Particularly when it comes to verbs, I've noticed that there are so many synonyms. For example, "To resist": 抗,抵抗,抵制,抗拒,反抗 etc. "To feel": 感觉,觉得, 感到,感,感觉到 etc. "To handle": 处理,办理,处置,应付,办 etc.

Right now, I'm mostly concerned with being able to express myself verbally to my peers, not with talking to really important people or reading very formal literature, and I'm finding it hard to know which words I should learn, given that there are many synonyms.

Side note: Is it true that all verbs (or most) are also nouns?

  • 3
    People will understand you if you slightly misuse the word. I think the only way to be perfect is listen to what your peers say and copy that. Those details can't be learned through textbook. Since you are a foreigner they won't be too strict to you.
    – jf328
    Aug 12, 2016 at 16:27
  • in E verbs can be transformed to gerunds (动名词) and thus used in some way as nouns, in C verbs similarly can used as grammatical subjects or objects denoting the corresponding activity, which still does not mean they automatically also are nouns, why else would dictionaries specify words as verbs, nouns or both.
    – user6065
    Aug 12, 2016 at 16:39

5 Answers 5


Use lexical occurence to choose the most frequent variants.

Use disyllabic variants if possible. That will make it more clear to most listeners.

Then there are verbs and verbs. 感觉 is a verb, but 感觉到 is a resultative verb, conveying the result of the action of feeling something. It is the same difference as in 看 and 看到, it adds some complexity.

Furthermore, words are not always synonyms, even if they share meaning. 感觉 foremost means to feel, whereas 觉得 mainly means to think (as in I think, not as in thinking hard). Think and feel are blurred in meaning, both in English and Chinese.

抵抗 means resist, and so does 抵制, but the latter mainly means boycott. 抗拒 means resist, but in the sense of defiance. 抵抗 is more of a struggle against oppression. 反抗 has a revolutionary flavor to it, and means to oppose or revolt, and therefore also resist.

反抗 has 31.5 occurences per million characters of text, 抵制 10, 抵抗 3.3, 反抗 30.4.

Listening a lot will make you pick up the right words in the right context.

  • Thanks a lot. How can check the lexical occurance? Do you think you could give me example sentences showing the difference between 感觉 and 感觉到, and 看 and 看到?
    – Henny
    Aug 12, 2016 at 20:52
  • A quick check on occurrence is to google the words. Aug 30, 2016 at 16:09

Indeed, we will find there are so many synonyms to explain one word in dictionary. Generally, the front of three or four synonyms are formal, but the most important is that we should put these synonyms into the special sentence, translate the whole sentence and choose the best word to explain the context. May be you will find all 2 or 3 synonyms can explain the same sentence, such as "I feel cold today." You can explain "我今天觉得很冷” or "我感觉今天很冷”。But if the sentence has a premise, such as " I caught a cold yesterday and I feel cold today". You should explain " 我昨天感冒了,所以今天感觉很冷。” Choose " 感觉” to emphasize "just feel by himself, don't think about the weather is colder than yesterday, just represent the feeling.


Language is the "fuzziest" learning subject in my opinion. You don't have to use it very precisely in oral. People will ask you to clarify if they don't understand because of you use a wrong word. Then you know that one is incorrect. You try and practise more and more, you will know how to use them. This is so called "try-wrong".

So, don't worry, just say it. :D


Use a learner's dictionary. Beginner and intermediate-level dictionaries don't have formal or literary words. You may want to try the Tuttle Lerner's Chinese-English Dictionary; it has an electronic version in Pleco.


Natural language evolve according to needs, sometime a new word invented,sometime it is simplify and merge with others.

If you think synonyms in other language are confusing, you will notice there is similar confusion inside your mother language.

Does resists carry only one meaning ? resists as define in dictionary.com

  1. to withstand, strive against, or oppose: to resist infection; to resist temptation.
  2. to withstand the action or effect of: to resist spoilage.
  3. to refrain or abstain from, especially with difficulty or reluctance: They couldn't resist the chocolates.
  4. ( verb used without object) to make a stand or make efforts in opposition; act in opposition; offer resistance.

My suggestion

  1. Read the whole sentences to learn the actual meaning of resists. Once you get use to it, it become natural habits.
  2. Pickup synonyms from your native language and map it to similar word for foreign langauge.

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