only having the ...
0
votes
2answers
133 views

what is difference using of “地” and “得” [duplicate]

I have been learning Mandarin since 6 months ago, but i have problem with my title, could you guys make me clear about the difference between them? if i have example of sentences like below is ...
18
votes
4answers
890 views

Reading handwriting

How can I get better at reading handwriting? Are there fonts that look like it, or web sites with examples for practice? Are there some common shortcuts that people take when writing by hand?
12
votes
8answers
924 views

Sheep or goat? 一只羊跑过来

In the sentence: 一只羊跑过来 Would a Chinese person typically assume this is a goat or a sheep?
10
votes
4answers
269 views

Are there standard dictionaries for Chinese?

Standard dictionaries have had a profound effect on languages like English. They've helped normalize spelling and pronunciation and provide reference for meanings and disambiguation. When thinking of ...
9
votes
1answer
733 views

Analog of Hong Kong grade level for Chinese characters?

The Unihan database lists a kGradeLevel for each entry. This is the primary grade in the Hong Kong school system by which a student is expected to know the corresponding character. Is there a similar ...
9
votes
5answers
15k views

How to say “cool” in Chinese

Basically I am looking for words in common usage which are roughly synonymous with English "cool", "wicked", "awesome", "sweet", and related positive slang adjectives. I would also like to know how ...
8
votes
1answer
181 views

Difference between 实际, 现实, 确实, and 实在

These 4 words (实际, 现实, 确实, and 实在) all mean different combinations of 'real', 'indeed', 'practical', 'really', and 'reality'. Is there any easy way to distinguish, remember and understand the ...
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 ...
7
votes
3answers
408 views

份, 个, 本, 两: How do they function in these sentences?

I've been working with Rosetta Stone for about 2 weeks now, and due to the immersion (from the start, the entire program is entirely Chinese—no English anywhere), they don't do any explaining of ...
7
votes
1answer
460 views

When was punctuation introduced into Chinese?

I have seen some old Chinese books. The words flowed from top to bottom on the page and there was no punctuation. How did readers know when the sentences began and ended? Were any older forms of ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the formal/polite way to begin and end an email in Chinese?

In English, formal emails, e.g. emails to a professor, often start with "Hi", "Hello", "Dear" followed by the receiver's name (and title, if applicable). The ending is usually "Best", "Regards", ...
6
votes
2answers
446 views

Can 来 be used as a 虚词?

来 usually means "to come". In this sentence from an online database: 旱区人民需要我们的帮助来渡过难关 来 does not seem to me being used in its lexical meaning here, but rather containing a grammatical expression ...
6
votes
3answers
339 views

病了: Function of 了

I came across the following sentence: 我病了。 I know 了 has many functions, and I believe one of them is a completive marker (past tense). But this sentence is apparently in the present, based on the ...
6
votes
2answers
385 views

The development of rhotic vowels in Mandarin

Schuessler's reconstruction of the Old Chinese reading of 二 is *ńźi. It seems there is a correspondence between OC syllables beginning in *ń or *ńź and Mandarin syllables romanised as er. However, ...
6
votes
4answers
235 views

Which expressions should I choose to say “thanks for your help”?

If I want to say "Thanks for your help", which sentence is correct and which one is more commonly used? 谢谢你的帮忙 谢谢你的帮助 It seems that the first one is more uncommon but I'm not really ...
5
votes
4answers
667 views

What does the `的` mean in `我是九点去上班的`?

In the reply to 你是什么时候去上班的?, what does the 的 in 我是九点去上班的 mean? I think that without the 的, the sentence makes sense in and of itself, right? And the meaning is that I start to work at 9:00 am...., ...
4
votes
2answers
329 views

b and p, d and t, k and g etc. in English and Cantonese

Many words in Cantonese which I think should be pronounced as b, d, g, are translated by the British to p, t, k, respectively. For example, a place in Hong Kong called 大埔 and is pronounced as Dai Bo ...
4
votes
6answers
452 views

What is the best way to learn tones?

I still have difficulty to identify tones when I listen to Chinese. Moreover I have difficulty in saying second tone. Could you guys advice me some way to improve my tone?
4
votes
4answers
628 views

Pronunciation of 那个

I'm surprised this question hasn't been asked yet! The pinyin for 那个 is nà gè, but in conversation, Chinese people often pronounce it more like nee-guh than nah-guh. I asked my teacher and she says ...
3
votes
3answers
530 views

“Four-part” composition of characters

I would like to compile a list of characters where you can draw two lines in a + shape, running through the center of the character to cleanly separate it into four "components." Some leeway must be ...
2
votes
1answer
83 views

Where does the 4th tone go on wan3shang (evening)?

I see the character for evening are wan3 and shang4, but when the word is written in pinyin, the fourth tone disappears from shang and it becomes neutral. I've read the rules of tone change but I ...
18
votes
7answers
2k views

Where to practice speaking Chinese?

Living in Utah, I find it quite difficult to find places to practice speaking Chinese, especially Cantonese. Apart from accosting people in stores and other public places when I happen to hear them ...
15
votes
4answers
282 views

Is this an exception in the use of 的?

I know that, when expressing possessives, we add 的 to the usual personal pronouns, such as 我的. However, in a question in my grammar textbook I saw: 你爸爸忙吗? = Is your father busy? Why not ...
13
votes
5answers
962 views

Addressing women as “小姐” in Northern China

I heard that it is not appropriate to call women or girls "小姐" in northern China. That it is considered rough and has a meaning close to "hooker". So I never address girls or women as "小姐" in the ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

How does Wikipedia's simplified to traditional converter work?

The relationship between simplified and traditional characters can be a headache for organizations using both orthographies. "A number of surveys, such as [Xiandai 1986], have demonstrated that ...
10
votes
2answers
284 views

Implications of “旧的不去,新的不来”

I found this idiom while looking for another idiom my friend told me about like 回去回来 or 回来回去. I'm wondering about the implications of 旧的不去,新的不来 though. Can this be used for people who hold onto broken ...
9
votes
2answers
576 views

Measure Words and their English Analogue

I was taught that the closest analogue in English of Chinese measure words are 'units', e.g. "a pile of wood", "a cup of water", etc. What strikes me as a bit odd about this analogy is that the units ...
9
votes
4answers
574 views

How did 外国人 become 老外?

From Baidu: 老外,是中国人对国外人的一种俗称,类似与老张、老王、老李之类的称呼。称呼中加“老”显得亲热,比如“老乡”“老表”,称呼你老外,就像称呼老张老李那样,大大咧咧,随便亲切。过去中国人对外国人的称呼都是用在第三人称上,只有“老外”可以用于第二人称。 To translate, it says laowai is a colloquial term for ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does the construction of 要是…的话 mean “if”?

I know other words like 如果 also mean "if", but why would 要是...的话 mean "if"? An example sentence: 要是你喜欢汉语(的话),你该听中国的音乐。 If you like Chinese, you should listen to Chinese music.

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