I'm now learning on emphasizing adjectives by the repetition (e.g. 你的脸红红的。).

However, some two-syllable words form ABAB and others AABB to emphasize the adjective. For example,

  • 开开心心
  • 好吃好吃
  • 干干净净
  • 便宜便宜
  • 麻烦麻烦

Now I wonder whether it is possible to tell apart which word belongs to ABAB famility and which to AABB.

Is there any rule regarding this, if not rigorous? Or do I have to bother to memorizing these adjectives one by one?

  • has come up before see e.g. chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/16732/… – user6065 Aug 27 '17 at 19:09
  • AABB is most common type for adjectives, ABAB for verbs, "外国人实用汉语语法":有的形容词兼属动词,也可以按动词的重叠方式重叠。例如:今年丰收,大家应该 高兴高兴 。大家休息休息,在树下边 凉快凉快 。 cf."实用现代汉语语法"distinguishes 四种方式构成:1。单音节形容词2。一般的双音形容词:伟大、美丽、干净、庄严、清楚、重要3。带词缀的形容词:有的形容词后面或前面可以加词缀。这类词主要有三种。。。 4。有一个名词语素或动词语素与一个形容词语素构成的复合形容词。名词或动词语素所表示事物与形容词语素的意义有一定的联系:雪白、漆黑、冰凉、滚热、笔直、通红,煞白 |"雪白"的意思是像雪那样白,"冰凉"的意思是像冰那样凉。 二、双音节性质形容词的重叠|双音节性质形容词有两种重叠方式。一种是完全重叠式,即AABB式,如"清清楚楚"、"干干净净"。在口语中第二个音节可念轻声,第三音节念第一声,第四音节也念第一声,儿化并且是重音所在。如"漂漂亮亮"/piàopiao liāng liāngr /"明明白白"/míngming bāi bāir /。在正式场合,第一音节重读,第二音节为轻声,第三、四音节正常。如"漂漂亮亮" – user6065 Aug 27 '17 at 21:51
  • /piàopiao liàng liàng/"明明白白"/ míngming bái bái/。 双音节形容词的完全重叠式作状语、补语时,也表示程度深。例如:(1)小喜亲亲热热地问长问短。(2)你看这是白纸黑字写得清清楚楚的。做定语时描写作用更强,表示程度的作用不明显。例如:(3)她家来了一个斯斯文文的姑娘。(4)他那朴朴素素的衣着,实实在在的态度,大大方方的举止,给人留下很好的印象。(5)你这种拖拖拉拉的作风必须改变!做谓语时取得了单独作谓语的资格,同时具有描写作用。例如:(6)家里干干净净的,。。。(7)这个姑娘大大方方,一点也不扭捏。这种句子也多作为分句出现于复句中。有的双音节形容词只有完全重叠式,没有基本式,如"病病歪歪","大大咧咧"。。。。 三、构词的第4类形容词的重叠|构词的第4类形容词都按ABAB式重叠,一般包含程度深的意思。例如:(1)天空 瓦蓝瓦蓝 的。(2)这头小猪长得 *滚圆滚圆 的。(3)他焦黄焦黄的长脸上不满了皱纹。* 应当注意,并不是所有的形容词都能重叠。能重叠的多为日常生活中常用的。不少形容词不能重叠,如"伟大"、"光明"、"丰富"、"美丽"、"英明"、"勇敢"、"熟悉"、"困难"、"艰巨"、"悲"、"疯"、"假"、"贼"等。比较起来,双音节形容词不能重叠的多些,单音节形容词和构词第4类形容词决大多数都可以重叠。 – user6065 Aug 27 '17 at 21:58
  • info on this topic available online: search e.g. "双音节形容词重叠式" one result: 双音节性质形容词ABAB式的重叠——兼与AABB式比较 双音节性质形容词ABAB式的重叠——兼与AABB式比较_文库下载 wenkuxiazai.com/doc/d310837948d7c1c708a14596.html – user6065 Aug 27 '17 at 22:29
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    今天大家都高高兴兴的 vs 今天让大家高兴高兴, and, 终于可以舒舒服服休息了 vs 终于可以舒服舒服了. You can see that AABB form like a adverb, while the ABAB form like a verb. – 賈可 Jacky Aug 28 '17 at 2:27

This is called '叠词' in Chinese.

Here's an explanation with many examples:


There're more than two types actually, like ABB and AAxx etc. I am sorry to say that, as a native speaker, I don't know the rule for separating these annoying types.

