When I used a translation engine to translate You are beautiful, the result was 你好漂亮.

I know that 你 means you and 漂亮 means pretty. But we is there this 好 in the middle of the sentence. It means good, well, and this doesn't fit into the sentence at all!

Thanks a lot!

  • '好' also means 'very'. Just look it up in dictionary. – Tang Ho Jun 8 '17 at 17:40
  • enter 好漂亮 in jukuu, get 100 samples of which 1-50 all have this unbroken sequence – user6065 Jun 8 '17 at 18:24
  • @Tang Ho: wiktionary says: (somewhat dialectal) very; quite; rather;. And I've always thought that 很 means very, just like in 我很好 – marmistrz Jun 8 '17 at 20:50
  • @user6065: but this doesn't explain why 好 is in the sequence – marmistrz Jun 8 '17 at 20:50
  • look at English translations at jukuu, 好 seems not to correspond to anything in the translation, which is just "beautiful, pretty" etc.,"presence of degree adverbs (e.g.很,非常,好)removes any implication of contrast that is latent in an unmarked predicative adjective", this fundamental fact has been discussed at this site often enough before – user6065 Jun 8 '17 at 21:10
up vote 1 down vote accepted

For some reason Mandarin thinks a degree qualifier is needed even when you just normally use adjectives. So, for the meaning to be same, Mandarin usually can't say structures like English

You are beautiful.

Which does not have a word to qualify the adjective's degree. [1]

Mandarin usually uses words / constructions like , 挺(...的), 满/蛮...的 to express when there is not really any remarkable degree qualification.

As for , it is used to mark subjectivity: that the quality is a subjective feeling or evaluation, which varies from being just a subjective marker to meaning "very", much like how the word is in Mandarin.

The counterpart to subjective would be objective: that you are merely stating a fact. English makes this kind of distinction with word pairs like "very" and "so": "You are so beautiful" means roughly the same as "You are very beautiful", except that the speaker is signaling a subjective opinion.

You could say your sentence with the objective counterpart: 你很美 would be stating something like "you are beautiful as a matter of fact". Sure, it could ultimately still boil down to the speaker's subjective opinions if we talk philosophy, but the meaning being conveyed is different.


[1] (What is the nuance of 很好? Explains when the degree qualifier can be omitted.

Basically, when you are stating some quality absolutely, as if attaching such a label -- which implies a comparison like the one described in the accepted answer.)

It's rare to use "noun + adj" as a whole sentence in daily life. Usually, people will add "adv" before adj to make the sentence sound more comfortable and normal. For example, in your example, people usually say:

你好漂亮

你真漂亮

"好" and "真" means "very" here, but the speaker doesn't intentionally want to express this meaning. These words are used here just because this is a common structure "noun + adv + adj" to say in daily life.

Another example:

今天天气真好 What a good weather today Without 真, it becomes 今天天气好, which sounds strange because of its core structure "noun + adj" as a whole sentence.

The direct translation of "You're beautiful", of course, is 你漂亮.

However, 你漂亮 sounds uncomfortable in the modern Chinese dialogue but more like ancient Chinese.

For example, 汝美, is how ancient Chinese might say "You're beautiful", where 汝 means "you" and 美 means "beautiful". And 汝美 has the same structure as 你漂亮.

To make it sounds more like modern Chinese and differentiate from ancient Chinese, we add 好 to it. And in this case, 好 means "very" or "so". It does not affect the meaning of the sentence but makes the compliment sound more sincere.

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