I don't know why the first sentence is correct but the second is wrong.

  1. 野生大熊猫的数量少是很多原因造成的

  2. 野生大熊猫的少数量是很多原因造成的

According to the dictionary, 少, when it is an adjective, means "small". So "small amount" should be 少数量, right? Why is the second sentence wrong?

  • Just to make my question clearer, there are similar sentences (in a pair too) like the pair in the question, but both of them are correct. 兔子的尾巴短是很多原因造成的 vs. 兔子的短尾巴是很多原因造成的 - Both are correct. 她的急脾气是大家公认的 vs. 她的脾气急是大家公认的. Both are correct.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 27, 2018 at 2:20
  • Don't agree with cnwang09. 兔子的尾巴是很多原因造成的 (There are a number of causes that make the short tail of a rabbit) vs 兔子的尾巴是很多原因造成的 (There are a number of causes that make the tail of a rabbit being short), and 她的脾气是大家公认的 (It is acknowledged that her bad temper) vs 她的脾气是大家公认的 (It is acknowledged that her temper is bad). The clauses in the both former sentences are not complete obviously.
    – xenophōn
    May 13, 2021 at 9:19

4 Answers 4


In Chinese, the structure Subject noun + (很)adjective forms a clause/sentence.


野生大熊猫的数量少 is a clause, which is the subject of the whole sentence. So, in this case, we shouldn't use the structure 少的数量 , 少数量,because 很多原因 cause数量少, not 数量.

  • I don't think this answered my question though. I understand 野生大熊猫的数量少 is a clause and also the subject of the whole sentence. My question is not about how to partition the sentence. I believe 很多原因造成野生大熊猫的少数量 is also wrong, right? So, why 少的数量or 少数量 shouldn't be used?
    – cnwang09
    Apr 25, 2018 at 12:12
  • @cnwang09 the last part, because 很多原因 cause 数量少, not 数量.
    – dan
    Apr 25, 2018 at 13:07
  • My question is not about 很多原因 cause 数量, which is definitely wrong. Let me elaborate my question in a different way: 少数量 is a wrong phrase regardless which sentence it is in and where it is put in a sentence. It is simply wrong. I want to know why.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:39
  • @cnwang09 I think generally in Chinese(unlike in 'English) [adjective + noun] is a wrong expression unless it can form another fixed noun word. For example, 美丽人, 幸福人,高兴人,those phrases sound wrong. 高人 sounds right because it forms another fixed noun word, but 低人 sounds completely wrong. I think the same thing for 少数量. That's what I can tell.
    – dan
    Apr 25, 2018 at 23:51
  • 美丽人, 幸福人,高兴人 are wrong because the particle 的 is missing, not because in Chinese [adjective + noun] is a wrong expression. 美丽的人, 幸福的人,高兴的人are correct. But 少的数量 is wrong, as what you wrote. Now the explanation sounds like "that's the way it is".
    – cnwang09
    Apr 26, 2018 at 0:48


Actually, sentence 2 is arbitrarily correct in terms of grammar, but native Chinese will never say like that due to the following reason:

  1. 数量 is a compound word (from 数, number, and 量, quantity) which is linked by the relationship "and". Combining these words with another one-word clause to become one word (i.e. without any indication to show that there are 2 words, such as the particle 的) will be unnatural.

  2. Using the character 的 more than once in a clause is unnatural and will be avoided whenever possible. So you can't have 野生大熊猫的少的数量是很多原因造成的.

So sentence 2 is considered wrong and most Chinese will choose sentence 1.

P.s. Modern Chinese is closely related to classic Chinese. So basically words which were not used in classical Chinese can be treated as the words in point 1.

Correct me if I am wrong.

  • But many other compound words can be combined with another word. For example, 他的小心眼是很多原因造成的 and 他的心眼小是很多原因造成的。Both sentences are correct, right?
    – cnwang09
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:44
  • @cnwang09 Personally I think the first one sounds odd. I am a native speaker so I'm quite sure rare will we use the first sentence. Can you quote more examples?
    – user13501
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:47
  • I only have a few similar. 她的急脾气是大家公认的 and 她的脾气急是大家公认的. More, 他平时言语少是因为不自信 and 他平时少言语是因为不自信。
    – cnwang09
    Apr 25, 2018 at 16:16
  • @cnwang09 Post was just edited. For the word 脾气, the relationship is possessive (i.e. 脾的气) and not 脾和气. So both sentences are ok. The second group of example is the same. (言和语)
    – user13501
    Apr 26, 2018 at 4:15
  • So, it looks like "数量" is the "problem maker" . What about just 量? 野生大熊猫的量少是很多原因造成的 - correct, even though doesn't sound natural, but 野生大熊猫的少量是很多原因造成的-still wrong, right?
    – cnwang09
    Apr 27, 2018 at 2:24

Hummm, I just think "That's the way it is". It's annoying to many that though Chinese has a comparative simple grammar, it's lacking regularity... Or perhaps the grammar imported from the west is not good enough for Chinese... Let me now TRY to answer your question: 野生大熊猫的数量少 is a complete clause (something like subject clause In English)So we can say "(The fact)that blablabla has many causes." Absolutely correct. However,野生大熊猫的少数量...First If we regard it as a clause no verb shows In it. If It's just a noun phrase as the subject, It's incorrect too because 数量 cannot be modified by 少. In fact, i ve never heard such things like 大数量 小数量 多数量 少数量. Oh It's just as you cannot say big price small price In English...数量 is an abstract concept, so It's no bigger or smaller whether it s one billion or one hundred... May it helps


Very interesting! I agree with Dan.

Apparently 大熊猫的少数量 means 'some of the pandas' which does not fit well with 是很多原因造成的

I would interpret 少 and 数量少 in 1. as 'lack, scarcity,' as a noun like 缺乏 (e.g. 基本营养的缺乏.)

The scarcity of wild giant pandas is due to many causes.

  • The 少 in the 1st sentence is a verb. 野生大熊猫的数量少 is a complete sentence, literally equivalent to "The number of wild panda is small". The 少 in the 2nd sentence is an adjective, which modifies 数量, but it is wrong. My question is why 少 can't be used as an adjective here. Per my knowledge, every adjective in Chinese has two roles: adjective and verb. That is, an adjective can be used to modify a noun and as a verb. Is 少 an exception?
    – cnwang09
    Apr 25, 2018 at 12:18
  • @cnwang09 actually, 少 is an adjective in either case.
    – dan
    Apr 25, 2018 at 13:00
  • @dan I disagree. 少 in the 1st sentence is an adjectival verb, not a regular adjective which is usually used to modify a noun.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 25, 2018 at 15:27
  • " why 少 can't be used as an adjective here?" Like I said, '少数量‘ carries a meaning of 'a few of, some of'. 2. would then be '*A few of the wild giant pandas are caused by many factors.'
    – Pedroski
    Apr 26, 2018 at 0:06
  • @Pedroski It sounds like if 少 is used as an adjective modifier, its actual meaning is "a few of", not "small". If so, 少 is definitely an exception! I have other sentences that both formats are correct. 兔子的尾巴短是很多原因造成的 vs. 兔子的短尾巴是很多原因造成的, both are correct.
    – cnwang09
    Apr 26, 2018 at 0:57

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