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Long time ago I asked to a close friend how to say "love is irreversible" and she taught me it was some like ai shi bu ke ni de.

Then by using google translate I got to this:

愛是不可逆轉的

And I can recognize the character ai which is love. But the rest well I'm a bit lost. Can someone help me to better understand if what my friend told me was right or what the system google uses is more "accurate"?

An answer which would help me the most is one which includes a reason why those characters should appear in that order and what does it mean when used together.

  • funny, when I use google translate it gives "愛是不可能的" (love is impossible)? Sorry if it became a sad story bro – Alex Apr 6 '18 at 19:54
  • bkrs: 可逆 [reversible] 可以反向进行的 可逆反应 (math.) invertible reciprocal #59004 逆转(逆轉)I v. 1) take a turn for worse; deteriorate; reverse 2) reverse II n. a reversal reverse motion; inversion; reversion; back-kick 不可逆转 irreversible (e.g. situation) – user6065 Apr 6 '18 at 20:17
  • @user6065 I'm a bit confused here, does it mean the way how it was shown by google was due the mathematical definition or the situation one. Looking at what you just wrote seem to imply a deteriorate is that? – Chris Steinbeck Bell Apr 6 '18 at 20:24
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    What does "Love is irreversible" actually mean? – OmniBus Jul 24 at 2:39
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    @OmniBus Supposedly the intended meaning is that 'love' or the emotion is something that when given by somebody is dfficult to take it back or to reverse that decision once taken. I don't know if this clears the translation but so far it looks accurate to me. – Chris Steinbeck Bell Jul 28 at 19:32
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I am going to base my answer on the grammar book 實用現代漢語語法.

What you have here is a "Type 1 是...的 sentence" (”是...的“句(一)). This kind of sentence basically puts emphasis on the things that go between 是 and 的. This means the part 不可逆轉 is emphasised.

可 or 可以 is a modal verb (能願動詞) that in this case, means "can" (it has a few other meanings as well). 不 is used to negate 可.

逆轉 means "to reverse".

Let's do a sentence analysis!

  • 愛 is the subject (主語)
  • 是不可逆轉的 is the predicate (謂語)
  • 逆轉 is the object (賓語) of 可

You might be wondering why isn't passive voice not shown here, because in English, this translates to "love cannot be reversed". The fact is, passive voice in Chinese isn't always expressed explicitly. You look at the context and figure out what voice it is. Sure, you could express the passive voice by adding a 被 to form a 被 sentence (”被“字句):

愛是不可被逆轉的。

but that sounds less natural than without 被.

  • That's a nice analysis of what I was trying to understand. So essentially as it the word is grammatically correct?, but it could be "improved" if I add the character you mentioned 被?. Or Is it that to sound more natural would need 被?. – Chris Steinbeck Bell Apr 9 '18 at 16:18
  • 被 in this case sounds a little unnatural, I think. In this case, we can see the sentence is in the passive voice pretty clearly from the context. @ChrisSteinbeckBell – Sweeper Apr 9 '18 at 16:42
  • 被 is unnatural in Chinese. In Chinese 被 associates with bad things like 被告, 被罰, 被責, 被捕. Some imitate Western grammatical concept and abuse the use of 被. – OmniBus Jul 24 at 2:46
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Transcription in Chinese characters

"ai shi bu ke ni de" is 愛是不可逆的.


Grammar

Both are grammatically correctly and literally correct. In textbook grammar, it is a pattern of subject + "是" (verb to be) + an adjective (a phrase ended with 的).

龜是硬的。 Tortoise is hard.

鬼是恐佈的。 Ghost is terrific.

不可逆的 and 不可逆轉的 are phrases ended with 的. Actually they are negation of 可逆的 and 可逆轉的 correspondingly.

可 is commonly used in translation of -(a)ble in English.

In more advanced usage, 是 and 的 are optional. We could write 愛不可逆 and 愛不可逆轉 as well.


Usage

"不可逆的" is accurate translation of irreversible. But Chinese readers may not get its meaning. Or they may conceive that love is something that cannot be resisted or disobeyed.

While 愛是不可逆轉的 is grammatically and literally correct for translating "love is irreversible", it is not so comprehensible for Chinese readers.

逆轉 usually describes that a situation is reversed, from good to bad, or from bad to good. If one is in love, it is 愛. If one is no longer in love, it is 不愛. 愛 could change to 不愛. 逆轉 is problematic when it describes 愛.

You make a nice elaboration in your comment. "'Love' or the emotion is something that when given by somebody is difficult to take it back or to reverse that decision once taken."

In search for better translation, your comment reminds me a line "愛是可發不可收" in the lyrics from a Cantonese song 愛在深秋, sung by Alan Tam (譚詠麟), written by lyrist Andrew Lam (林敏聰). 可發 is "able to give" and 不可收 "unable to take it back". But it is poetic and somehow ambiguous.

There are some more idiomatic phrases like 覆水難收. 覆水難收 literally means "Spilt water can't be gathered up". We use it to describe "What is done can't be undone". But I would hesitate to write 愛是覆水難收. It looks like that "love is put to the end and is not recoverable"

Chinese would use "split water" to describe something that unable to get back. It would be more understandable to write 愛如潑水不可收, literally "love is like split water and one cannot take it back.

Alternatively, we can write 愛過無法磨滅. (Once) loved, (there is) no way to remove (the fact, its trace, its memory).


There are many words to describe "irreversible". But "love is irreversible" has implicit meaning and it is very difficult to translate it directly without misleading.

  • +1 I really like your explanation! – Michael Lai Aug 30 at 1:07
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I always liked that line from a song: 'Love is a danger of a different kind.'

How about for 'irreversible': 破釜沉舟 'break the cauldrons and sink the boats', no retreat, no way back.

爱就是破釜沉舟的道路
Love is an irreversible path.

  • Thanks for that answer, but It is somekind of incomplete as my question was about a bit of explanation of the grammar. If you put it this way is not much different than having it from a translator. For example why Love goes in the first place?. Maybe it sounds obvious as the phrase begins with that word but I'm sure that there are cases when this word might be placed in other position in the sentence. – Chris Steinbeck Bell Apr 7 '18 at 16:57

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