10
votes
4answers
527 views

Why are 成语 (idioms) four characters long? Are there 成语 with more or less than four characters?

I really enjoying learning 成语 (chéng yǔ) in Chinese, and I'm curious to know why they are often or always four characters long? Where does this tradition stem from? And are there 成语 with more or ...
17
votes
1answer
343 views

What is the difference in use between 以及, 和 and 与?

I have a book with the following lesson titles: 中文以及中国 聚会和饮食 交通与环境 Why are these terms connected with 以及 / 和 / 与, why not always use 和 for example? Are there any rules for proper use of these ...
7
votes
3answers
411 views

Difference between 想 and 要?

I know both of them mean "want to" but have usage in differente contexts. When should I use each one? For example: 我要厺上海市 and 我想厺上海市 What's the difference in the meaning between them? Also, ...
4
votes
1answer
746 views

What is the Cantonese equivalent for 你怎么样?

Colloquial Cantonese phrases often differ significantly from Mandarin, so I would be nervous to use 你怎么样 pronounced in Cantonese. Is there a greeting of identical (or nearly identical) meaning in ...
5
votes
3answers
250 views

What is the difference between 做番 vs. 做返?

A friend (Mainland Chinese, living in Hong Kong) recently posted the following sentence on Facebook: 聖誕節買禮物?做番中國人啦! As I had never seen the "做番" construction before, I asked if perhaps she had ...
6
votes
3answers
219 views

When should 了 be after the verb and when should it be at the end of the sentence?

In a sentence such as "因为我去面试了,所以我刮了胡子", in one case, 了 is after the sentence, while in the other case it's after the verb, even though in both cases, 了 is used to express the past tense. So how to ...
8
votes
5answers
287 views

How to translate/understand “还不” in “还不是因为爱”

Just realized that the 还不 part of speech in phrases such as "还不是因为爱", "还不都怪你" is quite tricky. How do you translate it into English?
5
votes
3answers
263 views

How are Latin botanical names handled in Chinese?

How are Latin botanical names (e.g. Rattus rattus or Eucalyptus marginata) handled in Chinese? Does a Chinese botanist simply use Latin? Are there specific characters allocated for these words?
5
votes
3answers
339 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." ...
9
votes
3answers
957 views

How do native Chinese greet each other on daily basis?

I have read somewhere that "你好" and "你好吗?" are mostly textbook greetings and are not used by native Chinese, at least not on daily basis. I would also find it hard to believe that two friends who know ...
5
votes
2answers
562 views

Answering yes/no questions

I was a bit surprised at first when I discovered that Chinese doesn't have single words or expressions for "yes" or "no", and that instead we must use the verb from the question to either confirm or ...
16
votes
6answers
1k views

Why is 的 (de) sometimes pronounced “di” even though it is used as a possessive particle?

I've noticed sometimes the word 的 is pronounced as "di" rather than "de". I'm aware that there is a valid use of 的 with pronunciation "di", which means "really and trully". However for the sentence: ...
7
votes
2answers
306 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 ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

Is there a rule of thumb for distinguishing male and female names in Chinese?

I often get tripped up when reading names of Chinese people, and trying to work out if they are male or female. Is there a good rule of thumb to follow to determine which is which?
12
votes
5answers
394 views

How do we know what characters correspond to Chinese names?

Recently I've asked "How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?", and now, I'm facing a similar, yet kind of different problem, which I think applies to any westerner or Chinese ...
1
vote
1answer
223 views

Typing Yale Romanization

I learned Cantonese using Yale Romanization, but I'm unable to type it easily because of the accent marks representing the tones. Is there a quick and easy way to do this without using a special ...
3
votes
2answers
503 views

Cantonese Romanization schemes

The Cantonese romanization scheme that I know is Yale Romanization, which to me makes the most sense and is the easiest to read of any that I've seen. It seems to give a very good idea of how to ...
19
votes
2answers
556 views

How did 葉 (leaf as in vegetation) become 叶 when it was simplified?

This is a spin-off question from this one "Determine radicals for simplified characters that lost their traditional form completely" where radicals for simplified characters were discussed. Now, the ...
5
votes
3answers
91 views

Translation of 火箭扫雷车

I have a children's wallchart with a variety of weapons and military vehicles. One of the items is 火箭扫雷车. I think I understand the meaning (it's a kind of minesweeper that uses rockets to clear ...
5
votes
1answer
335 views

Resources for learning classical Chinese

I have a very strong interest in classical Chinese (文言文), but I am unable to find any ressources for learning it that don't assume Chinese is your mother language. Can anybody give me some pointers?
9
votes
5answers
248 views

Why isn't 到 (dào) used in this sentence?

Earlier while chatting, I wrote a sentence and a native speaker told me it was correct. The sentence was: 某天我去北京。= Someday I'll go to Beijing. (mǒu tiān wǒ qù Běi jīng) I noticed that no ...
7
votes
1answer
284 views

Determine radicals for simplifed characters that lost their traditional form completely

Having read this question: How can one determine the radical for a given character?, it gave me another question. Since many simplified characters lost their original form (compared to traditional ...
15
votes
2answers
648 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
525 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?
4
votes
2answers
752 views

What are some common Chinese terms used when playing soccer

I regularly play soccer with a group of Chinese guys and wanted to share terms that I've learnt over the years. I would appreciate if anyone can fill in any gaps (or correct me if I'm wrong).
7
votes
2answers
525 views

我(也)很好 and tone sandhi

What are the (resultant) tones in those sentences, where all the words in isolation have 3rd tone? 我很好。 我也很好。 Reading tone shandhi rules on Wikipedia, there is no explanation about tree or ...
8
votes
3answers
300 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?
6
votes
2answers
145 views

Methods/resources for improving formal/business Chinese?

