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What is the difference between all the different available kinds of rat and mices, like shǔ, lǎo shǔ, Xiǎo lǎo shǔ?

Can 鼠 be used alone?

Is 小家鼠 the proper word to mean a nice little mouse in a colloquial sentence (e.g. not in a scientific essay)?

Thanks!

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In most conditions, Chinese Mandarin doesn't divide "rat" and "mouse", but 鼠 and 老鼠 can mean different creatures. 鼠 means various of mouse-like creatures, like voles, hamsters, guinea pigs and so on, while 老鼠 only means rat, that grey little creature.

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Answers to the related question indicated by Krazer (How to distinguish between rat and mouse in Chinese?) are quite explicative:

https://chinese.stackexchange.com/a/1331/11269

https://chinese.stackexchange.com/a/1330/11269

https://chinese.stackexchange.com/a/1516/11269

So, summing up: in common language, do not make distinction among "rat" and "mouse"; use 老鼠 for both. 鼠 indicates an animal with a little head and long tail; it should not be used alone, but together with other morphemes to form words.

Thanks!

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