Can “未” modify descriptive adjectives (in either classical or modern Chinese)?

I've previously asked about the correctness of the phrase "未長未短", but I think 長 and 短 are used as verbs (instead of adjectives) in this case.

Is 未長未短 grammatically correct (in classical Chinese)?

Thank you!

  • 1
    I feel “长” and “短” are used as verbs here because “未(变)长未(变)短” explains “未长未短” properly. Not sure about if “未” can modify adjectives. However, it's common to use “未” plus a verb together, i.e. “他今天未出现”。Also,use ~必、~曾、~尝。
    – WangYudong
    May 20, 2015 at 15:31
  • 1
    agree, much like 未白 / "not yet becoming white". I can't think of any examples where you can't simply claim the adjective is being repurposed as a verb. I'm also not sure what 未 would even mean paired with a "real" adjective, so the answer to your question is probably no. May 20, 2015 at 21:35
  • 1
    In which classical Chinese literature did you find "未長未短"?
    – Henry HO
    May 21, 2015 at 5:19
  • I found it in a modern article: hainan-today.com/2012/201201/web/201201_28.htm May 21, 2015 at 16:20

4 Answers 4


Can “未” modify descriptive adjectives? I think so.

我把油画平放以防止未干的颜料流动。未干的颜料 not (yet) dry paint

那家公司已被卖掉,具体售价未公开。未公开 not public

  • 1
    more examples in iciba 未熟(大多数未熟的水果都是酸的),(天)未亮(当他醒来时, 天还未亮, 月光明亮地从树上撒了下来),(天)未黑 (趁天未黑 风还在吹 要和你告别),未满意 web:山西大同副市长遭妻兄杀戮 因未满意调工作请求 ,however 未满意 only occurs in the headline, not in text itself,the question still is whether 未 can be used freely before adjectives,
    – user6065
    May 21, 2015 at 16:11
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    未公开=not yet publicized. So here I think it is a verb. 干=dry, it can be verb or adj, it is still not a clear example. 亮,黑,熟 as examples have the similar issue. They are OK examples but it could because of the adj+verb properties.
    – FortCpp
    May 21, 2015 at 17:20

Yes, definitely.

I am not nearly as proficient in classical Chinese, so my answer is limited to modern Chinese.

IMHO, 未 is more commonly seen in formal context and is often used with 曾 or 從, as in 未曾 or 從未.

For example,


You're such a simple person; you've never been depressed.


Since the ancient times, life (of a human) has never been smooth.

Note that the adjectives act similarly to a verb, as suggested by WangYudong above. I don't think 長 and 短 are verbs per se.

FYI, as FortCpp explained below, adjectives in such construct may actually be verbs.

  • I don't think 順遂 is simply an adj as "smooth". 順遂 is roughly "follow your heart" or something. So still verb. I don't think 忧郁 is an adj. 忧郁=忧伤+郁结. Seems to be "heavyhearted".
    – FortCpp
    May 21, 2015 at 17:12
  • @FortCpp Well, according to Wiktionary, 忧郁 is an adjective. I can't find 順遂 so I've changed it to 順利. Thanks for bringing it up though! May 21, 2015 at 17:40
  • Wiktionary is OK here. But you can also use 我正在忧郁. Clearly, it is a verb. So I think for the specific words like this, it is not very clear whether it is a verb or adj or noun. Hope this is helpful to explain my point to you.
    – FortCpp
    May 21, 2015 at 17:49
  • @FortCpp Hmm, I thought 我正在忧郁 is "I am being depressed", in which 忧郁 still acts as an adjective, and any adjective for a person can be used to replace 忧郁 here. But I am not a grammar geek so I can't be sure. You might be right. :) May 21, 2015 at 18:38

未=not yet

So it would be safe to use with verbs. For example, 未来=(the time which has) not come yet=future. 未知=not known yet. I don't think you can use it with adjs.


The original text is 游览路线也依旧如故,未长未短。Here 长 and 短 are verbs. The tour routes are same as before, not (become) longer, not (become) shorter.

I think in grammatical analysis, there is no syntactic difference in Chinese verbs and adjectives (only semantic difference). You can think 未 as always modifying verbs, because all Chinese adjectives are grammatical verbs.

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