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Continuing from my previous question, there's another phrase that also makes me confused, the usage of "绝对" and "肯定".

From my textbook, here's the meaning of each word:

  • 绝对 = [Adj./Adv.] Absolute / Absolutely.
  • 肯定 = [Adj./Adv.] Sure / Surely.

I'm assuming the level of confidence is different based on the meaning. The degree of "绝对" seems higher than "肯定".

Take a look at these sentences (taken from 汉语口语速成: 基础篇 pp. 91-92):

  1. 老王点点头,给了老董一个肯定的回答。
  2. 这个人这么胖,绝对不是张英。
  3. 事情都有好的方面,也有不好的方面,不能想得太绝对
  4. 河里的水真清,要是不去游游泳,肯定很舒服。

Are the above sentences correct? Can "绝对" and "肯定" be used interchangeably? I feel sentences #1, #2, and #4 can be changed into "绝对", "肯定", and "绝对" respectively.

  • see dict.,e.g. bkrs: 绝对 absolute unconditional(没有任何条件; 不受任何限制)(完全; 一定) absolutely; perfectly; definitely: 绝对可靠 absolutely reliable 绝对完美的词典是罕见的。 Absolute perfection in a dictionary is rare. 肯定 (1) [affirm; approve; assert]∶对事物持确认的或赞成的态度。 与"否定"相对 肯定成绩 (2) [be positive; be sure]∶有把握; 无疑, 有信心, 有理由确信 你肯定会受到欢迎 (3) [decide]∶确定 他们的关系还没有肯定下来, 还谈什么结婚呢 II [certainly; undoubtedly; definitely; surely] 毫无疑问; 必定 肯定能增产 – user6065 Jun 2 '18 at 11:59
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The dictionary definition may help you.

肯定 / kěn dìng /

1 (承认事物的存在或真实性) affirm; approve; confirm; regard as positive:

affirm the achievements

肯定成绩

2 (正面的) affirmative:

Her answer is in the affirmative.

她的回答是肯定的。

3 (明确的; 确定的) definite; positive; sure:

We are not sure yet whether we'll go or not.

去不去, 我们还不能肯定。

It's definite that he'll come.; He is sure to come.

他肯定会来。

4 (一定; 无疑问) certainly; surely; definitely; undoubtedly; as sure as eggs is eggs; dead cert:

We can certainly have the job finished on time.

我们肯定能按时完成任务

绝对 / jué duì /

1 (没有任何条件; 不受任何限制) absolute:

absolute predominance; overwhelming superiority; absolute superiority;

绝对优势

oppose absolute equalitarianism;

反对绝对平均主义

2 (完全; 一定) absolutely; perfectly; definitely:

absolutely reliable;

绝对可靠

Absolute perfection in a dictionary is rare.

绝对完美的词典是罕见的。

Back to your examples:

  1. 老王点点头,给了老董一个肯定的回答。// 绝对 can not be used to replace 肯定

  2. 这个人这么胖,绝对不是张英。// 绝对 can be used to replace 肯定

  3. 事情都有好的方面,也有不好的方面,不能想得太绝对。// 绝对 can not be used to replace 肯定

  4. 河里的水真清,要是不去游游泳,肯定很舒服。// 肯定 can be used to replace 绝对.

  • Thank you. It seems they can be interchangeable if it acts as an adverb. – Reynaldi Jun 3 '18 at 2:15
  • @Reynaldi, yeah, but the extent is different. – dan Jun 3 '18 at 2:17
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It's about the same as the difference between definitely and certainly.

Your assumption may be delusion. Just because words may have the same meaning sometimes, meaning is a difficult thing to narrow down and the use of said words in Chinese is very tricky. Meaning shifts.

老王点点头,给了老董一个肯定的回答。 不是绝对的意思
肯定 = positive
这个人这么胖,绝对不是张英。也可以使用 肯定
绝对 = definitely
事情都有好的方面,也有不好的方面,不能想得太绝对。不能换成 肯定
绝对 = black or white
河里的水真清,要是不去游游泳,肯定不舒服。也可以使用 绝对
肯定 = definitely

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