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I got quite confused these days with the grammar rule that adds 地 to an adjective to make it work as an adverb. My basic understanding is that you must add 地 to make an adjective work as an adverb, while you do NOT need to add it on an adverb, since adverbs can work without any such suffix.

But in the following sentence:

一个劲儿地问,我只好告诉她了。

邻居在装修房子,从早到晚都在一个劲儿地敲。

It seems that the word 一个劲儿 is usually used with 地, even if it is adverb (according to Pleco and 现代汉语词典).

Again, my understanding is that an adverb can be used alone while an adjective must be used with 地, in order to work as an adverb. But the rule is invalidated in the sample above.

Another sentence I came across:

王羲之从小刻苦学习书法,他的书法艺术吸收前任书法名家的长处,又有自己的发挥和创造,达到了书法艺术的高峰。

According to Pleco, 刻苦 is adjective, not adverb, so you must use 地 in order to use it as an adverb and modify 学习. But this sentence does not use 地.

So what is the rule of 地 on the adjective and adverb?

  1. Is it common to omit 地 on an adjective, even if the adjective works as an adverb?

  2. Does it depend on each adjective that it is OK to omit 地? In other words, you can omit 地 on some adjectives but cannot on others?

  3. Is it common to use 地 on adverbs as well? If that is the case, why do adverbs need 地 in the first place?

  4. Likewise, does it depend on each adverb if it requires 地?

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一个劲儿地 is not a standard adverb, It is an adverbial phrase

一个劲儿 (constant effort) is a noun. Adding 地 make it an adverbial phrase 一个劲儿地 (with constant effort)

刻苦 is not only an adjective, it can also be an adverb or noun

Is it common to omit 地 on an adjective, even if the adjective works as an adverb?

  • 強烈反對 could mean 'strong objection [強烈 (adj) 反對 (n)] or 'strongly object' [強烈 (adv ) 反對 (v)] .

  • 強烈地反對 could only mean 'strongly object'. Without other context, you cannot omit 地 when you meant to use it as an adverb

You can only omit 地 when the context clearly indicated 強烈 is an adverb, not an adjective. For example: 他強烈地反對 (he strongly objects) can be reduced to 他強烈反對

  • 猛烈攻擊 could mean 'fierce (adj) attack (n)' or 'fiercely (adv) attack (v)'

  • 猛烈地攻擊 could only mean 'fiercely attack' . Without other context, you cannot omit 地 when you meant to use it as an adverb

You can only omit 地 when the context clearly indicated 猛烈 is an adverb, not an adjective. For example: '對他猛烈地攻擊' (fiercely attack him) can be reduced to '對他猛烈攻擊'

Does it depend on each adjective that it is OK to omit 地? In other words, you can omit 地 on some adjectives but cannot on others?

See the examples above. Notice, adjective that is exclusively for noun cannot be turned into adverb by adding 地. For example: 強大,細小,好,壞

Is it common to use 地 on adverbs as well? If that is the case, why do adverbs need 地 in the first place?

  • Adverb with 地 emphasize the manner of the 'action' . For example '大力地打'

  • Adverb without 地 focus on the verb itself, with the adverb as equal weighted complement. For example '大力'

  • Single character adverb never use 地 . For example '痛打','狠批' (never '痛地打','狠地批')

Likewise, does it depend on each adverb if it requires 地?

Yes, usually adverb for verb can be used with or without 地. (see example above). Adverb for adjective do not need 地, E.g. 局部成功, 絶頂聰明 (never 局部地成功, 絶頂地聰明)

  • Thanks but actually, the Pleco shows 一个劲儿 as adverb, and 现代汉语词典 shows it as “副:表示不停地”... Also, I got confused further if 一个劲儿 is a noun, since now it can turn to adverb with 地... – Blaszard Apr 15 '18 at 12:39
  • 劲儿 = Vigor. It is a noun. 一个劲儿地 = with vigor (adverbial phrase) – Tang Ho Apr 15 '18 at 13:25
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Many Chinese grammar books imitate those grammar books on Western languages. That does not fit well in Chinese grammar. The details I am not going to discuss here.

While Western languages transform a word to change its class to fit a sentence, Chinese languages determine the word class by the position of words in a sentence. There are some basic patterns of sentences. You might find a few example in English language, such as "I cry" and "I heard a cry", and "I love you" and "It is so much love", but in Chinese languages it is so pervasive.

Some might think that "地" is a particle to change an adjective to an adverb like Western languages. The observation might be true but it might not be the way it works. It was an informal oral form in some northern Chinese languages and it probably comes from words like "之" having a concrete meaning but it was degenerated to a syllable filling the gap of words. Eventually people picked the character "地" to represent the syllable. The syllable implicitly means "in such way" or "like that" working like emphasis which many dictionaries never tell.

In Classical Chinese, there is no such use of "地" like Mandarin Chinese and the transformation to an adverb is purely by positioning a word in a proper place in a sentence. All Chinese languages inherit much of Classical Chinese. So do Mandarin Chinese. You are free to ignore 地 in Mandarin Chinese and its meaning remains the same. It is the rhyme making a bit difference in feeling.

We could insist to differentiate them. "刻苦" is "hard" and "刻苦地" is implicitly "in such a hard way". But the difference is so tiny.

For simplicity, "刻苦地學習" is the same as "刻苦學習" and "他一個勁兒地問" is the same as "他一個勁兒問".

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Pleco may oversimplify matters. The word classes used in Western grammar are never binding on any word, why should that be the case in Chinese? Is ‘shop’ a verb or a noun or an adjective? Is 'up' a noun or a preposition? (The ups and downs of life) You can only tell from the environment in which you encounter the word. Don't get hung up on which word class your dictionary says a word belongs in!

我钦佩你的刻苦。你的刻苦 刻苦 noun

你的勤奋让我记住了你。你的勤奋 勤奋 noun

她刻苦地学习法语。 她刻苦地学习 刻苦 adverb

俭省是致富之本。俭省 noun

刻苦学习 in translation may be 'assiduously study' and you can of course write 刻苦地学习

Many times you will find a word used as an adverb but without 地。As far as I know there is no rule which you may apply in all situations.

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