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In the following sentence:

调查中,11.1%的受访青年自认为已经是“斜杠青年”,46.3%的受访青年想成为“斜杠青年”,21.4%的受访青年不想,还有21.2%的受访青年说不好

The transcribed script writes "neither yes nor no".

However, I wonder why it becomes such meaning. At first I though that it should mean something like "I could not answer.", as I feel 不好 is a degree complement to 说. But "I could not answer." is definitely not the same as "neither yes nor no".

So my questions are:

  • Is it correct that 说不好 mean "neither yes nor no"?

  • Why does it become such meaning, despite the fact that if you decompose each word grammartically, it would more likely lead to "can't answer" or "don't like to answer", instead of "neither yes nor no".

3

Is it correct that 说不好 mean "neither yes nor no"?

This is a difficult question; IMO, it's not 100% correct (accurate).

说不好 means literally "can't say well", i.e. "can't tell clearly / definitely". So it tends to mean "the answer is not determinate" or "don't know the answer (themselves)".

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1

说不好==不好说, in the context, means 'hard to say', 'not quite sure', or 'hard to determine'. 'Hard to say' denotes 'neither yes nor no' or 'yes or no'. They just can't decide whether it's yes or no。

21.2%的受访青年说不好: 21.2% of young people, who were interviewed, are 'neither yes nor no'.

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  • "hard to tell" ........ – user6065 Nov 8 '17 at 20:53
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A better translation for this sentence is:
In this survey...(omitted)and 21.2% of the interviewees couldn't give a definite answer.
Here, 不好 is an modifier for 说, which literally means "can't say well". These interviewees may not know what is a "斜杠青年", or can't decide whether they are "斜杠青年" or not, or simply refuse to answer.
Here is another usage for "说不好":
今天晚上一起去那家自助餐厅吃饭好不好?
Would you like to go to that buffet restaurant with me tonight?
说不好,我可能没时间。
I don't know. I might have no time.

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