I'm returning to China early next year to manage a business, and will be dealing with a variety of Chinese clients in that environment. I want to ensure my formal/business Chinese skills are up to ...
6
votes
2answers
247 views

What's the difference between 房子 and 屋?

It seems like "house" is usually translated as 房子 (fáng zi) in standard Chinese, although 屋 (wū) is also a common translation, especially in Cantonese. Is there a difference between the two? When ...
14
votes
4answers
492 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
117 views

Looking for Pinyin standards

I have noticed discrepancies in how native Mandarin speakers spell certain words in Pinyin reflecting differences in pronunciation, for instance, pángbiān vs. pángbian and zǎoshang vs. zǎoshàng. I've ...
23
votes
7answers
980 views

Why is 有 (yǒu) the only verb that requires 没 while other verbs can use 不?

To negate something, we use 不 (bù) before the verb, such as in this short dialogue: A: 你是老师吗?= Are you a teacher? B: 不是。= I'm not. However, the verb 有 (yǒu) is the only one that requires 没 ...
19
votes
8answers
993 views

How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?

Since there are many characters that share a common pronunciation and sometimes also the same tone, how do we properly choose which character best represents our name? Is it totally arbitrary or are ...
7
votes
9answers
1k views

How to translate “你给我滚” properly

In a sentence like: “你*给我*拿一杯水” You would translate it something like: Get me a glass of water. How is the "给我" in the sentence “你给我滚” supposed to be translated? Should it just be "Get lost / P*ss ...
5
votes
4answers
156 views

Differences between 蝉 and 知了?

What are the main differences between 蝉 (chán) and 知了 (zhīliǎo) both meaning cicada. Do they both refer to the same species? Will either saying be understood by the majority of native speakers? Is ...
10
votes
3answers
235 views

When not to use 厕所 when asking for the toilet?

I've noticed sometimes in polite company or in the company of strangers some people will saying they are going to wash their hands 去洗手 (qù xǐshǒu) instead of going to the toilet 去上厕所 (qù shàng cèsuǒ). ...
2
votes
3answers
185 views

What is the Mandarin equivalent for the Shanghai term for dirty?

In the Shanghai dialect dirty is pronounced something like "o co" with the o pronounced like the "o" in cot and the "c" pronounced like the usual c in pinyin (kinda like an 'ts' sound). Which ...
6
votes
1answer
162 views

General guidelines for learning stroke order

A friend asked me for a brief description of the general guidelines for writing Chinese characters. What are the simplest ways to describe those "rules" that apply across most characters?
8
votes
2answers
143 views

What is the part without the radical called?

For example, these characters have different radicals: 根 跟 恨 狠 But the part of the characters minus the radical is the same. Does that part (艮 in this case) have a name?
16
votes
5answers
2k views

How can one determine the radical for a given character?

Many times, when reading Mandarin, I will happen across a character that I don't know. Usually, the radical along with some context will clue me into the meaning, but if I can't determine the ...
7
votes
5answers
274 views

Equivalent expression to: “I don't give a f***”

Is there something in Mandarin like "I don't give a f***", something that expresses the same sense of "I don't care" but with more force.
9
votes
3answers
380 views

What is the equivalent of the English word 'Fail' in Mandarin?

Fail is a pretty popular term on the internet these days, and one I'm quite fond of. Looking in my Chinese dictionary I can't find a great equivalent - is there a good way to say this? What would be ...
9
votes
3answers
188 views

Which regions use 计算机 for computer?

Where is 计算机 used for "computer", and where does it mean "calculator". In regions where it means "calculator" what is the word for "supercomputer" (assuming that 超级计算机 is not used there)?
7
votes
3answers
254 views

“Actually” as a sentence-starter of speech filler

When casually speaking English I use the word "actually" a lot at the beginning of a sentance, or as part of the flow of my speech. e.g. Actually, next semester doesn't start for a month. ...
10
votes
2answers
113 views

Authoritative source for translators

For translators, is there an authoritative source they go to where they can check translations are accurate? For example say there was a political conference and someone wasn't sure if the word ...
12
votes
5answers
720 views

How widespread is the use of 妳?

When addressing a female, do I have to use 妳 instead of 你? How common is the usage of 妳?
8
votes
4answers
190 views

Etymology of 汉语

I knew a Chinese woman who taught me a lot about Chinese languages. One of them was about 汉语's etymology. I was told that all parts of these characters had a meaning connected to the History of ...
5
votes
5answers
286 views

Why do Chinese “extend” the last word when speaking?

I've hear on many occasions that Chinese prolong the last word in a sentence, for example: ni hao ma ? becomes ni hao maaaaa ? (I'm not sure that's clear enough but can't think of a better ...
10
votes
2answers
251 views

Why is it possible to replace 都 with 也 in 什么都没有?

I know 也 only as "also", but I see it now and then used in ways difficult to understand, especially in some negative statements. Why is this so? Does 也 also have some meaning not mentioned in ...
3
votes
2answers
674 views

Etymology of 奴隶 (Slave)

I vaguely remember hearing somebody make observations about the word 奴隶 (slave). I would like to verify the impressions of the person who was speaking as being factual or just his impressions. What is ...

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