I do not know the technical term for this kind of sentences, but obviously there is some fractal vibe to it.

  • Easy to reproduce the "meaning" in Chinese, but difficult to translate it in a play-with-words form. Thus the subtlety of the sentence remains a problem.
    – Stan
    Commented Oct 25, 2014 at 6:20

3 Answers 3


The words 'who' in this sentence is called 'relative pronoun', the clause introduced by which is called 'relative clause'.

A sentence with more than one relative clause is said to contain 'nested relative clauses'. The nesting structure in your sentence is:

The man, who kissed (the woman, who betrayed him with (the man, who loved (the one, whom nobody knew))).

There is no relative pronoun or relative clauses in mandarin Chinese. There are three common methods to translate such sentences:

  1. Turn each relative clause into a sentence. There will be no more nesting. The sentences will be longer but very clear.
  2. Turn each relative clause into an adjective phrase. There will still be a nesting structure. The sentence is shorter but the nested adjective phrases may be ambiguous.
  3. A combination of #1 and #2 - use #2 for clear and short fragments for brevity and #1 for the rest of the sentence for clarity.

Translation using method 1:


Translation using method 2:


(This sentence is practically unreadable but looks fun.)

Translation using method 3 (combination of method 1 & 2):




He had kissed her. But She betrayed him for another man. This other man loved an outsider.

English attributive clauses are normally broken down into several short sentences as are translated into Chinese. In the reverse order, if something is repeated, we would glue them together into clauses to translate them into English.


"男人親吻了女人, 而女人卻背叛了男人, 男人還愛著誰, 已經沒有人知道了"

"The man, who kissed the woman, who betrayed him with the man, who loved the one, whom nobody knew.

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