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My understanding of the word is "lovable or cute". Can someone give me the context when it might be appropriate to use this term? For example, lots of folks find kittens lovable or cute. A sample sentence and explanation of when to use the term would help me the most.

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There's nothing very special about the usage of 可爱. In Chinese many 'adjectives' are formed from verbs.

E.g.

  • 好吃 ("good to eat") is tasty/delicious or

  • 有趣 ("has interest") is interesting and

  • 难看 ("hard to look at") is ugly.

These are not really adjectives, but their best English counterparts are adjectives, so you can think of them as 'adjectives'.

Similarly,

  • 可爱 ("can be loved") is cute/lovely.

You can use 可爱 to describe people, especially children, or animals, and even inanimate things.

  • 这只狗很可爱!This dog is very cute! (可爱 is the predicate of the sentence)

  • 可爱的小女孩 cute (little) girl (可爱 is used as an adjective to describe a noun)

In case of animals, you can also use 萌物 ("cute thing") to denote an animal that is just cute, 萌宠 is a cute pet and 卖萌 means "to act cute/behave in a cute way".

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    Nice answer, both the grammar-discussion and the examples of its use. Can you use 可爱 to describe someone you're attracted to? Sitting at a bar, a woman sees a man and says to her friend, "He's cute". Could someone use "可爱" ? So far I only see examples referring to babies, puppies, kitties... – The Red Pea Dec 30 '15 at 20:40
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    Of course, you can say 你/他/她很可爱。 – Drunken Master Dec 30 '15 at 20:54
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这个小孩真可爱。good to describe for a kids.

这个小狗可爱极了。for pets as well.

宝贝,你穿上这件衣服真可爱!usually for a girl.

那小伙蛮可爱的。usually a comment for a feminine guy.

  • It's better to add some explanations about the usage. – songyuanyao Dec 31 '15 at 1:29

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