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When I look up 本质 I get English meanings like 'essence, nature, innate character', esoteric stuff like that.

学习必须讲究方法,而改进学习方法的本质目的,就是要提高学习效率。

I think 本质 here actually means 主要, 最初 and 本质目的 is 'primary aim'.

Could I use 主要 here instead of 本质 and not affect the original meaning?

  • I think you are looking for the word "fundamental" – sotondolphin Sep 8 '15 at 17:00
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本质 here means root; ultimate.

本质目的 = end goal. You can also say 根本目的.

Your sentence sounds fine but isn't the best example to demonstrate usage, because it's kind of obvious. A better example might be:

商业活动的本质目的是盈利。The end goal for any commercial activity is making profit.

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  • Would you accept 本质目的 as 'main aim'? – Pedroski Sep 4 '15 at 2:50
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    @Pedroski 本质 means 'essential/substantial', which is a bit different from 'main'. 'Main aim' is 主要目的. – user58955 Sep 4 '15 at 3:05
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I would translate it as "essential".

"Essential/本质/根本" is like you peel an onion. "Ultimate/终极" is like you go along the way and reach somewhere eventually. "Primary/主要" is like you have a few rocks and you want the biggest one.

Well the onion example may be inappropriate because there isn't a core and it's always the same when you peel it, but nothing pops into my mind at the moment...

Let's say "essential" is like you peel a chestnut. Hmm this is better.

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