Could somebody please explain what the following statement means, if possible paraphrasing and adding examples?

  • "hao de pengyou" is grammatical when used contrasting hao to huai in "huai de pengyou" ‘bad friends’ that is perhaps not lexicalized.
    pag. 375 of the Oxford Handbook of Chinese Linguistics

The author is contrasting the grammatical hen hao de pengyou vs *hao de pengyou. In a different article, the author alternatively proposes for hao de pengyou the meaning such as 'a friend of good influence', but I do not quite get this second one either, could sb. please elaborate on 'a friend of good influence'?

3 Answers 3


很好的朋友(henhao de pengyou)basically means a 'good friend', that is, someone who is close to you, who you can share your feelings with etc.

eg “他是我很好的朋友。”(ta shi wo henhao de pengyou)means 'He's a good friend of mine.'

好的朋友(hao de pengyou)on the other hand, mostly means someone who has good qualities, is kind, generous, faithful etc. And it is mostly used to contrast with 坏的朋友(huai de pengyou), who is the opposite of those good qualities.

eg. “好的朋友能让你受益匪浅,坏的朋友也可能让你误入歧途。” basically means 'a hao de pengyou will have a good influence on you, while a huai de pengyou may make you go astray (have a bad influence on you.)'

By the way, there's a Chinese saying which means almost the same. “近朱者赤,近墨者黑。” (jin zhu zhe chi jin mo zhe hei)means you'll get a good influence being around a hao de pengyou(朱)and a bad one being around a huai de pengyou (墨).

But note that the distinction between the two is not always so clear. As is “他会是个很好的朋友。”(ta hui shi ge henhao de pengyou), which means that the person is a person of good qualities, and therefore you can trust them to become a good friend of yours.

  • I thought 好朋友"a good friend (of mine)" vs 好的朋友 "a friend who is a good person, who does good deeds for others"? Secondly, I was told the antonym of hao de pengyou is huai de pengyou, but the antonym of hao pengyou "a good friend (a close friend)" is NOT huai pengyou "a bad friend (a friend that is bad for you)". hao pengyou "a good friend (a close friend)" is lexicalized. huai (de) pengyou "a friend that is bad for you" is not lexicalized. what's the antonym of hao pengyou then?
    – GJC
    Feb 21, 2018 at 2:00
  • Yeah, your understanding of 好朋友 and 好的朋友 is 100% correct. As for the antonym of hao pengyou, I don't think there's a fixed phrase for that. But yes, it definitely isn't huai pengyou. We can say that someone is not our good friend (ta bu shi wo de hao pengyou). But if you really want an antonym for it, a close one might be 敌人(di ren, enemy) or 仇人 (chou ren, enemy). Those are the best I can think of...
    – Max
    Feb 21, 2018 at 2:33
  • The context would be in English the following: you discuss with a friend of yours, but reproaching the bad things (not the positive ones) because you are angry with them. You would call them "(you are) a bad friend", which in this context is the opposite of a "good friend", but you wouln't say "eneymy".
    – GJC
    Feb 21, 2018 at 2:37
  • I guess we just don't talk like that... Maybe in this situation you can describe your 'friend' as 烦(fan) or 讨厌(tao yan) (both mean annoying). I think we wouldn't normally call them a 'bad friend'. But if you really want to say that they are a 'huai pengyou', we can understand it anyway.
    – Max
    Feb 21, 2018 at 2:51
  • I think the point of the Oxford comment ([...]is grammatical when used contrasting[...]) is that hao de pengyou is ungrammatical on its own but okay in the above examples.
    – Mou某
    Feb 21, 2018 at 4:16

Just saying, we don't usually express it as '好的朋友', but '好朋友' instead. It means a friend who's got a really close relationship with you.

But if you're thinking of somebody like a mentor, the correct word is '益友', it's opposite is '损友', where '益' means benefits and '损' means damages (to your personality).


The other answers are already pretty good but I see OP is having a little bit of confusion still so I will try to take a stab at it.

First part: [...]is grammatical when used contrasting[...]

Let’s take it from the opposite POV first:

  • 他是个好的朋友

Is ungrammatical and grating to the ears, as would the opposite be (他是个坏的朋友).

So, like in music this is our dissonance - by itself it is not okay, but it can be resolved.

So how do we use the idea of musical resolution to be turn our dissonance in to consonance? Comparison.

他是个好的朋友 alone is just nosie but we can compare it:

  • 他是个好的朋友,不是个坏的朋友

and now we have a grammatically and audially okay sentence.

This may slightly change the meaning though.


Part two: OP wrote:

The author states in another article "It may be all right to use 好的朋友, meaning ‘a friend who can bring some positive influence/benefits.’ But it does not mean ‘a good friend’, as 好朋友 a good friend can be a bad friend 坏朋友" ​ I do not undertand how "好朋友 a good friend can be a bad friend 坏朋友". Could you please try to clarify that point?

What are the neuances at play here?

  • 好朋友 = buddy/pal/homie -or- a close friend

  • 好的朋友 = a good quality/type friend

Your buddy (好朋友) could have a corrupting influence over you - objectively he couldn’t be considered a “good quality” friend (好的朋友) but would be thought of as a bad friend (坏朋友).

You can also take a look at the word: 损友.

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