There are cases in which "to be" is translated with 是 ( shì ), while in some other cases it seems not to be translated at all. When should 是 ( shì ) be used? When omitted?

Here some examples: 我很好 wo hen hao I am very well

我是英国人 wǒ-shì-yīng-guó-rén I am English

Wo hen kuai le 我 很快乐 I'm happy

我 25 岁 了 Wǒ èrshíwǔ suì le I'm 25 years old

Disambiguation 1: I landed in a similar question: When should I use the 是...的 construction? Note that it addresses the usage of 是 and的 !

Disambiguation 2: This question has been marked as oossible duplicate of: Why is (是) shi4 dropped in this sentence:"我很好"?

Indeed the subject is similar. I think that this question is more General, while the other targets a specific case (I was not able to find it before posting my question!). To be noted that some answers are quite similar.

  • 3
    possible duplicate of Why is (是) shi4 dropped in this sentence:"我很好"?
    – Claw
    Aug 16, 2015 at 0:51
  • 1
    You never use before an adjective as Chinese adjectives are also verbs so "good" also means "to be good". Often seems to take the place of "to be" before an adjective though. I don't know if there are other words besides that can do this or how and why and when it works and doesn't work. Aug 16, 2015 at 2:39

1 Answer 1


是 in the first context is only used to say:

Noun1 是 Noun2

You never say 我是很好, because 好 isn't a noun. You can say




because all those relate one noun to another. In the case of 我25岁了, 25 years old isn't a noun, it's a state, and so we don't use 是.

For a simple summary, 是 only relates 2 nouns to each other. If it's not a noun, don't use 是.

You can find more info and examples here, which I find is a good site for beginners to learn chinese, and gives lots of examples to help you understand.

  • 1
    是 can also be used as "yes", which is a slightly different usage. You also here this usage in "是吗?", or phrases that use it.
    – sqrtbottle
    Aug 16, 2015 at 0:08
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    An interesting thing to note is that dropping it in the case where it attaches two nouns would result in a scenario where one would assume an omitted 的.
    – user5714
    Aug 16, 2015 at 0:38
  • Can I just ask, in '在小说兴旺的时候,这些媒介是没有的‘ ’没有的‘ is a noun??
    – Pedroski
    Aug 16, 2015 at 2:32
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    @Pedroski that is another construct (…是…的), which is often used to emphasise.
    – Léo Lam
    Aug 16, 2015 at 6:59
  • @Pedroski The noun is omitted after the 的 since it`s retrieved by the context. Aug 17, 2015 at 13:59

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