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This is probably a stupid question, but I'm just curious. Does 非常 express something to a greater degree than 很? That's probably not the way to word it, but like let's say you use 非常好。Would that be "good" to a greater degree than 很好?

4

They are different, of course.

非常 literally means 'not common/uncommon', thus extraordinary ("out of ordinary, un-ordinary", just like 非常), exceptional, very, etc.

很 means 'very, quite'.

Usually, 非常 is stronger in the meaning than the simple 很. Just like you wrote, 非常好 is above 很好 in degree. One of the reasons perhaps is that 很 does not always mean very is that sometimes it is only inserted before an adjective to make it "predicate-capable". In such cases 很好 simply means "good", not "very good". This has just just been discussed a day ago. Check this question for details.

Also, there is a related question about answering to 你好吗? with 很好。

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  • 很 is thus a copula, to use a proper term. – user4452 Jun 14 '15 at 18:42
  • @倪阔乐 Well, I am not sure if 很 actually classifies as a copula, but in some cases you can think of it as such. – imrek Jun 14 '15 at 19:00
3

Agree, 非常is stronger than 很,there is emotional emphasis when we say 非常. For example, if we say 他是个非常好的人,it means "he is a very good man";if we say 他是个很好的人,simply equals to "he is a good man".

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These two characters are very close in meaning. But the "非常" is a little higher than "很" For example, “很难” in English means "very difficult" and "非常难" means “extremely difficult”. - A Chinese teacher from hanbridgemandarin

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  • I think it's really weird how people downvote every new member for nothing... – Enrico Brasil Jun 24 '15 at 2:47
  • @EnricoBrasil Yeah I don't see any reason why it should be downvoted. – l1zZY Aug 15 '15 at 18:50
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To add a point, this is used to denote the highest degree in their 4 point feedback form.

  1. 非常不同意
  2. 不同意
  3. 同意
  4. 非常同意
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The Chinese Grammar Wiki article Simple "noun + adjective" sentences writes:

Nouns are linked to adjectives with 很 (hěn).

In cases when 很 is used to link a noun with an adjective, it does not mean "very", it's just a linking word: a dummy-linking adverb.

...in the case of these "Noun + Adj." sentences, you just have to think of this usage of 很 (hěn) as an exception. It's just part of the structure.

The example they give is 他很高. Writing 他是高 to mean "he is tall" is incorrect, we need to say 他很高.

If you actually want to add the meaning of "very" into the sentence, you could use another adverb instead of 很 (hěn). One good choice is 非常 (fēicháng).

In other cases, 很 means "very":

  • In the construct 很...的, it also means "very". I think it's because the 很 is optional: compare 一个高的水平 with 一个高的水平.

  • In the construct ...得很, it means "very" although placed afterwards. See Adjectival complement "de hen" or Chinese Grammar learning: Adjective + 得 很

  • I believe repetition can result in 很 meaning "very", e.g., 他很高很高, but maybe only children that talk like this (like here).

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