2

I have noted the confusion for using "SHI4" and too struggle to grasp the difference.

Common rule for learners is that Noun + Adjective is never linked with "SHI4". As in "He is tall" etc.

However, I have also read (though only in one resource) that for facts and undisputable truth, such as colors, we do need to use "SHI4".

In a comment on a related question here, the author mentiones that for comments about subject/topic, this is commonly used. But isnt it always a comment?

Which is the reason then for "Sky is blue" being translayed with "SHI4" instead of "HEN3". Could it the be translated that way?

  • 1
    Consult grammar about 是的 sentences,e。g。这两本书颜色不同,一本是红的,一本是蓝的,also note specifying colors uses 色 e.g. 天是蓝色, e.g. *天是蓝 seems ungrammatical – user6065 Nov 15 '16 at 16:47
  • Yes, it's the context of the emphasis of "the sky is blue"; if you are emphasising the comment, the 是 usually pairs with a 的. For example, if you wanted to say "the sky on Mars is red (probably)" with emphasis on "red", you can say 火星上,天[空](可能) 红[色] – Michaelyus Nov 18 '16 at 0:00
3

It is much easier if you know how your own mother language works, instead of trying to understand "grammar logic" of foreign language with your own understanding.

Let's look at some example :

the sky [is] blue :天空[是]蓝(色)的
the sky [is] crystal blue : 天空是透蓝的 
The air [is] bad : 空气[很]差/坏
he [is] bad : 他[很]坏.  他[是]个坏人. 他[很]差劲
he [is] naughty : 他[很]顽皮
he [is] (a) bad guy : 他[是] (个) 坏蛋/坏人

If you think the confusion is cause by mandarin connector, it is half true.

I.e., the sentence The air is bad carry out (ambiguous) relative comparison . Mandarin use 很 to explicit brought out relative comparison attributes.

So He is tall , is relative. It carry out additional comparison message e.g. "He is tall, compare to his sibling". 他很高,和他兄弟姐妹比较的话。

是 used for affirmative, or agree

He is (a) USA citizen 他是(个)美国人
His lucky charm is a penguin 他的幸运物是只企鹅

Now ,I think you shouldn't have trouble differentiate this :

他的皮肤很黑

他的皮肤是黑色的

If you use both affirmative 是 and 很, it just emphasize 很, nothing conclusive, but just agree others about something.

最近生意是很差 (Recently, the business is really bad )
(well, the business is really bad, last time one used to make $1000 a day, now only take home $990 a day, really bad.)  

So in a conversation :

Lee : The business is bad
李 : 生意很差
Business partner : Yupe, the business is bad, but it is not doom
生意伙伴 :生意是很差, 不过还没那么坏

In short, you use 是 if agree on another person relative statement. X : he is tall 他很高 Y : yes, he is really tall compare to his sibling, 是呀, 他是很高, 和他家的兄弟姐妹比较的话。

However, sometime you will prefer to use really 真的 , as agreement or emphasize your statement.

He is really tall , 他真的很高
  • Well but whe ypu put "is" in the brackets in your examples? It is incorrect, possible, optional? I feel it helped me but for me, the answer is too implicit - if you elaborate, i would be extremely grateful! – Roudak Nov 15 '16 at 22:30
  • People I ask have no objection to '空气是很差的‘ , why did you write it without 是? – Gangosa Nov 15 '16 at 23:27
  • @Roudak : I just want to show the connecting word is equivalent to Mandarin – mootmoot Nov 17 '16 at 9:09
  • @Gangosa : Depends. – mootmoot Nov 17 '16 at 9:15
2

In English, words such as adjectives, they CANNOT be used as verb (predicate). So we have to use "Be" as "link verb" to construct a whole, suitable syntax-based sentence. Something like: He is tall.

However, in Chinese, adjectives can be also used as predicates, so you DON'T need to add the "link verb" (Be,是) to link both adjectives with subjects.

E.g:他很高。(“高” is an adjective, so you can directly use it after the subject).

Such sentences as "天蓝,地广,人多".

Besides, if you say AA 是 BB,this means We define AA as BB(AA=BB)in the Chinese meaning. So you have to use nouns to define someone is AA/BB. And adjective is ONLY used to describe part of something of someone BUT NOT WHOLE.

Let's analyse this sentence:

1)他很高。(This means his height is high, it DOESN'T MEAN He = high, because "He" is a man, "tall" is only an adjective that descirbes his height NOT himself whole!)

2)他是一个学生 (He = a student, because he is learnning at school, this is what he is wholly!)

But if you add "是" between an adjective and a noun (used as a subject). This DOES NOTHING EXCEPT FOR the enhancements of the meaning of the sentence itself!

e.g: A:他很高? B:是的,他很高。(Yes, he is REALLY very tall).

  • That is a great explanation of the rule. But there is no explanation for the exception/usage I mentioned - why it is said that "Sky is blue" and "是" is used? It is then SKY=BLUE, right? And is it true that I can us 是 when talking about something that is absolute truth, not relative? – John V Nov 16 '16 at 5:59
  • "Sky is blue" is an English way, in Chinese we only say “天蓝” instead of “天是蓝”. In Syntax, an adjective can be used as a predicate. In the meaning understanding, “天” NOT EQUALS TO “蓝”,So We cannot use “是” to define “天” as “蓝”. – xqMogvKW Nov 16 '16 at 9:01
  • But the problem is that I can see it in Chinese learning books. On a blog, it says that 是 is used in this sentence because it is stating a fact that is not relative, it is just a truth. So I am confused :( Also I think 天蓝” is not the same meaning as "sky is blue", rather it is "blue sky". – John V Nov 16 '16 at 14:07
  • @user970696 : Depends on needs. sky is blue can be abbreviate to 蓝天 or 天蓝. But you must use 天空是蓝的 when you talk to a kid that want to understand the sky colour. In addition, in most language, blue sky just mean good weather. – mootmoot Nov 17 '16 at 9:45
  • @user970696:Do you mean "天是蓝" is right?No. We don't say that. And "天蓝" is "Subject+Predicate" (Adjective used as a predicate). “蓝天” is a word :"Adjective+Noun"。Though they have the same meaning with different structures in syntax. – xqMogvKW Nov 18 '16 at 1:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.