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I am now learning 近义词 and got a problem with distinguishing the difference between 留神,留意,留心. The textbook says:

他干什么特别留心,看书时也常常做笔记 (留神and留意arent allowed here)
多亏我对他留了一点心,这个情况没有告诉他 (留神 and 留意 arent allowed here)
你看得出来他吗? 我没有留意 (留神 and 留心 arent allowed here)

Why are some correct and some wrong?

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  • This is a great project you're embarked on. – brannerchinese Nov 4 '15 at 16:04
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You should understand the three characters in the words firstly. 心:Mind 意:Sense 神: Focus

So add 留(keep) before them, becomes:

  • 留心:Keep in mind --> remember
  • 留意:Keep in sensitive --> ?
  • 留神:Keep on focus --> look out / be careful

My translation may not accurate in English, if someone have better translation, please comment below.

In your example,

  • sentence 1 talking about reading/studying, so 留心 should be the only correct word.
  • Sentence 2, here 留心 is separated, it's a derivative usage in my opinion. It means "keep defensive (because I remember he did something bad.)".
  • Sentence 3, I don't understand the meaning... and I don't want to guess (although I could) since it's a tutorial/exam, it should be clear.
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The level of care or attention or focus: 留心 > 留意 > 留神

so for example if you agreed to help somebody to look into something, you can say: 我会给你留心的 sounds most serious and dedicated

我会给你留意的 also OK, but no promises

我会给你留神的 only if I have the spare time and engery

But, like the examples you have mentioned, the usages are mostly dictated by conventions than anything intrinsic.

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Some of the Chinese word is influence by culture of Buddha, in order to explain 心,意,神. I think need the ancient Chinese wisdom to explain it...

I tried to explain it from what I know, here you can reference it

心:无形无相 = heart/core:(shapeless, formless)

意:眼耳鼻舌身意的六根之一

神:let break this word and see, it's the combination of 示 and 申

示 means show

申 come from the basic word of 田(means farm or field)

When 田 become 申 it's show it connected or pass through to sky and ground or top or bottom, so this word 神 have the meaning of god.

When you are using 留神 this word it's have some meaning like stay focus.

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  • I think the meaning of 神 in 留神 means spirit, not "god" – thinwa Nov 5 '15 at 16:53
  • I never say that meaning of 神 in 留神 is god – Le Parkour Nov 6 '15 at 2:36
  • I was explaining the single word bro – Le Parkour Nov 6 '15 at 2:37

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