I have a habit of using too many characters when I speak and write.

For example:


我的 is not needed, and we can simply say 我回家。

Is there a grammar rule for when to cut characters? A more generic example:

AB + CD = AD. (A, B, C, D are characters and AB is one word and CD is another word). For example:

啰哩啰嗦 is said as 啰嗦

  • 1
    +1 This is a nice question. :) I'm interested in the answers.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 20:33
  • +1 I am native Chinese and I don't feel there is any grammar rule for this (or at least for the 我回家 example). Think about it: 我回家 = I go home. So why don't we say "I go to my home" in English when "I" want to go to "my" home, not anybody else's home?
    – Dante WWWW
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 2:05
  • @coolcfan, I have learned that, I was just giving an easy example. Also it would be I'm going home. Side note how to you say the progressive tense in Chinese.
    – MaoYiyi
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 5:10
  • 1
    I think it is strange to talk of omitting 'characters'. What you are talking about is omitting words. Even in Chinese I think it would sound strange to talk about omitting 'characters' in speech.
    – Bathrobe
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 23:42
  • 1
    It's not words. "冰箱" is a word made of two characters, it's not two words. If you don't feel comfortable saying 'characters' when talking about speech, I don't have any better word to offer you but 'morphemes'.
    – clacke
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


This is an interesting question. As other commenters have noted, the answer may depend on convention (e.g., "回家") or grammar (possession vs. adverbial modification). It also may depend on the rules for Chinese prosody, which is what I will focus on here.

Tang Dynasty poetry was based on disyllabic (grouped into two syllables), trochaic (grouped into pairs having the form STRESSED unstressed, or, as I'll write it below, Xx) rhythms. Modern Chinese speech follows this basic pattern. Generally, Chinese utterances start with a stressed syllable (though a single unstressed introductory syllable may be used) and follow an alternating stressed/unstressed pattern. (One or two unstressed syllables may be used between stressed syllables, but having two adjacent stressed syllables is rare.)

Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington's Chinese: A Comprehensive Grammar gives the following example:

I'd like to buy another glass of wine.

This can be analyzed as 我想 // 再买 // 一杯 // 酒, with stress pattern Xx // Xx // Xx // X.

If the speaker wanted to add the word 去, the rhythm is disturbed:


The most natural option is to parse this as 我想 // 再去 // 买 // 一杯 // 酒, but this is rhythmically unsatisfactory, since it leads to a stress pattern of Xx // Xx // X // Xx // X. Both 再 and 买 should be stressed if the sentence is to maintain its emphasis on "buy" and "another", but this is not possible within the trochaic rhythm.

The solution is to delete the syllable 一 and say,


This pairs up nicely into stressed/unstressed trochees: 我想 // 再去 // 买杯 // 酒; Xx // Xx // Xx // X.

Chinese speakers naturally add and delete words like 的 or 一 to fit the basic stressed/unstressed rhythm. The subject is complicated, and I'm not sure how well its completely understood. The difficulty for language speakers who aren't attuned to rhythmic variations is that it seems like the deletions are random, when in fact they're often manifestations of underlying rhythmical rules.

  • Thanks, I was the aspect of the questions, I really didn't have a reason for.
    – MaoYiyi
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 0:40
  • +1 what a great answer! Commented May 15, 2012 at 6:38

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