Sentences that are not capable of being either true or false are called nonsense, e.g. "quadruplicity drinks procrastination" or "Socrates is a man is a man"

I want to say "The Chinese language is incapable of conveying Western philosophy; dialectical materialism is actually nonsense in Chinese."

The best I can do is this: "汉语无力承载西方哲学;辩证唯物主义用汉语讲没有意义。"

But it doesn't seem to scratch where it itches.

  • 1
    Orthogonal to your question: The notion that a particular language is incapable of expressing some idea is dubious (at best). Feb 3, 2015 at 2:33
  • Case in point, I cannot find a precise translation for "nonsense." Feb 3, 2015 at 2:52
  • "Making sense"--the stimulation of sensory receptors- is exactly what gives words meanings, because sensations are the beginnings of meanings. English, I am just beginning to realize its power. If a sentence does not make it to the sense, then it is nonsense. Feb 3, 2015 at 3:16
  • 2
    If there's not a particular word that accurately captures the meaning you want, it's always possible to translate using a phrase. Feb 3, 2015 at 3:35
  • 1
    I'd say, "Philosophers are not good translators."
    – Henry HO
    Feb 4, 2015 at 2:55

2 Answers 2


I am a native Cantonese speaker. From my understanding, sense is 合情合理, 通情達理, 合乎情理. The word 通, 情, 理 is more native word to describe sense. On the contrary, nonsense is 不合情理, 不通.

For "dialectical materialism is actually nonsense in Chinese.", my Cantonese word is "唯物主義辯證法,用唐文講,係講唔通嘅。". Retranslate it to Chinese, "唯物主義辯證法,唐文而言,是無法講通。

  • Nonsense is one of the instances of 講唔通. Like tuna to finfish is nonsense to 講唔通. Thanks anyway. Feb 3, 2015 at 6:48
  • 1
    What about "狗屁不通"?
    – Henry HO
    Feb 3, 2015 at 8:34
  • @HenryHO - Exactly Feb 3, 2015 at 9:40
  • We are barbarians. The best we can do to civilization is to not mess it up. Feb 3, 2015 at 11:50
  • 1
    You sound like a jerk, Chinese is a fun language to learn
    – Aryaman
    May 21, 2018 at 15:49

If I were you, I would write your sentence A as B.

A: 汉语无力承载西方哲学;辩证唯物主义用汉语讲没有意义。

B: 汉语因为受到本身的限制,无法完整地表达西方哲学的某些概念;比如:辩证唯物主义这个汉语词汇就没有正确地表达出它的原本的哲学意义。

"Sentences that are incapable of true or false are called nonsense" in Chinese would be, 一句话如果不能够被判断真伪,那么这句话就没有任何的意义。


In practice, the way you express a idea is really related to more factors than just meaning. I do not see very much when people use "nonsense" in their discussion. And it is also true that Chinese people do not use 没有任何的意义 when they 平等地讨论问题。We usually give the other side some room to think about our opinion. That is why in my suggestion, I use, 完整地, 某些, 比如, 正确地, 原本的, etc. which are some flexible and restricting words.

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