Probably an impossible question to answer, just a style thing, but why did the writer use 甩 twice?

“在台上,你的手是不是被什么东西扎了一下? 快结束时我看你微微甩了甩手,你平时被东西扎着时就是这样子。“

我看你微微甩了甩手 I saw you flick your hand slightly (I suppose I could write: I saw you give a slight flick of your hand 'a flick of your hand': (一个)甩手)

Would 微微甩了手 be acceptable?

  • see grammars on repetition of verbs, 动词的重叠,(discussed repeatedly at this site before)甩了甩手 is the 动词的重叠 form of 甩了手, difference in meaning discussed before and in any grammar
    – user6065
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 1:02
  • Thanks, but the question remains: Why??
    – Gangosa
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 1:18
  • in this case b/c of preceding 微微 there may not be much difference, but "why" could be answered by the meaning of verb repetition, which has been discussed before.
    – user6065
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 1:34
  • Why so cagey? If you know why, why not say so?
    – Gangosa
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 2:32
  • I am a native speaker, I do not think you need to be entangled with this.
    – bios
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 12:47

2 Answers 2


Referred from another site: "汉语有些动词可以重叠使用,用来表示短时、尝试或反复多次,带有一种轻松的口气。" (http://www.chinaqw.com/hwjy/hykt/200806/11/119975.shtml)

I translate it as:

In Mandarin, some verbs can be used in an overlapping/repetitive way to signify short-time action, trying something or do something again and again, accompanied with a soft and relaxed tone.

For this ABAB-like structure, sometimes you can map it as "A+ed a bit/slightly", use -ed because it's a past action, besides the time period is really really short like in no time(practically or emotionally you want to de-emphasize the action).

  1. 甩了甩手 -> flicked his hand a bit/slightly.

  2. 他看了看手表 -> he took a quick look at his watch. (a quick look still has some meaning of 'slightly' to me)

  3. 奥巴马拉了拉领带 -> Obama slightly pulled his tie.

    but 奥巴马 doesn't 打了打领带, 打领带 really takes time.

  4. Jack 打了打篮球. -> I want to emotionally de-emphasize the action 打篮球 here, I think he didn't play for a long time, maybe made some shots and left and that's it.

And some opposite examples:

  1. 我吃了吃饭. also, 我喝了喝水, 我上了上班

    Wrong, it violates the "short-time" action rule, since nobody can have dinner in no time, the same for work(上班)

    So you only say 我吃(完/过)饭了. 我上(完/过)班了.

  2. 他正在眨了眨眼. 正在: be doing sth. 眨眼: blink

    Wrong, ABAB usually don't fit the progressive tense, better as a past simple tense

    So you can say: 他眨了眨眼

To comprehend ABAB structure, you will need a whole book, but hope these simple rules helps you out a bit.

  • Aha, it indicates a short period. Double verb = less time? That makes sense in my context anyhow, thanks. A bit preempted by 微微 though. Normally, double word = more of: 大大的, 微微的 Interesting!
    – Gangosa
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 4:35

user6065 is right about the grammar of course.

As far as your question about why the writer would use reduplication of 甩 in addition to a separate adverb like 微微, I'm not sure there's a better answer than "that's what Chinese speakers like to do." I'm not a native speaker, but I've lived in (southern) China for a good while. Based on the ear test, I'm not sure I've actually ever heard someone say 微微, while I hear reduplication of verbs to express the that meaning all the time.

When it comes to word choice, I heartily endorse the principle of mindless conformity. Until we reach fluency, we second language learners are the slaves, native speakers are the masters, and we should always remember that!

  • Haha! You've acquired a Chinese mind-set: 奴性, which is why the Chinese are so good at organizing mass movements!
    – Gangosa
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 2:36
  • Heh. I'm pretty sure most of my Chinese acquaintances would disagree. But I do think in the case of acquiring a 2nd language it's the proper orientation to have. Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 2:44
  • It's a remnant from 封建时代, so I've been told by my Chinese friends.
    – Gangosa
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 4:37

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