My textbook gives me the following two examples of 一下, saying that the 一下 in each sentence doesn't mean the same thing:

  • 你去问一下老师 (Just ask your teacher)
  • 我打了孩子一下 (I smacked my child)

Question 1. I'd like to check again with native speakers what the 一下 from 我打了孩子一下 means exactly. Does the 一下 mean how many the speaker smacked her/his child, only one time in this case, or act as an adverb like 'a little bit'?

Question 2. Even though the objects (老师 and 孩子) equally refer to persons, I guess the 一下 conveys different meanings depending on its position. So, I know this question sounds stupid but would there be any difference if I change the place of 一下 as follows?

  • 你去问一下老师 → 你去问老师一下
  • 打孩子一下 → 打一下孩子
  • 1
    (... long speech deleted.) In practice, this subtlety is overwhelmingly ignored nowadays. Both position of 一下 can mean either "one time" or "a little bit" and you need to figure it out by context. – Stan Feb 11 '16 at 7:57

Question 1. Does the 一下 mean how many the speaker smacked her/his child, only one time in this case, or act as an adverb like 'a little bit'?

It means only once here.

Note that 一下 might mean a little bit too, depends on the context.

附於動詞後面,有略微的意思。如:「想一下」、「看一下」。亦作「一下子」。

=> Attached after the verb, means a little. (Note: In some instances, depends on the context. --end note)

The other two common meaning of 一下 is in a short while and suddenly.

(1) [in a short while]∶表示短暂的时间

灯一下又亮了

(2) [in one go;at a single stroke;all of a sudden]∶突然间

天一下阴了下来

then

Question 2. would there be any difference if I change the place of 一下 as follows?

你去问一下老师 → 你去问老师一下
打孩子一下 → 打一下孩子

No, there're no difference. In both cases 一下 acts as an adverb modifying the verb, the position won't change the basic meaning. (Except that the object will be emphasized if it's placed at the front.)

  • 1
    "Attached after the verb, means a little." is not necessarily definite. For example, 一下 in 按一下门铃 or 点击一下鼠标 is often interpreted as "once". – Stan Feb 11 '16 at 8:18
  • @Stan It's not a criteria for judging, it's just a description. IMO, it depends on whether the action of the verb could be counted or not. If yes, means once, if no, means a little bit. – songyuanyao Feb 11 '16 at 8:24
  • 2
    I think the safest way to state the rule is just "context based". For example, "你先帮我敲一下钉子,我去接个电话" here I definitely don't want you just help me hit the nail for only one hitting action. – Stan Feb 11 '16 at 8:42
  • @Stan I agree. It's subtle indeed. – songyuanyao Feb 11 '16 at 8:49

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