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The context is the reader has just been told that in [blank] he 須認真.

[blank]須認真.若認不真. 便都成了假的.

What puzzles me is the 不 in the middle of 認真. I understand that each character by itself is a word, but it seems generally to be one two character word, "earnest". Is the 不 negating one of two words, or half of one word, or all of a two character word? I've never seen that.

  • see grammar on potential complements/可能补语: 认真 to take seriously,to take to heart: verb 认 + complement of result 真, 認不真 : verb 认 + potential complement 不真 meaning action not possible, thus 須認真.若認不真, e.g. it is necessary to take it seriously, if it cannot be taken seriously (then 便都成了假的) – user6065 Jan 13 '17 at 6:52
  • web search seems to indicate that the sequence 認不真 indeed is uncommon, comment #1 may be justified by grammar of potential complement – user6065 Jan 13 '17 at 9:20
  • regarding answer #1 note bkrs: 认真:2) 当真。 红楼梦.第五十九回:「打了干的打亲的。还是卖弄你女儿多,还是认真不知王法?」认假不认真 accept falsehood/ take falsehood seriously, but not truth, bkrs has the potential complement construction 听不真, but just like 认不真 users cannot find any other examples on the web of 听不真, – user6065 Jan 13 '17 at 13:23
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「認真」is a common two characters compound word. It means 'serious' (adj.) Since it is an adjective, we can add the negative function word 「不」(not ) before it, and form an negative phrase 「不認真」(not serious)

However, 「認」on it's own can be the verb 'identify' or ' 'recognize' as in 「認人」(identify a person),「認路」(recognize the way); while 「真」on it's own can be the adjective 'true' or 'accurate' ; or the adverb 'truly' or 'accurately'

As a simple grammatical rule, an adverb can modify a verb. Which mean 「認真」 can be treated as a [verb+ adverb] structure instead of a compound that we are familiar with.

In the case of 「認不真」,「不」being a negative function word that modifies the adverb 「真」make it clear that the term we are looking at, is in fact [verb+ 不 + adverb] structure (認+不+真).

If 「不」 is placed before 「認真」, that would make it an [不 + adjective] structure (不+認真).

  • 「不認真」means 'not serious'
  • 「認不真」means 'cannot identify accurately' or 'not identify accurately'

As I mentioned before, 「認真」is a very common 'word' , to avoid confusion, it is better use 「認不清」 instead of 「認不真」.

I believe if the phrase in question was 「認不真確」instead of the shortened 「認不真」, you would not be so confused.

Since the common word 「認真」is widely used, putting 認 and 真 in a [verb + adverb] structure would certainly cause confusion. It is not recommended.

認真.若認不真. 便都成了假的.

In this context 須認真 means " Need to identify accurately.

" Need to identify accurately. If not identify accurately, then everything will become (be treated as) fake"

I would suggest phrasing it as 「須認(得)真(確), 若認不真(確), 便都成了假的」 to make it more clear.

  • Thank you for the suggestion, but this is text written and published by someone else; I'm trying to understand the structure, rewriting it is not an option. – user3131341 Jan 14 '17 at 9:34
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可能缺了一个了字,认不(了)真。意思是:我现在好烦,我认真不起来。

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