As for the examples you listed, we don't usually say '便宜便宜'.

'好吃好吃' is more likely used by a girl. It sounds kind of cute.

And if you say '麻烦麻烦',that usually means you use it as a verb.

e.p. 这事恐怕要麻烦麻烦你了!

As an adjective? No.

Just to give you another funny(and confusing)example, you can also say '开心开心'. But it is different from '开开心心'. '开开心心' is an adjective, while '开心开心' is a verb.

e.p. 祝你开开心心每一天!

 Wish you happy every day!


 Why are you unhappy? Tell us and makes us happy! 


  • I took the example from the linked post. – Blaszard Aug 27 '17 at 18:00
  • Not sure if you can see this, but...which one? My link or the link in the comments of your question? – Ran Aug 28 '17 at 21:07
  • The link on my question (Chinese Grammar wiki). – Blaszard Aug 28 '17 at 21:09
  • I read the page roughly and I think it's correct. You can rely on it. It tells you that it‘s wrong to use 便便宜宜, but that doesn't mean 便宜便宜 is correct. Not all adjectives can be extended into ABAB or AABB or the other types. Your other examples are all correct. Just don't be too worried about these types. And if you really do, just don't use them. It's not a big deal. Don't try to recite them, or the grammar of this. It's unrealistic, inefficient. Just listen to more daily conversations,read more, and you will get hold of it. – Ran Aug 28 '17 at 21:33

My take is ABAB expresses dynamically (表示动态感) or extent in degrees, while AABB is for statically (表示静态感).

For example, 舒服舒服 vs 舒舒服服。

舒服舒服 is kinda like 'Wow, I feel great!', it might imply that you feel that way constantly. For instance, someone is giving you a massage, and you feel great and enjoy it so much, and you would probably say 舒服舒服 to indicate that you are comforted by the massage constantly. You could say 舒服舒服 in a cutie way to express funny as well.

Well, 舒舒服服 describes you are actually in the state of being comfortable (舒服). For instance, 我舒舒服服的躺在沙发上.

There are more examples: 高高兴兴 vs 高兴高兴, 干净干净 vs 干干净净, 漂亮漂亮 vs 漂漂亮亮.

However, not all words can be used as AABB, like 好吃. 好好吃吃 sounds wired, because 好好吃吃 doesn't sound a state of being something. Well, 好吃好吃 makes sense.

It's hard to define a rule that could summarize what kind of words can be used in this pattern. Practically, I think those formal or official words usually can not be used like this. For example, 伟大, 光荣, 勇敢. Maybe it's not good to ruin the integrity of those words? That's why you could not use them like that? I am not quite sure about it indeed. Those 'normal' or more colloquial words usually can work either in the form of AABB/ABAB or both.

  • 1
    干干净净错打成干干静静 – 賈可 Jacky Aug 28 '17 at 17:50
  • 1
    帮你编辑修正了文字错误和中文标点 – 賈可 Jacky Aug 28 '17 at 17:56
  • So do you use one word both in AABB and ABAB form? The linked page on the question seems to write that one word is classified either into ABAB or AABB but not both... – Blaszard Aug 28 '17 at 21:09
  • @Blaszard it depends on the word itself. 好吃 can only be ABAB 好吃好吃. 干净 can be both AABB and ABAB. – dan Aug 29 '17 at 1:49

AABB: It is used to express the action or status in a more visualized or vivid way.

舒服,漂亮,开心 are things that can be visualized, that's why you always see 舒舒服服,漂漂亮亮 and 开开心心.

For words like 偉大,勇敢,好吃, you can hardly visualize these things, so you will seldom see AABB form of these words.

ABAB: Used to encourage the listener(listener could be the speaker himself) to put interest in it.

Ex: 去开心开心吧。 => Let's go happy! => Encourage the listener to be happy.


ABAB is usually used when AB is used as a verb, it usually involves an action.

for example:



AABB, on the other hand, is used when you want to use AB as an adjective(or whatever decorative purpose)

for example:



There are situations when you simply want to express a strong feeling, usually when making a simple response to a question, in which case you would simply repeat a 2-character adjective, making it look like ABAB. "好吃好吃" will be an example. You wouldn't say the following:


you would rather say


using "很" to amplify the adjective.

But the following, i.e. when you are making a brief response to a question, is valid, like so



Even more commonly used:



(Note how “好啊” is not even an adjective, you can literally ABAB anything that you want to emphasize when making a simple response. It shows your excitement)

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